Thomas Ravenscroft


Highly regarded as a composer by his contemporaries, Thomas Ravenscroft's most important contribution to music is now considered to be his edited collections of rounds and partsongs that included 'Three Blind Mice'. Of his compositions, the anthems O let me hear thy loving kindness and O clap your hands are probably the best-known.

Ravenscroft's birth date is a source of conjecture, but a date around 1592 seems most likely. He was a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral in London under Thomas Giles, and probably performed as part of the St Paul's company of child actors, for whom he also have composed music. It's possible he graduated from Cambridge with the MusB as early as 1605, using O clap your hands as his graduation exercise.

Between 1605 and 1618 little is known of Ravenscroft's activities, but from 1618 to 1622 he was music master at Christ's Hospital. In 1609, he is known to have edited Pammelia, a collection of popular music including rounds, catches and tavern songs. In 1614 he wrote a theoretical treatise, Briefe Discourse, that includes twelve of his own songs, and in 1621 published one of the most important psalters of the period, The Whole Booke of Psalmes. He is thought to have died around 1635.

Although not the greatest of English composers, Ravenscroft's contribution as an editor in preserving the popular songs of his day mark him out as an important figure in the history of music.

Related composers: Thomas Tomkins, John Milton, John Bennett, Edward Pearce

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