This year (2008) marks the 150th anniversary of Edward Henry Lisle Reeve’s birth at Stondon Massey. He succeeded his father as Rector of the Parish in 1893 taking a particular interest in history and the life of William Byrd. It was his enthusiasm that led, following visits from gentlemen organising the Tercentenary Celebrations of Byrd’s death, to the placing of a memorial on the south side of St Peter & St Paul Church.
The unveiling of the memorial was marked by a Service on 12th March 1924, attended by twenty men and boys of the Chapel Royal who sang a selection of Byrd’s work. The officiating preacher was Dr Gary Warman, the Bishop of Chelmsford, who unveiled the memorial. “Things were so arranged that the Bishop could easily manipulate the light cord from the pulpit”, Reeve wrote.
The Essex Chronicle reported: “Considerable local and general interest was taken in the historic event [on Wednesday] and the church was filled some time before the service started. An imposing touch of colour was provided by the long scarlet and gold-braided coats of the boy choristers, with the white laced ruffs as were used in Byrd’s time”.
“The service took the form of evensong, with sung responses by Byrd. Psalm 84, ‘O how amiable are Thy dwellings’. In the place of the Magnificat, Byrd’s anthem, ‘O praise the Lord, ye saints above’ was finely rendered. For the Nunc Dimittus, the anthem ‘Come to us we beseech Thee’ (Byrd) was substituted. After the third collect ‘Justorum Animae’ (Byrd) was sung, followed at the close by the hymn ‘For all the saints”, sung to the tune by Vaughan Williams. Practically all the singing was unaccompanied. The choir, led by Mr Stanley Roper, gave faultless renderings”.
At the time of the Byrd Celebration the organisers of the London events very kindly secured for the Vestry of Stondon Church a photograph expressly taken from the original Will of the great composer.
Above: William Byrd’s signature on his Will.
Top: Booklet for sale in aid of church funds.
First published in ‘Church Matters’, July 2008
Welcome to our Festival blog
We are a small congregation who organised a highly successful 'William Byrd Festival' in May 2011 to celebrate the life and work of the village's Elizabethan composer, William Byrd (c.1540 - 1623). In 2012 we played host to the world-famous choir The Cardinall's Musick under their director Andrew Carwood.
This website contains everything you need to know about William Byrd and his links with Stondon Massey. The church is open for services, of course, and on the second Sunday afternoon in the month during the summer.