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Tomkins, family of English musicians:

(1) Thomas Tomkins, organist and composer; b. St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, 1572; d. Martin Hussingtree, Worcester (buried), June 9, 1656. He was the son of Thomas Tomkins, vicar choral of the Cathedral of St. Davids and later master of the choristers and organist there. He was a pupil of William Byrd; in 1596 he became instructor choristarum at Worcester Cathedral. He was made a member of the Chapel Royal, becoming a Gentleman in Ordinary by 1620; was one of its organists (from 1621), becoming senior organist about 1625; continued to be active at Worcester Cathedral until parliamentary forces took the city in 1646. He was allowed to live in the cathedral precincts, where he remained until settling at his son Nathaniel’s home in Martin Hussingtree in 1654. Tomkins was the last representative of the followers of William Byrd. He wrote 29 madrigals, 28 of which were publ, in Songs of 3. 4. 5. & 6. parts (London, 1622; ed. by E. Fellowes in The English Madrigalists, 2nd ed., rev., 1960, by T. Dart); one other madrigal has been ed. in The English Madrigalists, 2nd ed., 1962. While his importance as a madrigalist remains in dispute among contemporary scholars, his sacred works are generally admired; these include 5 services, about 120 anthems, and other works, most of which were publ in Musica Deo sacra et ecclesiae anglicanae (London, 1668; ed. by B. Rose in Early English Church Music, V, 1965, IX, 1968, and XIV, 1973). He was a fine composer of keyboard music, his consort music being of very high quality; see S. Tuttle, ed., Thomas Tomkins: Keyboard Music, Musica Britannica, V (1955; 2nd ed., 1964). His son, Nathaniel Tomkins (b. Worcester, 1599; d. Martin Hussingtree, Oct. 20, 1681), was a musician; was educated at Balliol Coll., Oxford (B.D., 1629); served as a canon at Worcester Cathedral (from 1629).


S. de B. Taylor, T. T. (London, 1933); R. Cavanaugh, The Anthems in “Musica Deo Sacra” by T. T.(diss., Univ. of Mich., 1953); D. Stevens, T. T. (London, 1957; 2nd ed., 1967).

(2) John Tomkins, organist and composer, half-brother of Thomas Tomkins; b. St. Davids, 1586; d. London, Sept. 27, 1638. He was a scholar at King’s Coll., Cambridge, where he became organist in 1606 and took the Mus.B. degree in 1608. He settled in London in 1619 as organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral, becoming a Gentleman Extraordinary (1625) and a Gentleman in Ordinary (1627) of the Chapel Royal. A few of his sacred works are extant. Two of his brothers were also musicians:

(3) Giles Tomkins, organist and composer; b. St. Davids, after 1587; d. Salisbury, before Nov. 30, 1688. He was named organist of King’s Coll., Cambridge, in 1624 and of Salisbury Cathedral in 1629. In 1630 he was made Musician for the Virginals in the King’s Musick, a post he held until Cromwell’s rise to power; was again in the royal service after the Restoration. Two of his verse anthems are extant.

(4)Robert Tomkins, instrumentalist and composer who flourished in the last half of the 17th century. He was active as a court musician from 1633. Only a handful of his anthems are extant.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire