(bur. London, 5 Dec 1688). English composer and violinist. Anthony Wood stated that he was one of the Waits of London, but he may have confused him with Richard Farmer, a wait from 1685 to 1688. Thomas Farmer seems to have served as an ‘extraordinary’ violinist at court between May 1671 and 4 September 1675, when he received the place in the Twenty-Four Violins held by John Strong, who had died the month before. In November 1679 he and Robert King shared the late John Banister's £110-a-year post as violinist in the Private Music. He was one of those accompanying James, Duke of York, to Scotland who survived the wreck of the frigate Gloucester off the Norfolk coast on 6 May 1682, and he received the Cambridge BMus in 1684. He was made a member of the newly reorganized Private Music at James II's accession in 1685, and served as instrumentalist in the king's Catholic chapel, which opened on Christmas Day 1686. Farmer's death was commemorated by Henry Purcell's elegy Young Thyrsis' fate ye hills and groves deplore. The reference to ‘Young Thyrsis’ suggests that he was not the musician named Thomas Farmer born in November 1615 who lived in the parish of St Andrew's, Holborn, and became a freeman of the Draper's Company in 1650. The style of his music is compatible with someone born around 1650.
Farmer was one of the house composers of the Duke's theatre company at Dorset Garden, contributing songs to Edward Ravenscroft's The Citizen Turned Gentleman (July, 1672), Thomas Otway's The Cheats of Scapin (?Dec 1676), Aphra Behn's Sir Patient Fancy (Jan 1678), Nahum Tate's Brutus of Alba (?June 1678), John Dryden's Troilus and Cressida (April 1679), Nathaniel Lee's Caesar Borgia (?May 1679), Thomas D'Urfey's The Virtuous Wife (Sept 1679), Otway's The Soldier's Fortune (?June 1680), Lee's The Princess of Cleve (?Sept 1680), Behn's The Second Part of the Rover (? Jan 1681), and (for the United Company at Drury Lane) Lee's Constantine the Great (Nov 1683). He also probably wrote a good deal of incidental music in the theatre. His Consort of Musick in Four Parts (London, 1686) consists of suites of the sort used in plays, and a number of similar works exist in manuscript; however, only one, the suite for Lee's The Princess of Cleve (GB-Lbl Add.29283–5, US-NYp Drexel 3849), can be identified for certain with a particular play. The unique copy of the 1686 collection in the British Library consists of only three parts, two violins and bass (as does a manuscript copy in GB-Lbl Add.29283–5 dated 9 June 1691), but four-part versions of some of the pieces (Lcm 1172) show that there is a viola part missing. A sequel, A Second Consort of Musick, advertised posthumously on 28 October 1689, is lost, though some of its contents may survive in manuscript. The Sonata in A for violin and continuo may be the earliest of its type by an Englishman. Farmer's music tends to be competent but unenterprising, and Purcell's fulsome tribute to him was presumably concerned more with his abilities as a performer than a composer.
A Consort of Musick in Four Parts Containing 33 Lessons Beginning with an Overture (London, 1686)
A Second Consort of Musick (London, 1689)
Consort suites and dances, GB-CDp, Cu, Lbl, Lcm (facs. in MLE, A3, 1987), Ob, Och, W; US-NH, NYp
Sonata, A, vn, bc, in The Second Part of the Division Violin (London, 1689–90, 2/1693), GB-Lbl
W.C.Smith: ‘Playford: Some Hitherto Unnoticed Catalogues of Early Music’, MT, lxvii (1926), 636, 701
M.Tilmouth: Chamber Music in England, 1675–1720 (diss., Cambridge U., 1960)
J.D.Shute: Anthony à Wood and his Manuscript Wood D 19(4) at the Bodleian (diss., International Institute of Advanced Studies, Clayton, MO, 1979), i, 57, 135; ii, 6, 18
H.Love: ‘The Wreck of the Gloucester’, MT, cxxv (1984), 194–5
P.Holman: Four and Twenty Fiddlers: the Violin at the English Court 1540–1690 (Oxford, 1993, 2/1995)
(bc1563; d London, bur. 25 Nov 1640). English composer. Like his father Thomas, Giles was a ‘Cittizen and Joyner of London’. His mother, ‘Janakin alias Jane’, perhaps of Huguenot descent, was buried at Waltham St Lawrence, Berkshire, in 1605. She bequeathed £40 to the Dutch Reformed and French Protestant congregations in London and ‘to poore maides marriages’; her nuncupative will (PCC 36 Stafforde) strangely ignores Giles’s existence. According to Anthony Wood, Giles was ‘of the family of Farnaby of Truro in Cornwall, and near of kin to Tho. Farnaby, the famous schoolmaster of Kent’. Wood is at times an unreliable authority, however, and so far no evidence corroborates his statement.
