Saturday, January 6, 8570

John Farmer (1570-1601) - Fair Phyllis

[Michelangelo Caravaggio (1571-1610) - Allegory of Music (1595)]

John Farmer (1570-1601) - Fair Phyllis

John Farmer (c. 1570 – c. 1601) was an English composer, mainly of madrigals. He is probably one of the less well-known composers of the English Madrigal School. He was under the patronage of Earl of Oxford and he dedicated his collection of canons and his late madrigal volume to his patron. In 1595, Farmer was appointed Organist and Master of Children at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin and also organist of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin at the same time. In 1599, he moved to London and published his only collection of four-part madrigals. One of these was "Fair Phyllis". His work Diver and sundry Waies of Two Parts in One displayed his mastery of two-part canon and cantus firmus.

Farmer uses clever word painting in his works. For example, in Fair Phyllis, the opening line, "Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone," is set for a single soprano. Then, to show the flock beside her, three other voices join in.

He was born around 1570 but his exact date of birth is not known. Flood's article conjectures a date around 1564 to 1565 based on matriculation records. He dedicated two of his works to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, whose patronage he enjoyed. He died in 1601. His work Fair nymphs I heard one telling confirmed his position as one of England’s best renaissance composers. Giles Farnaby dedicated a pavan to him, included in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book as Farmer's Paven (no. CCLXXXVII).

[8570 Kemp / 8570 Farmer / 8567 Monteverdi]