Christopher Tye was an early English Renaissance composer and organist. He was born around 1505 in East Anglia. Records show that he trained at the University of Cambridge and became choirmaster at Ely Cathedral. He is famed as the music teacher of Edward VI of England.
Tye received his Bachelor Degree of Music in Cambridge in the year 1536. The next year he took up a position as a lay clerk at King’s college. Based on financial records we know that by 1543 held up a more prestigious position, Magister Chorister at Ely Cathedral, with an annual salary of about 10 English Pounds. Shortly after, in 1545, the University of Cambridge saw it appropriate to bestow upon Tye the degree of Doctor of Music.
Christopher Tye contributed to the assimilation of continental structural principles into English music during the first half of the sixteenth century. Little survives of his sacred choral music but what does remain represents an interesting personal synthesis of the older English florid style and the techniques of imitation and syllabic text setting. Tye’s sparing use of imitation and the general absence of soloist passages give his music a tighter cohesiveness than that of the previous generation.
Tye passed away between 1572 and 1573. He left us 31 works for viol consort, 21 of which are based on Taverner’s cantus firmus and incorporating all manner of instrumental ideas within a purely polyphonic context. Tye is credited as the first significant composer of instrumental chamber music, and his examples are of uniformly high quality.