The registers of St Helen Bishopsgate record Farnaby’s marriage to Katharine Roane on 28 May 1587; the 1589 ‘parsons tythe’ shows that he was taxed only 2s. 9d., and was then residing in the parish. In 1590 he was listed as a feoffee of the Joiners’ Company. His cousin Nicholas, parish clerk of St Olave Jewry, was a professional joiner and ‘virginall maker’, and Giles may have been connected with a similar business. Neither could have been lucrative, since St Olave’s granted Nicholas a £2 annuity in 1596 on the grounds that he was ‘overcharged with children and his trade decayed’. Giles still owed his father £9 ‘suertye’ money at the latter’s death in 1595.
Farnaby graduated with the BMus at Oxford on 7 July 1592. In that year Thomas East issued his best-selling Whole Booke of Psalmes, for which Farnaby – one of ten ‘expert’ contributors – provided nine settings; Barley and Ravenscroft subsequently adopted several of these harmonizations in their respective psalters. Farnaby’s own Canzonets to Fowre Voyces appeared in 1598. Dedicated to the influential courtier Ferdinando Heyborne, ‘groome of Her Majesties privie chamber’ and himself a composer, the collection includes commendatory verses by Anthony Holborne, John Dowland, Richard Alison and the recusant poet Hugh Holland.
Surprisingly, only a few years later Farnaby was living in the rural setting of Aisthorpe, a village 10 km north of Lincoln. The 1602 Bishop’s Transcripts for St Peter’s church, principally compiled by ‘Egidius Farnaby’ himself, churchwarden, record the baptism of a second daughter named Philadelphia, the first of this name (b 1591) presumably having died. More revealing is an indenture of lease dated 1608 between Sir Nicholas Saunderson of Fillingham (a neighbouring village) and ‘Giles Farnabie … gent’. In return for musical tuition for Sir Nicholas’s children, and for his son Richard’s services as apprentice for seven years’ instructing of the children ‘in skill of musick and plaieinge uppon instruments’, Saunderson agreed to lease Farnaby some nearby properties at £16 a year for 20 years. The indenture is endorsed vacat consensu. Arrears in 1611 suggest the family may already have left the district. In any case, Richard married Elizabeth Sendye at St Peter Westcheap in London in 1614, a year before his apprenticeship was due to end.
At some time between 1625 and 1639 Farnaby dedicated to Dr Henry King, ‘cheife prebend’ of St Paul’s Cathedral, a metrical psalter harmonized in ‘fower parts, for viols and voyce’, doubtless hoping the prelate would sponsor its publication; only the autograph cantus partbook survives. In 1634 the registers for St Giles Cripplegate mention ‘the house of Gyles Farnaby in Grub Street’, an area noted in a 1638 survey for its ‘extreme poverty’; the same registers record the burial of ‘Gyles Farnaby musitian’ on 25 November 1640. The style ‘musitian’, not ‘joiner’, is noteworthy.
Of Farnaby’s five traceable children, at least two were musical: Richard Farnaby, the composer, was born c1594; ‘Joyus [Joy] Farnaby s[on of] Gylles’ was baptized on 18 March 1599 at St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside. He was referred to as ‘musitian’ in 1636. Another son, Edward, was baptized at Aisthorpe in 1604.
