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Henry Lawes, the elder son of Thomas Lawes (d 1640) was baptized at Dinton near Wilton, Wiltshire, on 5 January 1595/6. Around 1602 Thomas, a church musician, moved to Salisbury as lay vicar and the family took up residence in the Close. Henry's three brothers, born in Salisbury, were also able musicians: William, Thomas (1608 – 1666) and John (d 1655). It is presumed that Henry, and subsequently William, sang in the Cathedral choir but there is no direct evidence. Nor is there information about his upbringing or musical training before he appeared in London, probably about 1615.
At an early stage in London he was employed by John Egerton, earl of Bridgewater to teach music to his daughters. He was sworn 'pistoler' of the Chapel Royal in January 1626 and Gentleman in November. In 1631 he was appointed 'for the lutes and voice' as one of Charles I's musicians. During this period he composed songs for Milton's Arcades and arranged for John Milton to write Comus, performance of which at Ludlow Castle marked the appointment of Bridgewater as President of the Council of Wales. Compositions for masques and other entertainments followed in the 1630s, sometimes with brother William and others such as Simon Ives.
Lawes published a collection of his vocal pieces, Ayres and Dialogues for One, Two and Three Voyces, in 1653. He followed it with two other books under the same title, in 1655 and 1658 .
Lawes's name has become known beyond musical circles because of his friendship with John Milton, for whose masque, Comus, he supplied the incidental music for the first performance in 1634. The poet wrote sonnet in which Milton describes the great merit of Lawes.
Lawes composed music (melody and unfigured bass) to Edmund Waller's poem "Go Lovely Rose". These are the song and the "Lawes" mentioned in the following line of Ezra Pound's poem "Envoi" which ends the first part of Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley: Go, dumb-born book, tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes: Hadst thou but song as thou hast subjects known, then were there cause in thee that should condone even my faults that heavy upon me lie, and build her glories their longevity.
- Spink, Ian (2000). Henry Lawes. OUP.
- Ashbee & Lasocki 1998
- Ian Spink, Henry Lawes, in The New Grove, ed Sadie, Macmillan, 1980
- Murray Lefkowitz, William Lawes, London 1960
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lawes, Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 300.
- Willetts, Pamela J. (1969), The Henry Lawes Manuscript, London: Trustees of the British Museum, ISBN 0714104558
- Henry Lawes at the Encyclopædia Britannica
- Free scores by Henry Lawes at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Free scores by Henry Lawes in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- The Lied, Art Song and Choral Texts Archive[permanent dead link]
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