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.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Byrd Book Query: Council of Trent

Received 24 May 2011
Dear Andrew,
I bought a copy of this booklet when I attended the concert at Stondon Massey 2 Saturdays ago & have enjoyed reading it. I am a little perplexed by a comment on p 10, 3rd paragraph. It says ‘The Council of Trent in 1563 had practically outlawed the Latin rite in the Church.’ The Council of Trent was a Roman Catholic Council which sought to resolve some of the justified criticisms levelled at it by protagonists of the Reformation. But it did not outlaw Mass in Latin in Roman Catholic churches, which I believe continued until Vatican II. Was the sentence in the booklet meant to refer to Queen Elizabeth I’s Act of Uniformity of 1558 which stipulated that (in England) only services in the Book of Common Prayer were lawful?
Christine Petch
Replied 28 May 2011
Dear Christine
Thank you for your e mail dated 24 May and your subsequent correspondence.
‘William Byrd: Some Notes’ has been compiled using a mixture of sources. I have to admit that the relationship of the fledgling Anglican Church and its relationship, both political and religious, with Catholicism is not an area with which I am familiar, so clearly your knowledge is greater than mine.
Looking at Wikipedia, reference to the Council of Trent looks to be an error. Its inclusion in the booklet comes from a phrase taken from Edmund H Fellowes biography of William Byrd (1936). I think that Fellowes is wrong.
Having looked at the history of Stondon Massey by Reeve (1900), the then Rector mentions two events: firstly “a fresh edition of the Prayer-book was issued in the spring of 1559, and ordered to be generally adopted by June 24th. … A copy of the Bible was once more directed to by placed publicly in every church”. Secondly, “in 1563, Archbishop Parker published the thirty-nine Articles as a standard of belief, and a commission was opened at Lambeth to enquire into the tenets of the clergy”. Reeve adds that, “This appears to have been a too searching tribunal for [Revd. John ] Alford, [Rector of Stondon Massey, 1558 to 1563,] and he was deprived of his benefice”.
The thirty-nine Articles of Religion appear in the Book of Common Prayer and remain valid for anyone entering the clergy today in the Church of England. These Articles but would not be acceptable to Catholics e.g. allowing priests to marry. Article XIX states that “the Church of Rome hath erred” in not preaching the “pure word of God”; Article XXII describes purgatory as “vainly invented”; and especially Article XXIV: “It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, , and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick prayer in the Church, or to minister the sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people”.
I suspect that Fellowes was referring to this ruling rather than the Council of Trent. The Articles would effectively bar Catholics from the “English Church” and the Latin rite was effectively banned.
The Articles more or less coincide with Byrd’s appointment to Lincoln Cathedral. In harbouring Catholic thoughts Byrd must have known the dangers he faced.
I would be interested to know your thoughts on the matter.
Received 28 May 2011
Dear Andrew,
Thanks for your e-mail. I must stress that I am not an expert on these matters. I am merely one who is interested in the Tudor period & in the Reformation (in the English church). I think your research has demonstrated that the reference to the Council of Trent here is wrong. The Act of Uniformity of 1558 (which I believe came into force in 1559) outlawed any service other than those in the new Prayer Book, which was issued in 1559, and those services were all in English. So, indeed, the Latin Mass became illegal in the Church of England from the moment that the new Prayer Book was published, which you have found to be the Spring of 1559. (I’m calling it the ‘new’ Prayer Book because Edward VI issued a Prayer Book too, but that would have been withdrawn during Mary Tudor’s reign & I’m assuming that the Prayer Book issued by Queen Elizabeth was a new and/or revised version.) I assume that this Prayer Book did not include the 39 Articles as you say that they were not published till 1563 (I know a shorter version, i.e. with fewer articles was produced in Henry VIII’s time & gradually expanded upon). Anyway, from my limited knowledge, I think the Latin Mass became illegal in the Church of England in 1559 rather than 1563.
So you and I are saying much the same thing. Thank you very much for taking time to look into this. Perhaps the sentence in the booklet should be amended for future editions.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Gift Day at St Peter & St Paul Church, today. 10.00am to 4.00pm

Gift day, refreshments plus ...

