Robert White


Born: 1538 Died: November, 1574
Although confusion exists between Robert White, his father, who evidently outlived him, and two other sixteenth century English musicians, named Matthew White and William White, Robert White Jr. seems the most proficient and best documented. He is generally considered to be the composer of a large number of Latin motets and services, English anthems, and other works, and there is evidence he was an accomplished director and composer.

The probable son of Robert White Sr., an organ builder in Oxford, Robert Jr., is possibly mentioned as "young Whyte" in a transaction register of the church-wardens' books of the Parish of Saint Andrews in Holborn, London. In this, he is specified as the recipient of £5 in exchange for "ye great orgaynes which his father gave to ye church," this being in the first year of Mary, either 1553 or 1554. An entry years later, dated December 29, 1572, reveals the subsequent sale of the organ to "Robert Whyte, gentleman of Westminster," which would match with the composer's known whereabouts at that time and his achieved station in life.

What is known about Robert White Jr. is that he received his degree as bachelor of music at Cambridge on December 13, 1560, and that he was compelled to compose a Communion Service, this to be performed on Commencement Day in Saint Mary's Church. He was soon thereafter appointed master of the choristers at Ely Cathedral, where he succeeded the composer Tye, whose daughter he subsequently married. Documents show he remained at this post until some time in 1566, when his successor is noted. The baptism of his first daughter, Margery, is recorded as taking place December 23, 1565, at Ely.

From here, White may have gone to Chester, there being evidence of a "Mister White" being appointed master of choristers there and pay and other records during the years 1565 through 1568 show disbursements to "Mister White" for various musical services.

Posterity is more confident that it was indeed Robert White Jr. who was appointed master of choristers at Westminster Abby in 1570, and the records of that place are specific with regard to the baptism of his next three daughters whose names all match those found in his will, written shortly thereafter, in his own hand. These were Margaret, baptized on June 7, 1570, Elizabeth, baptized on February 24, 1572, and Prudence, baptized on August 23, 1573. When plague engulfed London in 1574, the composer, his wife, and all three of these young daughters died and were there buried.

There are 37 Robert White recordings available.

See All Recordings, or browse by Composition Type, Popular Work, or Formats & Featured