A joiner by training, Farnaby occupies a peculiar position among Elizabethan and Jacobean composers. Belated or intermittent musical instruction may help to explain the uneven quality of his work. He cannot match Byrd’s breadth or discipline, Morley’s fluency, Bull’s virtuosic sweep (though he could well have been a disciple), or Gibbons’s polish and intensity. Yet he was an instinctive composer with original ideas and sufficient conviction to put them across effectively. His music is correspondingly vital and telling; at its best it has a spontaneity and charm few of his contemporaries can rival.
The 11 keyboard fantasias – none plainchant-based, one a canzonet transcription, two others apparently modelled on vocal pieces – contain some imaginative, highly idiomatic writing. Technically and temperamentally, however, Farnaby was less well suited to polyphonic genres than to variations, where his weakness in generating expansive paragraphs mattered little and his resourcefulness in presenting rich figurative detail and unusual textures counted for much. The many dances – several are arrangements – music from masques and folktune settings provide, with their sectional structure and reprises, ample evidence of this. The Alman For Two Virginalsdeserves mention, as does the group of fancifully titled ‘character sketches’, including Giles Farnaby’s Dream and His Rest. His Humour cleverly encapsulates several compositional techniques in four short strains. Such attractive miniatures – a further handful includes the haunting Tower Hill – rank among the more memorable in the entire keyboard repertory. Farnaby’s works seem to have circulated little; the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (GB-Cfm 32.g.29) has unique texts of 51 of the 53 ascribed pieces. Only Bonny Sweet Robin – often attributed to Bull or even Byrd – appears in several sources outside his circle of composers.
The harmonizations in East’s Psalter, where the tenor, as customary, has the psalm tune, are rhythmically enlivened by free use of passing and dotted notes. Several settings incorporate distinctly melodious cantus parts. These straightforward harmonizations stand apart from the more elaborate workings in his own ‘double’ Psalter – whose pairing of text and tune mirrors Ravenscroft’s plan; here the cantus ‘lines out’ the melody, intervening rests suggesting imitative accompaniment. Nearly all 97 tunes have alternative settings.
Farnaby’s secular vocal music, though influenced by Morley, retains a distinctive flavour. The canzonets adhere mostly to the conventional style and structure: the predominantly lighthearted texts are set to tuneful yet terse points of imitation interspersed with chordal stretches. The music gathers rhythmic momentum, frequently over a pedal point, when approaching the final cadence of the repeated second section. The collection contains some notable works, including the tautly constructed ‘instrumental’ setting in cantus-firmus fashion of the well-known ‘Susanna’ theme; the adventurously chromatic, sombrely madrigalian Construe my meaning; and the sonorous Witness ye heavens – a rare example of eight-part writing.
 Canzonets to Fowre Voyces with a Song of Eight Parts (London, 1598); ed. in EM, xx (2/1963)
Come Caron come, 3vv, GB-Lcm [contrafactum of Ay me poore heart, in 1598 vol.]; O my sonne Absolon, Lbl (inc.)
9 psalms, 15927
The Psalmes of David, to fower parts, for Viols and Voyce; the first booke Doricke Mottoes; the second, Divine Canzonets … with a prelud, before the Psalmes, Cromaticke, 4vv (only cantus extant), US-PHu
C.van den Borren: Les origines de la musique de clavier en Angletere (Brussels, 1912; Eng. trans., 1914, as The Sources of Keyboard Music in England)
E.H.Fellowes: The English Madrigal Composers (Oxford, 1921, 2/1948/R)
M.H.Glyn: About Elizabethan Virginal Music and its Composers (London, 1924, 2/1934/R1964 as Elizabethan Virginal Music and its Composers)
E.H.Fellowes: The English Madrigal (London, 1925/R)
M.C.Boyd: Elizabethan Music and Musical Criticism (Philadelphia, 1940, 2/1962/R)
A.E.B.Owen: ‘Giles and Richard Farnaby in Lincolnshire’, ML, xlii (1961), 151–4
R.Marlow: ‘The Keyboard Music of Giles Farnaby’, PRMA, xcii (1965–6), 107–20
R.Marlow: The Life and Music of Giles Farnaby (diss., U. of Cambridge, 1966)
J.Harley: British Harpischord Music (Aldershot, 1992–4)