Reeve Family Archive

The Reeve family moved to the Stondon Massey Rectory in 1849, and lived in the village for almost a century.  This archive is a generous donation by one of their descendants.  It represents an interesting social history of a well-to-do family of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Please handle these items with care.

1.                   The commonplace book of Captain Edward Reeve (1785-1867).  He wrote this manuscript at The White House, Ongar, in about 1860.  Edward Reeve purchased the Rectory for himself and the advowson for his clergyman son Edward James for £700 in 1849.

2.                   ‘Jottings’ by Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (1858-1936) written in 1881.  He was known as Lisle to his family.
“My father you know is always telling us the same old stories, and then he will turn to me and ask ‘if I remember that’.”

3.                   ‘Plauti Comoediae. Tom. I’.   Lisle was educated at Harrow School.  This book is dated September 1875.

4.                   Lisle was a keen athlete and cyclist during his youth.   The trophy shows success in 1880 in a one-mile and ten-mile race, with a contemporary photograph.  ‘Safety bicycles’ had just been invented, allowing the rider to touch the ground with their feet, and were first catalogued in 1885. 

5.                   Two books belonging to Edward Reeve.  ‘Watts’, a hymn book dated 1815.  Highlighted is the hymn ‘Give to our God immortal praise’.

6.                   ‘Prayer’ dated 1815.  The Book of Common Prayer, which then included prayers for the deliverance of King James I from the Gunpowder Treason (illustrated above), and a form of prayer with fasting in remembrance of the martyrdom of King Charles I.  These remained in the Prayer Book until 1859.  The service of Morning Prayer included a prayer for “our most gracious Sovereign Lord King GEORGE” (George III who had reigned since 1759 – and by 1815 was bonkers) and “our gracious Queen Charlotte, their Royal Highnesses George Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, and all the Royal Family” (George Prince of Wales was Regent and later, from 1820 to 1830 King George IV).

7.                   ‘Church Services’.  A Book of Common Prayer inscribed “Elizabeth Jane Reeve. Augst. 22nd 1884. With her father’s love”.  Jane was one of three daughters of Edward James Reeve (1821-1893), then Rector of Stondon Massey.  The book was given on her 25th birthday. The same Morning Prayer records “our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen VICTORIA” followed by a prayer for “Albert Edward Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales and all the Royal Family” (Albert Edward eventually became King Edward VII in 1901.  Queen Victoria’s consort, Albert, had died in 1861).

8.                   ‘Hymns for a Week’ and ‘Concordance’.

9.                   ‘Death Certificate of Edward James Reeve’ and Hymns sung at his funeral at Stondon Massey, August 1893.

10.               ‘British Museum. Reading Room’. Rules, dated 1894, reflecting Lisle’s interest in local history.

11.               ‘Stondon Massey’.  The parish history written by Revd. E H L Reeve (Lisle).

12.               Miscellaneous Papers.

The archive is the generous donation of a descendant of Edward Henry Lisle Reeve.

Available today from the back of the church are three booklets transcribing extracts from the two commonplace books on display – each booklets is priced £2.00, in aid of church funds.
-          After Dinner Anecdotes
-          Relatively Speaking
-          Captain’s Reflections

Also, the recently published ‘Revd. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve. The Last Gentleman Clergyman of Stondon Massey’

Andrew Smith
15 October 2011

Monday, 3 October 2011

'Allegri Miserere and other choral masterpieces'. St Barnabas, Great Tey. Saturday 1 October 2011

Ten powerful voices in perfect balance of sound gave a memorable recital at St Barnabas Church Great Tey near Colchester on Saturday as part of the Roman River Festival.  The Armonico Consort under the direction of Christopher Monks performed an a cappella programme entitled ‘Naked Byrd’ which explored pieces composed by composers who, according to the Director, “wore their hearts on their sleeves”, writing some of the music in difficult circumstances.  William Byrd, of course, wrote music for the catholic liturgy at a time when the celebration of mass was illegal. The programme spanned 800 years of choral music from Hildegard of Bingen through to the modern Morten Lauriden’s ‘O Magnum Mysterium’, a Christmas Matins piece beautifully sung.  

