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John Blitheman

  • Birth 1525
  • Death 23 May 1591
  • Burial London, City of London, Greater London, England
  • Plot Church destroyed 1666; Senator House, Queen Victoria St, stands on the site
  • Memorial ID 13085072

Composer, Organist, Singer. Also known (incorrectly) as William Blitheman. He was one of England's first important keyboard composers, long associated with the Elizabethan court. His complex style influenced William Byrd and he was the primary teacher of John Bull. Nothing is known of Blitheman's early life. As a teen he was a chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral in London and he sang with the choir of Christ Church at Oxford in the 1550s, by which time he was already connected with the royal court. From 1558 until his death he was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, while also serving as chaplain at Christ Church (1555 to 1564), Master of the Christ Church Choristers (1564 to 1568), and longtime organist of the Church of St. Nicholas Olave. He received an honorary Bachelor of Music degree from Cambridge in 1586. Blitheman's last post was as organist of the Chapel Royal (1585 to 1591), succeeding Thomas Tallis; he in turn was succeeded by Bull. He was buried at St. Nicholas Olave, where he was commemorated with a tablet on the north wall of the chancel. The church was destroyed in the Great London Fire of 1666 and was not rebuilt; only Blitheman's epitaph, documented in 1598 by historian John Stow, has come down to us. Although there is no evidence he was a Catholic, all Blitheman's surviving music was based on the Latin liturgy and was probably written during the reign of Queen Mary (1553 to 1558). It includes a choral motet, "In pace", and 15 organ settings of plainchants preserved in "The Mulliner Book" (c. 1570). Another keyboard piece appears in the famous "Fitzwilliam Virginal Book" (c. 1620) but wrongly attributed to "William" Blitheman. This created confusion over the composer's name that still persists.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


"Here Blitheman lies, a worthy wight,
who feared God above ;
A Friend to all, a Foe to none,
whom Rich and Poore did love.
Of Princes Chappell, Gentleman,
unto his dying Day ;
Whom all took great delight to heare
him on the Organs play.
Whose passing Skill in Musickes Art,
a Scholar left behinde ;
John Bull (by name) his Master's veine
expressing in each kinde.
But nothing here continues long,
nor resting Place can haye ;
His Soule departed hence to Heaven,
his Body here in Grave".





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Mark McManus
  • Added: 22 Jan 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 13085072
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Blitheman (1525–23 May 1591), Find A Grave Memorial no. 13085072, citing St Nicholas Olave Church (Defunct), London, City of London, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .