The Kennedy Center

Ludford Nicholas


Nicholas Ludford was a British composer of the Tudor period.  He is best known for his festal masses, preserved in 16th-century choirbooks.  He was called by a music scholar an‘unsung genius of Tudor polyphony'.
Nicholas Ludford was probably born in London.  Nothing is known of his childhood and early musical training.  His date of birth is estimated (c. 1485) no documentation of his birth exists.  There are no records existing which list Nicholas Ludford formal educational training so it is believe that he did not attend college or earn a university degree.  The first record in history that mentions his name cites his admittance into the Fraternity of St Nicholas, a society of parish clerks in London around 1521.  This group's membership consisted of a number of notable and famous musicians of the period.  He was a contemporary of Robert Fayrfax and John Taverner.
He held a position as a Choirmaster and verger of St. Stephen's Church in Westminster.  He remained at St Stephen's College until King Henry VIII shut down the college in 1547 as a part of the dissolution of Monasteries. After the English Reformation, when England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic church many composers changed or adapted their musical styles to accommodate changing liturgical requirements imposed.  Nicholas Ludford, being a devout Catholic, stopped composing altogether.  He refused to provide music for the new Anglican Church.  It was also believed illness, accompanied by old age, contributed to his refuseal to write music for the reformist church.  His occupation at this time was listed as a verger, working as a church official who looked after the inside of the church.  The year of his death, 1557 was determined based solely on the information from when he last withdrew funds from his retirement pension fund.  Although during his lifetime he enjoyed some measure of success his reputation throughout history remained obscure and unnoticed until 1963 when a collection of his compositions was published.