The representative piece by Byrd was the ‘Agnus Dei’ from the ‘Mass for four voices’ in a slower reading then I had heard before, but never lacking in movement and certainly not a forensic dissection of the parts employed. Other pieces of that era included Victoria’s ‘Libera Nos, Salve Nos’ from the ‘Officium Defunctorum’ and an arrangement by the director of Tallis’ psalter setting ‘Why fum’th in fight the Gentiles spite’.  It would be entirely wrong to pick a highlight from the programme because all seventeen pieces were beautifully rendered.  No single voice overpowered another.  All blended harmoniously.  Allegri’s ‘Miserere’ was emblazoned across the tickets (not ‘Naked Byrd’) and clearly was a big draw to the sold out event. John Tavener’s  ‘Funeral Ikos’ and ‘Song for Athene’ were central works in the second half of the concert.

The ‘Armonico Consort’ have been formed for just a decade and are a highly sought after choir, which is small wonder judging by the wonderful sacred sound on Saturday.  If the two CDs entitled ‘Naked Byrd’ are as good as the live performance, and I have no reason to doubt otherwise, then these will act as a marvellous memento of a warm October evening in the Essex countryside.

The Roman River Festival is an annual event now in its eleventh season. For more information visit www.romanrivermusic.org.uk

Photo: St Barnabas Church Great Tey (pictured in 1985) inset on cover of this year’s Festival programme.http://www.romanrivermusic.org.uk

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Reeve Family Archive to go on display

Books, manuscripts and documents relating to a Victorian Rector and his family will go on display for the first time at Stondon Massey on Saturday 15 October.

The archive highlights the life and times of a well-to-do family from the Essex / Suffolk border.  

Edward Reeve (1785-1867) served in the West Suffolk Militia before purchasing Stondon Massey Rectory in 1849 for his clergyman son and moving himself and his family into comfortable retirement.  Among the items on display at St Peter & St Paul Church will be his commonplace book written in the last years of his life and another manuscript of 'Jottings' written in 1881 by his grandson, Lisle.  Edward Henry Lisle Reeve, the subject of a recent biography, was born in the village and was the Rector of Stondon Massey, succeeding his father, from 1893 to 1935.  He died 75 years ago this year. 'Jottings' is a combination of family history and stories, told presumably after dinner. It is a fascinating social history about the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.  Reeve's cycling trophy (dated 1880) and photograph can also be seen. A Book of Common Prayer, dated 1817, will be on display which contains prayers associated with the Gunpowder Plot and the Martyrdom of King Charles I.

Canon Reeve is credited by many for bringing William Byrd to local public attention during his incumbency in the early twentieth century.

The archive is a generous donation by descendants of the family. 

Visitors will be able to purchase for the first time three booklets transcribing extracts from the commonplace books.  Also available will be the recently published biography and 'William Byrd Some Notes'. Booklets are £2 each and support the upkeep of the church and churchyard.

St Peter & St Paul Church will be open on Saturday 15 October 2011 from 10.00am to 3.00pm.  Refreshments will also be available on what will be the church's annual Gift Day.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Byrd in America

The 14th William Byrd Festival begins in Portland, Oregon today (technically tomorrow if you are in England).  For more information visit www.byrdfestival.org . We would love to hear from anyone who is attending the three-weekend event.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Antique and Tea Shop stocks Byrd book

‘William Byrd: Some Notes’ is just one of many titles now available from Megarry’s Antique and Tea Shop on The Green at Blackmore (open Wednesdays through to Sundays).  Judy, the owner, has given some space over to the sale of books in aid of church funds, which are £2.00 each.  Megarry’s is a traditional antique shop which has tea and cake available for those who wish to stay a while.  The owner has been awarded the top (five star) rating for food preparation and hygiene from the local authority.  Books available also include, in an ever changing selection:  ‘A Short History of Stondon Massey’.  For more information on Megarry’s follow this link: http://www.teashopblackmore.co.uk/essex_antiques.htm

Friday, 15 July 2011

Was Byrd buried at Stondon Massey?

Stondon Massey churchyard will have a newly constructed Garden of Remembrance this year. The money has been raised from an anonymous donation and the receipts from a highly successful William Byrd Festival held in May. It will be a three-sided commemorative wall on which plaques will be placed to the memory of those who have cremated burials in the churchyard.

