Gibbons was born in Cambridge. His father William was one of the Oxford town waits, but moved to Cambridge between the birth and christening of Orlando. Ellis's older brother Edward (1568–1650) became master of the choristers at Cambridge.
Ellis Gibbons was evidently counted as having promise by his contemporaries: at the age of 28 he became the only composer, other than the editor Thomas Morley himself, to contribute two madrigals to The Triumphs of Oriana, a collection of 25 madrigals published in 1601, although the American musicologist Joseph Kerman (in his 1962 comparative study of the English madrigal) states that "possibly one of the two is by Edward Gibbons."
Ellis Gibbons was never, and could not have been, organist of Salisbury cathedral as is recorded in some Georgian reference works.
- John Harley Orlando Gibbons and the Gibbons family of musicians 1999. "The second of the brothers, Ellis Gibbons, was baptized at Cambridge on 30 November 1573. He was listed in the Cambridge subsidy rolls from 1598 to 1600, first as resident in the High ward, and then in the Market ward."
- Edmund Horace Fellowes The English Madrigal
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