Thomas Ravenscroft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thomas Ravenscroft (c. 1588 – 1635) was an English musician, theorist and editor, notable as a composer of rounds and catches, and especially for compiling collections of British folk music.[1]


Little is known of Ravenscroft's early life. He probably sang in the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral from 1594, when a Thomas Raniscroft was listed on the choir rolls and remained there until 1600 under the directorship of Thomas Giles. He received his bachelor's degree in 1605 from Cambridge.[2]

Ravenscroft's principal contributions are his collections of folk music, including catches, rounds, street cries, vendor songs, "freeman's songs" and other anonymous music, in three collections: Pammelia (1609), Deuteromelia or The Second Part of Musicks Melodie (1609) and Melismata (1611), which contains one of the best-known works in his collections, The Three Ravens. Some of the music he compiled has acquired extraordinary fame, though his name is rarely associated with the music; for example "Three Blind Mice" first appears in Deuteromelia.[3] He moved to Bristol where he published a metrical psalter (The Whole Booke of Psalmes) in 1621.

Ravenscroft: "I Have House and Land in Kent" (1611) on sampled instrumentation

As a composer, his works are mostly forgotten but include 11 anthems, 3 motets for five voices and 4 fantasias for viols.

As a writer, he wrote two treatises on music theory. The Briefe Discourse of the True (but Neglected) Use of Charact'ring the Degrees (London, 1614) includes 20 songs as examples: seven by John Bennet, two by Edward Pearce and the rest by Ravenscroft himself. Of these, the group of dialect songs 'Hodge und Malkyn' from the fifth a final section was nominated by Jeffrey Mark as the earliest example of a song-cycle in English music history.[4] There is also A Treatise of Musick, which remains in manuscript (unpublished).


  • Hark the glad sound! the Saviour comes (to the words of Philip Doddridge)
  • The Alternative version of 'Dundee' hymn tune, 1615: Melody in the tenor part, harmonised, 1621.


  1. ^ Mateer, David. 'Ravenscroft, Thomas' in Grove Music Online (2001)
  2. ^ W. J. Lawrence (October 1924). "Thomas Ravenscroft's Theatrical Associations". The Modern Language Review. 19 (4): 418–423. doi:10.2307/3714755. JSTOR 3714755.
  3. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951)
  4. ^ Mark, Jeffrey. 'Thomas Ravenscroft, B. Mus. (c. 1583-c. 1633)', in The Musical Times, Vol. 65, No. 980 (Oct. 1, 1924), pp. 883-4

External links[edit]