William Byrd, the great composer, is thought to have been buried in Stondon Massey churchyard. However there is no conclusive evidence that the wishes expressed in his Last Will and Testament were carried out. The absence of the Parish Burial Register before 1708 means that Byrd’s burial place may never be truly known but, to date, there is no evidence to the contrary. There are some who believe that the lack of evidence to the contrary is not proof of confirming evidence.

It is interesting to look back over the recognition of William Byrd’s death over the past one hundred years or so. In 1906 William Barclay Squire expressed an interest to the then Rector of Stondon Massey that, “if by chance you ever succeed in proving that Byrd is really buried at Stondon … I will collect enough to put up a memorial to him in the church or churchyard”. The Rector was Revd. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (1858 – 1936), a minister of religion and amateur historian.

At the time of the Tercentenary of Byrd’s death in 1923 Reeve wrote to ‘The Times’ suggesting, “Is it not time (in these broader-minded days) that some local monument were erected to his memory?” The London concerts realised a sufficient surplus which was employed towards the memorial inside St Peter & St Paul Church being erected. But the words on the Memorial carefully ignore any suggestion that Byrd was buried at Stondon: He “lived … for the last thirty years of his life. He died 4 July 1623 aged eighty”. This was historically accurate at the time.

Reeve suggests that since Stondon is the only place named in the Will “we can claim Byrd for our own”. He adds elsewhere in his notes, “I little thought, twenty years ago, that I should have witnessed such a Service [referring to the Memorial’s dedication] … or found Stondon so generally accepted as Byrd’s home and burial place”.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Stondon Singers: 1611 and all that

Although not entitled '1611 and all that', the William Byrd Anniversary Concert at St Peter and St Paul Church explored within the wide-ranging tribute three associations with the year 1611.  Tomas Luis de Victoria, who died in 1611, was represented in the first half by the 'Missa Vidi Speciosam'.  In the second, the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible was celebrated in Michael Aves' 'A Vision of the Word' which drew from the book of Revelation centered on the text in Chapter 1: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of prophesy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand". Byrd's own music was represented by the songs 'This Sweet and Merry Month' and 'Though Amaryllis dance in green', the former re-published in a collection of 1611; 'Sing Joyfully', the anthem which started the concert; and, three versions of 'Ave Maria'  as representative of his sacred Latin output. At the back of the church the sound was most wonderful and our church representative at the end bid them thanks for the concert and their support of the recent William Byrd Festival, adding "same place, same time, next year".  Hear, hear! 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Stondon Singers: William Byrd Anniversary Concert

Tuesday 5 July. 8pm.  St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey, Essex. CM15 0LD.
Tickets will be available on the door.

Change of Blog Name

The Festival in May 2011 may be over but the decision to promote William Byrd and his association with Stondon Massey in Essex, and to raise funds for St Peter & St Paul Church, will continue.  The name change on the blog from today reflects this.

William Byrd (c1540 - 1623) died today, 4 July 1623, aged 82.

Byrd is now on Twitter

In addition to this site we have opened a Twitter account.
User name: Stondon Massey.
Account: @WilliamByrd1623.  

Saturday, 2 July 2011

LMMC Sing Byrd at Stondon

London Motet & Madrigal Club visit to St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey
The Choir run through an extract from the 'Four Part Mass', which has a
strong association with  Ingatestone Hall
Over thirty members of the London Motet and Madrigal Club visited St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey today to sing music by Byrd and his contemporaries.  It was part of their annual visit to places associated with the great composers of the golden era.  Their informal programme included 'Ave Verum Corpus' by Byrd as well as 'Laetentur Coeli' and extracts from the 'Mass for Four Voices' - (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei).   They also sang two pieces by Tallis: 'O Nata Lux' and 'If Ye Love Me'.  Before they sang, the church's local historian gave a short talk on William Byrd and his association with Stondon Massey and Ingatestone Hall, considering how Byrd's Catholic faith was known but quietly ignored because of this friends in high places. Pictured here is the Club in full voice. 

