John Danyel [Danyell]

(1564 - after 1625)

English composer and lutenist, baptized at Wellow, near Bath, on November 6, 1564. He was the brother of the poet Samuel Danyel, whose works he edited. We know nothing more of his life until 1604, when he is recorded as having been awarded a B.Mus degree from Christ Church, Oxford. He was at one time employed by William Grene of Milton as music tutor to his daughter Anne; he punningly wrote a complex set of divisions on 'The leaves be green' as a family joke. His only song book--Songs--was published in 1606, and marks the peak of the lute song period; it was dedicated the "Mistress Anne Grene", a sixteen-yeasr-old when the work was published.

Danyel had entered royal service by 1612, and he is noted in June 1615 as manager of the Children of the Queen's Royal Chamber of Bristol, a license that was renewed in May 1622. Presumably he lived in the West Country at the time, as had his brother at the beginning of the century and at the end of his life. From November 1617 he was Musician to Prince Charles at 40 per year. Samuel died in 1619, having appointed John as his executor, and in 1623 John published The Whole Works of Samuel Danyel, dedicating it to Prince Charles.

Danyel was present at the funeral of James I in May 1625 as one of the "Houshold of o[u]r now dread Sovereghne Lord King Charles" and was also listed as one of the "Musicians for the lute and voices" who were discharged from paying subsidies on June 8 and December 22, 1625. However, when other royal musicians were listed as receiving their livereies on June 13 or their patents on July 11, 1626, Danyel's name was not among them, suggesting that he died between December 22, 1625 and June 13, 1626.

In 1622 Thomas Tomkins dedicted the two parts of his madrigal "O let me live for true love" to "Doctor Douland" and Master Iohn Daniell" thereby linking the names of two of the most adventurous composers of the English ayre. It is not too much to say that he is one of the most important composers of lute songs; the emotional power of his is surpassed only in those of Dowland. Generally, his serious songs are superior; the two tragic song-cycles Can doleful notes and Grief keep within are especially fine.

English Lute Composers before 1635  |   A Partial John Danyel Discography  |   IV M: England Through 1635  |   Guide to English Song in the Elizabethan and Stuart Ages