Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1516-1520 - Palace of Westminster (Westminster)

Organist and choirmaster Dionysius Memmo [Memo] was born in Venice (date not known). A pupil of Paul Hofhaimer in Austria, he was from 1507 until 1516 first organist at St Mark’s in Venice. In September 1516 he arrived in London to act as musician and chaplain at the court of Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon. His musical talent was appreciated. It moved Henry to request the Pope to release the friar from his order so he could join the King’s Chapel Royal.

Memmo became very close to Henry and also fulfilled political functions, perhaps acting as a spy. When in 1517 fear of the plague prompted the King to dismiss his entire court and remain in quarantine at Windsor, the only people who remained with him were his physician, three courtiers, and Memmo. Music was essential - even in a deadly crisis.

Next to nothing remains of Memmo’s activities as a composer. He left England probably in the early 1520s. His success inspired fellow Venetian organist and harpsichordist Zuan da Leze to travel to London in 1525, bringing his own clavicimbalum with him. He was hoping to please Henry VIII was his performance and receive a stipend. Having played, the King was not impressed and Zuan was not employed by him. Such was his disappointment that he hung himself.

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