A coach outing to sing at Stondon where Byrd lived

London Motet and Madrigal Club sing Byrd at Stondon

The London Motet and Madrigal Club's annual summer visit is held today exploring the music and places associated with William Byrd in Essex. Leaving Shenfield railway station by coach, the party will come along the lanes to St Peter & St Paul Church here in Stondon Massey, the village where the great composer lived in semi-retirement until his death in 1623. After morning refreshments the group will be entertained with a short talk about William Byrd and his association with the parish. This is the first time our local historian has given a talk on the subject. He is the author of ‘William Byrd: Some Notes’ a booklet on sale in aid of church funds. Following the talk the focus will be on singing. After lunch the LMMC move on to Ingatestone Hall, still the home of the Petre family where Byrd was their musician.

The Club was formed in 1942 for “the cultivation of the art of singing motets, madrigals and other similar music”. They sing for pleasure. Annual visits have taken place since the early 1960s to churches and stately homes associated, where possible, with the great madrigalists. Their last visit to Stondon Massey was in 1988, so they make a very welcome return thanks to a connection with the Rector and an LMMC member, a former organist in the parish where she came from. Members of the congregation are delighted to act as hosts in return for a donation to church funds.

On their very first outing to this part of Essex in 1965 the Club sang music by Byrd and his pupils Morley and Tomkins, in the Long Gallery of Ingatestone Hall. They then sang the ‘Agnus Dei’ from Byrd’s Four Part Mass and music by Tallis “in the fine acoustic of Stondon Church”.

This year the LMMC will sing an all Byrd selection: anthems in the morning at Stondon, and madrigals in the afternoon at Ingatestone.

For more about the London Motet and Madrigal Club visit http://www.londonmotetandmadrigalclub.org.uk/Home_Page.html

Monday, 27 June 2011

Stondon Singers Concert Previewed on Phoenix FM

Michael Aves, Chairman, composer, and singer in the Stondon Singers spoke to Ed Wellman yesterday morning on Phoenix FM about the forthcoming 'William Byrd Anniversary Concert' at St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey on Tuesday 5th July. Michael has composed a piece commemorating the 400th anniversary of publication of the King James' Bible. The Concert also includes a piece by Byrd's Spanish contemporary, Victoria. Hear the interview here.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Stondon Singers: William Byrd Anniversary Concert

Something of an annual, and much anticipated, event for Stondon Massey is the concert given by the Stondon Singers in memory of William Byrd, the great early music composer who died on 4 July 1623 in the Essex village. This year it will be held on Tuesday 5 July beginning at 8.00pm.

The Singers secretary writes: “We have decided to move away from the term Memorial concert to the more 'upbeat' Anniversary concert, but the underlying principle, celebrating the music of Byrd, remains the same”.

This year the concert will feature music from Tomas Luis de Victoria, who died in Madrid in 1611. The Spanish composer has a striking similarity with Byrd in that Vittoria (as his name is sometimes spelt) wrote only church music including a complete cycle of hymns for the Roman Catholic liturgical year.

The Stondon Singers return to the lovely little church of St Peter & St Paul, Stondon Massey, following their successful performance at the William Byrd Festival, for their annual celebration of the work of William Byrd and his contemporaries, and his lasting legacy into the present day.

Featured alongside works by William Byrd himself, the highlight of this year’s concert is one of the finest masses by Byrd’s contemporary, Victoria, whose ‘Missa Vidi Speciosam’ forms the central work of the first half.

Also in the concert are madrigals from the same period and contrasting works from later centuries, including an ‘Ave Maria’ by Stravinsky, works by Gabriel Jackson and Imogen Holst, plus a new anthem written specially for the Singers by Michael Aves, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Tickets for the concert cost £12 (£10 for concessions and £5 for children aged 15 and under) and are available from James Dace & Son (Chelmsford), Blackmore Post Office or any choir member. Also on the door on the night, although advance purchase is recommended

The Programme includes:
Victoria: Missa Vidi Speciosam.
Byrd: Sing Joyfully, Ave Maria, Virga Jesse Floruit, This Sweet and Merry Month, Though Amaryllis Dance in Green.
G Jackson: O Sacrum Convivium
I Holst: The Virgin Unspotted, The Twelve Kindly Months, Gypsy Davy

