Michael East (composer)

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Michael East (or Easte, Est, Este) (ca. 1580–1648) was an English organist and composer. He was a nephew of London music publisher Thomas East (ca. 1540–1608), although it was once thought that he was his son.[1]

In 1601, East wrote a madrigal that was accepted by Thomas Morley for publication in his collection The Triumphs of Oriana.[2] In 1606, he received a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cambridge[3] and in 1609 he joined the choir of Ely Cathedral, initially as a lay clerk.[3] By 1618 he was employed by Lichfield Cathedral, where he worked as a choirmaster, probably until 1644, when the Civil War brought an end to sung services.[4] Elias Ashmole was a chorister at Lichfield, and later recalled that "Mr Michael East … was my tutor for song and Mr Henry Hinde, organist of the Cathedral … taught me on the virginals and organ".[5]

East's exact date of death is not known, but he died at Lichfield. His will was written on 7 January 1648 and proved on 9 May 1648. It mentions his wife Dorothy, daughter Mary Hamersly, and a son and grandson both named Michael.[3]

His most highly regarded works are his five-part fantasies for viols:[6] Thurston Dart is quoted as saying, "despite some slipshod part-writing, they are among the best five-part consorts of the time".[3]


East was one of the most published composers of his era[citation needed]; he published seven groups of compositions:

  • Groups 1 and 2: madrigals for three and five voices
  • Groups 3 and 4: anthems, madrigals, pastorales, napolitans and fancies for four to six voices (including instrumental fancies for viol consort)
  • Group 5: twenty three-part pieces for viol
  • Group 6: anthems and sacred consort songs for five and six voices, together with a setting of a poem by Sir Henry Wotton, honouring Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I.
  • Group 7: viol works for two to four voices


  1. ^ Michael East at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ Horst Seeger: Musiklexikon Personen A–Z / Deutscher Verlag für Musik Leipzig (1981), p. 210.
  3. ^ a b c d Grove Dictionary of Music (online edition)
  4. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  5. ^ H. W. Shaw, The succession of organists of the Chapel Royal and the cathedrals of England and Wales from c. 1538, 1991, p. 146.
  6. ^ According to Grove's dictionary

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