John Wilbye was probably born in 1574 (in those days, a person's date of birth was not considered important, and one's age was reckoned from the season, rather than the day), and lived until 1638. He spent most of his musical career at Hengrave Hall in Suffolk, England, serving under the Kytson family. The Kytson family were members of the nobility, and Wilby initially served among their household musicians, but was later elevated to the position of household retainer and given land and property of his own.

His work was only published twice, in books published in 1597 and 1609. Even with such a slim offering, he is often ranked as the greatest madrigal composer of all time. His works include many Italian influences, and is usually described as both subtle and introspective.

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