Monday, 6 June 2011

'London Motet & Madrigal Club' to visit Church for Byrd Song

The London Motet and Madrigal Club will be coming to Stondon Massey Church on the morning of Saturday 2 July to sing music by William Byrd. The Club tours various places associated with early music composers in particular. The group sing for pleasure and does not give concerts. Spectators are welcome on the understanding that it is not a concert. “We might try out some Byrd motets” one of the members wrote to me. “Singers are welcome to join us”. As hosts there will be coffee on arrival followed by a short introductory talk about William Byrd and his association with Stondon Massey. Then the LMMC sing. After lunch (we have recommended the Blackmore Tea Rooms in the neighbouring village) the Club move on to Ingatestone Hall which, as Festival goers will know, has a strong connection with our great composer.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Everything's Up To Date In Stondon Massey ...

“Everything’s up to date in Stondon Massey

They gone about as far as they can go”

In 2008 Stondon Church hosted a local history and music production called ‘Through Changing Scenes’. One of the items sung was a parody on lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein called ‘Everything’s up to date in Kansas City’. So it seems an irony that the William Byrd Festival should receive recognition from a church in Kansas City.

In drawing the inaugural William Byrd Festival to a close it seems appropriate to say ‘Everything’s up to date at Stondon Massey’ but to suggest that ‘They gone about as far as they can go’ may not be the case.

The Festival has shown that whilst William Byrd’s music is something of a niche market, and ambitious for a small church to host two weekends of fund raising based almost exclusively on his life and music, there is sufficient interest to fill a church three times over for concerts and secure a web readership around the world, particularly in America.

Many people commented during the Festival that insufficient prominence has been given to Byrd and that Stondon Massey in Essex should make more of its connections. The William Byrd Festival has helped the process but also highlighted to a wider public that the village where he lived is still alive and well though welcomes support to maintain its church and immediate surroundings.

Financially the William Byrd Festival has been successful too in that it has secured enough money for the Garden of Remembrance to be built in St Peter & St Paul’s churchyard.

... and we were pleased to learn that the Choir of Westminster Abbey sung Byrd's 'Justorum Animae' when Barack Obama, the President of America, laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown warrior (yesterday, Tuesday 24 May 2011) as part of his state visit to the United Kingdom.

Our small Committee meets tonight to decide where to go from here.

This site will remain open to bring news of future Byrd related events and to receive your comments.

For our small village where the great composer lived for about thirty years until his death in 1623, we can “claim Byrd for our own”.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Festival Highlighted in Exeter

Luch Càise-Dearg has been following with interest the William Byrd Festival here in Essex. The Exeter community station, Phonic FM, broadcasts a programme of classical music, moving from early to modern, almost every Tuesday morning from 10.00am to noon. It called appropriately ‘Classical Journey’. At the top of both shows 10 & 17 May our great composer has been featured with the playlist on the show’s blog. For more see http://classicaljourneyphonic.blogspot.com/2011/05/classical-journey-tuesday-10-may.html and http://classicaljourneyphonic.blogspot.com/2011/05/classical-journey-tuesday-17-may.html

For more about Phonic FM visit http://www.phonic.fm/2009/03/16/classical-journey/

We love the cute picture!

Monday, 23 May 2011

William Byrd Festival Comments

The Festival itself

“I just wanted to say many congratulations on The William Byrd Festival. Had no idea what to expect last Saturday evening having not heard any of his music - well, at least not recognising it. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Regards J.”

Stondon Singers & Richard Turbet

“Excellent concert last Saturday!! Not only was the music very good but the organization was faultless. The format was relaxed and the lecturer seemed much at home. We cannot remember hearing the Stondon Singers before but we would be very happy to hear again. Altogether a very enjoyable local evening. R.

“You and your team have done a first class job of organising and managing the festival. Congratulations! I know that I am not the only one who has very much enjoyed it. I found Richard's talk very interesting, and I had the pleasure of chatting to him. I feel confident that next week end will be as good as this one has been. M.”

Writtle Singers

“We really enjoyed the Byrd Concert last night - the Writtle Singers were excellent in every way and a delight to listen to. It showed just how uplifting people in the 17th C found singing in Church. The reader was also very clear and informative and it was good to connect the events of Byrd's life with the music.” L & P

William Byrd Festival Sponsor

Bricklayers' Arms, Stondon Massey

Sunday, 22 May 2011

"William Byrd: Every Man Should Learne To Sing" in Pictures

Bells at St Peter and St Paul summon those to church to a celebration of favourite hymn-singing.

