Bull, John, famous English organist and composer; b. probably in Old Radnor, Radnorshire, c. 1562; d. Antwerp, March 12, 1628. He became a chorister at Hereford Cathedral in 1573. In 1574 he joined the Children of the Chapel Royal and studied music with William Blitheman and Willian Hunnis. In 1582 he became organist at Hereford Cathedral, and in 1583 he also became its master of the choristers. In 1586 he received his B.Mus. and in 1592 his D.Mus. from the Univ. of Oxford. He was sworn in as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in Jan. 1586, becoming its organist in 1591. In 1596, on Queen Elizabeth’s recommendation, he was appointed prof, of music at Gresham Coll., and on March 6, 1597, was elected first public lecturer there. He got into difficulties with Gresham Coll. when he impregnated premaritally a maiden named Elizabeth Walter, and was forced to resign on Dec. 20, 1607; he hastened to take a marriage license 2 days later. In 1610 he entered the service of Prince Henry, but in 1613 was charged with adultery and had to flee England. In Sept. 1615 he became asst. organist at the Antwerp Cathedral in Belgium, and was named its principal organist on Dec. 29, 1617. In the Netherlands he became acquainted with the great Dutch organist and composer Sweelinck; both he and Bull exerted considerable influence on the development of contrapuntal keyboard music of the time. Bull also composed many canons and anthems. Various works previously attributed to him are now considered doubtful. For a modern edition of his keyboard works, see J. B.: Keyboard Music in Musica Britannica, XIV (ed. by T. Dart, F. Cameron, and J. Steele, 1960; 2nd edition, rev., 1967) and XIX (ed. by T. Dart, 1963; 2nd edition, rev, 1970).
W. Cunningham, The Keyboard Music of J. B. (Ann Arbor, 1984).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
His importance is as a highly skilled performer on and ingenious composer for the virginals, as in his Walsingham (30 vars. on a theme). He ranks as one of the founders of kbd. perf. and the kbd. repertory. He contributed to Parthenia, 1611. One of his comps. is called God Save the King but bears no resemblance to the nat. anthem; however, another untitled piece by Bull is a possible source of this melody.
J. A. Cannon
John Bull • n. a personification of England or the typical Englishman, represented as a stout, red-faced farmer in a top hat and high boots.