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.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Festival Programme Announced

Having retiled the nave roof this year, more work needs to be done to St Peter & St Paul Church and its surroundings. In order to raise funds to retile the porch and create a new Garden of Remembrance in the churchyard (which will cost over £5000) members of the local congregation are organising a ‘William Byrd Festival’ next May to commemorate the village’s famous Elizabethan composer. The Festival will be held over two weekends at the church.

Leading the list of artists will be Richard Turbet, an expert in the life and work of William Byrd, and the Stondon Singers, a local Choir who since their formation in 1968 have specialised in the music of the renaissance composer and his contemporaries. Richard has chosen as his theme ‘William Byrd: His Essex Years’. The event will be given twice on Saturday 7 May: a matinee at 4.00pm and evening performance at 7.30pm.

Then on Saturday 14 May at 7.30pm, the Writtle Singers conducted by Christine Gwynn will give a concert of mainly Byrd’s music. Having heard the Writtle Singers perform an evening of words and music remembering the events of the Gunpowder Plot this will be an occasion not to miss.

Tickets for both events go on sale in early January priced £12.50 (children under 16, £6), from the William Byrd Festival, c/o Church Office, The Vicarage, Church Street, Blackmore, Ingatestone, Essex. CM4 0RN. (Cheques payable to “Stondon Massey PCC”. Please enclose SAE).

On the two Sundays, church services will also be on a Byrd theme. On 8 May at 9.00am Stondon Church will have a Book of Common Prayer Morning Service featuring recorded music by Byrd, with singing supported by the church music group, Jubilate. Then on 15 May, again at 9.00am (repeated at 11.00am at the Priory Church of St Laurence Blackmore), there will be a Service of the Top 10 Favourite Hymns, as voted by the people of our two parishes and beyond. Why? Because Byrd said that “Since singing is such a good thing, I wish every man would learne to sing”.

Writtle Singers 'Top of the Bill' as Second Weekend of Festival is Announced

We are delighted to announce that the Writtle Singers, a local chamber choir, will be giving a Concert at Stondon Massey Church on Saturday 14 May (at 7.30pm) as part of a second weekend of the forthcoming William Byrd Festival.

Writtle Singers chamber choir, conductor Christine Gwynn, has gained a reputation for high quality and innovative performances, both locally and further afield, including Cambridge, York and London’s Southbank Centre. As well as making 3 CDs and broadcasting on BBC Essex, Writtle Singers have toured abroad to Antwerp and Prague and will be performing in Zurich in April 2011. The Singers have a wide repertoire and have recently performed Byrd’s music in commemoration of ‘Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’, the failed Catholic uprising against King and Parliament in 1605. Hear them on 14th May.

A review of their recent Concert, 'Gunpowder Treason and Plot' is given here.

To hold a concert on Bonfire Night (Saturday 6 November), with the sound of fireworks clearly audible all round Writtle Church, would have ordinarily been total madness. However the juxtaposition of the Anglican and nation's celebration that the King had been saved with the intimate Catholic mass - and other works - in a place of peace with invited (though paid) guests was stunning. The noise outside added to the secrecy and urgency of worship inside. I mention worship because at many points in the programme the music crossed from musical to spiritual. When, in the Credo, the choir sang "Et resurrexit tertia die" the joy of salvation was almost tangible. Byrd's work was sung with conviction. The Agnus Dei, sung away from the stage in the chancel was a fantastic piece of theatre. The script was quite something too. "Martyrs or traitors"? I had an interesting conversation over the post concert glass of wine comparing 9/11 with 5/11.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Byrd Notes

Cardinall’s Musick under the direction of Andrew Carwood has won the Gramophone Record of the Year and Best Early Music recording for their 13th CD in the series, of Byrd’s complete works in Latin. The disc is titled 'Infelix ego' and is released on the Hyperion label.

‘Classic fm Magazine’ will be featuring William Byrd in their January 2011 edition. The magazine hits the news-stands on 2 December.

Every 21 November, in America, William Byrd is honoured (together with John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis) with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episocopal Church (USA).


Readers might be interested to know that the Festival blog is attracting almost as many visitors from the United States of America as those from Britain. Why is this do you think? Please send in your comments.