John Bull

16th century composer. Born 1562. Died 12 March 1628
John Bull
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1562
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John Bull

John Bull Biography (BBC)

Long before the invention of the popular personification of Englishness, another John Bull established a reputation that was recognised far beyond his home country. A portrait of the man, painted by an unknown artist in 1589 and now held by the Faculty of Music in Oxford, is surrounded by a rhyming legend that offers a flavour of his character as a musician and composer: "The Bull by force / In field doth Raigne / But Bull by skill / Good will doth Gayne". The portrait also notes that it represents Bull at the age of 27, providing a likely birth-date for him of around 1562.

It has been argued that Bull was born in Old Radnor, Radnorshire; certainly, he unsuccessfully petitioned Elizabeth I in 1589 for a lease on land in Radnor Forest. Young John became a member of Hereford Cathedral choir in 1573, studying there under the organist John Hodges. The following year he left to join the Children of the Chapel Royal, where his progress was greatly encouraged by his teacher, the organist William (alias John) Blitheman, and by William Hunnis, Master of the Children.

Thanks to the patronage of the Earl of Sussex and his second wife, Frances, Bull was recommended for the job of organist at Hereford Cathedral, to which he was duly appointed on 24 December 1582. Despite the inevitable conflicts with his new employers, Bull continued to work in London and, in 1586, was sworn a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He obtained his BMus degree at Oxford in July 1586; a later chronicler recorded that he would have continued towards an Oxford doctorate "had he not met with Clownes & rigid Puritans that could not endure Church music". It appears that he was connected with King's College, Cambridge, and received his MusD at Cambridge in 1589. Two years later he succeeded Blitheman as organist to the Chapel Royal.

Bull's perennially straitened financial circumstances were not improved in 1592, when he was mugged in the street. He achieved temporary security in 1597, becoming the first Public Reader in music at London's newly established Gresham College. His position there was undermined by several clashes with the college's authorities. He survived, however, as a Gresham professor until 1607 when he was forced to resign after fathering a child and also made to marry the girl's mother. Bull continued to serve the court under James I as the king's organist, in the musical retinue of Prince Henry and as music master to Princess Elizabeth.

In 1613 he faced the serious charge of adultery. Bull lived up to his name by responding with physical violence to the consequent admonitions of a clergyman. His conduct was noted in a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the English envoy in Brussels: "The man hath more music than honesty and is as famous for marring of virginity as he is for fingering of organs and virginals." In August 1613 he quit England for good, soon entering the service of Archduke Albert in Brussels. Bull claimed that he had fled to escape religious persecution, but James I's envoy assured the archduke that his new musician "did in that dishonest matter steal out of England through the guilt of a corrupt conscience". Although he was dismissed from the archduke's chapel, Bull convinced the Mayor of Antwerp that his Catholic faith had led to his exile. In 1617 Bull became organist at Antwerp Cathedral, remaining there until his death in March 1628.

Profile by Andrew Stewart © BBC



John Bull Tracks

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John Bull
The King's Hunt
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The King's Hunt
John Bull
In Nomine
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In Nomine
John Bull
The Spanish Pavan
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The Spanish Pavan
John Bull
Prelude and veni Redemptor gentium CVI and CVII
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Prelude and veni Redemptor gentium CVI and CVII
John Bull
Coranto (Alarm)
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Coranto (Alarm)
John Bull
English Toy
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English Toy
John Bull
The King's Hunt
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The King's Hunt
John Bull
Ut re mi fa sol la
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Ut re mi fa sol la
John Bull
The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book: Galliard to the Quadran Pavan XXXIII
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The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book: Galliard to the Quadran Pavan XXXIII
John Bull
The King's Hunt
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The King's Hunt
John Bull
Galliard
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Galliard
John Bull
In nomine no. 9
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In nomine no. 9
John Bull
Fantasia Upon Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La
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Fantasia Upon Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La
William Byrd
Music from the Elizabethan Court
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Music from the Elizabethan Court
John Bull
The King's Hunt
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The King's Hunt
John Bull
Les Buffons
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Les Buffons
Pierre Hantaï
[The] King's hunt for keyboard (MB.19.125) [FWB.135]
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[The] King's hunt for keyboard (MB.19.125) [FWB.135]
John Bull
Fantastic Galliarda
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Fantastic Galliarda
John Bull
Fantastic Pavana
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Fantastic Pavana
John Bull
The Kings Hunt
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The Kings Hunt
John Bull
In Nomine IX, Les Bouffons and Fantasia XII
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In Nomine IX, Les Bouffons and Fantasia XII
Raphael Puyana & John Bull
The King's Hunt
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The King's Hunt

The King's Hunt

Performer
Raphael Puyana & John Bull
John Bull
Fantasia
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Fantasia
John Bull
Galiard
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Galiard

Galiard

Composer
John Bull
John Bull
The Duke of Brunswicks Alman - The Duchess of Brunswicks Toye
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The Duke of Brunswicks Alman - The Duchess of Brunswicks Toye
John Bull
Pavana
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Pavana
John Bull
Galiardo; Fantasia
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Galiardo; Fantasia
John Bull
Bonny Sweet Robin
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Bonny Sweet Robin
John Bull
Fantasia on a theme by Sweelinck MB.14.4 for keyboard
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Fantasia on a theme by Sweelinck MB.14.4 for keyboard
John Bull
Why Ask You? No.3
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Why Ask You? No.3
John Bull
In the departure of the Lord
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In the departure of the Lord
John Bull
Chromatic Galliard
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Chromatic Galliard
John Bull
The King's Hunting Jig (arranged Elgar Howarth)
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The King's Hunting Jig (arranged Elgar Howarth)
John Bull
Myself
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Myself
John Bull
Battle coranto MB.19.106 for keyboard
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Battle coranto MB.19.106 for keyboard
John Bull
Galliard (Musica Britannica no 78)
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Galliard (Musica Britannica no 78)
John Bull
In Nomine à 5
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In Nomine à 5
John Bull
Almighty God, which by the leading of a star
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Almighty God, which by the leading of a star
John Bull
Galliard (Britannica Musica no. 78)
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Galliard (Britannica Musica no. 78)
John Bull
Prelude
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Prelude
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