Thomas Tomkins' Songs of 3. 4. 5. & 6. parts (1622), the last important publication of the remarkable but short-lived English Madrigal School, comprises twenty-four secular pieces and four with sacred texts- including Turn unto the Lord. Each work is dedicated to a friend, relative or colleague; dedicatees include William Byrd, John Dowland and Orlando Gibbons. The collection was dedicated to the Earl of Pembroke, Tomkins was born in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire where his father was a musician at the Cathedral.
Turn unto the Lord, the final work in the Songs, is dedicated to Tomkins' son, Nathaniel, who saw the monumental collection of Tomkins' church music Musica Deo Sacra (1668) through the press. Unlike his other sacred madrigals which demonstrate secular characteristics, Turn unto the Lord, with its interweaving polyphony, reflects the late-Renaissance church style. It was copied into part-books at Peterhouse, Cambridge and so was performed liturgically in Tomkins' day.