John Holmes

(? - 1629)

English cathedral musician and composer, probably not, as asserted in Arkwright's catalogue of the Christ Church music manuscripts, organist of Salisbury. On December 18, 1599 he was granted the income from the place of lay vicar at Winchester Cathedral with the promise of the next lay vicar's place that should fall vacant. This unusual procedure suggests that from the outset Holmes was appointed in some special capacity, probably as choirmaster or organist, if the latter, in succession to Ellis Gibbons. Adrian Batten's Organbook contains a note suggesting that Holmes was organist of Winchester, and afterwards of Salisbury, and that Batten himself was for some time Holmes's scholar.

In 1613 Holmes took two of his Winchester choristers to Salisbury to sing with the cathedral choir, which was being augmented during James I's stay in the city. He was later admitted as a lay vicar at Salisbury in 1621 on a years' probation and at the same time he was made Master of the Choristers (but not organist). He held these appointments until his death.

His church music is of considerable interest, fragmentary though it is, for most of it is in verse form, and as such it is some of the earliest music of the kind to come from the provinces. Several of his anthems are dated between 1602 and 1610 of which three are marked as being for the King, James I. He also composed some keyboard pieces. Two, a 'Fantazia' and 'Pavin' survive in MS. He contributed a madrigal Thus Bonny-boots the birthday celebrated to The Triumphs of Oriana.

A Partial John Holmes Discography   | IV M: England Through 1635  |  English Keyboard Composers Index