Once again the church is candlelit.

The congregation sing 'All Things Bright and Beautiful'

Anthea Gray, our Reader, leads the Service.

The Service was repeated at the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore at 11.00am (15 May). John Hatt plays 'Monsieurs Alman' by William Byrd on the organ.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

"William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor?" in Pictures

The Writtle Singers with Christine Gwynn (left) just before their production 'William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor?' (14 May 2011).

The audience arrive

Candlelit church provides a lovely atmosphere for music by Stondon's composer, William Byrd (c.1540 - 1623)

The event was a narrative interspersed with Byrd song.

Interval refreshments. Many of the audience enjoy their wine and nibbles in the churchyard.

Festival Organiser and Master of Ceremonies Andrew Smith at the end of the production quotes from William Byrd's Will: "... that I may live and die a true and perfect member of His holy Catholic Church without which I believe there is no salvation for me. My body to be honestly buried in that parish and place where it shall please God to take me out of this life which I humbly desire if it shall please God may be in the parish of Stondon where my dwelling is ... "

Friday, 20 May 2011

William Byrd Festival Gains International Reputation: Press Release

Stondon Massey’s tribute to the Elizabethan composer, William Byrd, culminated last weekend with a concert by the Writtle Singers (photographed) at St Peter and St Paul Church (Saturday) and service of favourite hymns (Sunday).

The William Byrd Festival was organised by members of the congregation in order to raise money in support of the building of a new Garden of Remembrance in the churchyard where Byrd is believed to have been buried in an unmarked grave in 1623.

Last week one of the congregation visited the church in order to set up the space for a choir rehearsal to find affixed to the door a bunch of flowers with a request to place them on the grave of the ‘English composer’. The flowers were sent by well-wishers from ‘Tom Garrison and the Trinity Choir’ which following a little Internet research turned out to be the Episcopal Cathedral in Kansas City over in the United States of America.

Festival Organiser, Andrew Smith, said, “This was a lovely surprise. We were not able to place the flowers on an unmarked grave so instead decided to arrange them on the Memorial Tablet to the great composer inside the church. Our Festival website (www.williambyrdfestival.blogspot.com) shows that William Byrd is very popular in America with over a third of the hits coming from that country. We have received goodwill messages from many and some lovely comments on the singers who appeared at the Festival”.

“The William Byrd Festival has been a tremendous success, both in raising Byrd’s profile and financially. We have raised £2200 toward the Garden of Remembrance project”.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Mission Impossible

Last Thursday (12 May) a church member called at the church to set things up for Writtle Singers rehearsal. Affixed to the church door was a bunch of flowers with the following note -

"Please place these flowers on the grave of William Byrd, English composer. From Tom Garrison and Trinity Choir".

William Byrd was buried, to the best of our knowledge, in Stondon Massey churchyard in an unmarked grave.

The unexpected gift came from, it turns out, the Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Kansas City, Missouri, United States.

We found their website and sent the Priest in Charge a note of thanks saying that the flowers would be placed near to the memorial tablet on the south wall of the church. Reference was made to the gift at the beginning of the Writtle Singers concert on Saturday (14 May).

The flowers are lisianthus - perhaps a pun on Elizabeth: 'O Lord Make Thy Servant Elizabeth' being one of Byrd's anthems.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

"William Byrd BCP Matins Service" in Pictures

John Hatt conducts our church music group, Jubilate, in the singing of
Thomas Tallis's 'If Ye Love Me'

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

"William Byrd: His Essex Years" in Pictures

Stondon Singers with Richard Turbet (centre) photographed at St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey, Essex, just before the matinee performance of 'William Byrd: His Essex Years'

Lord Petre was in the audience at 4.00pm

Atmospheric candlelit scene during the evening performance.

Appreciative audience hear The Stondon Singers under their conductor Christopher Tinker

Monday, 16 May 2011

First Performance of Byrd's Jubilate

Stondon Massey’s inaugural William Byrd Festival claimed a first last week with a performance of the Byrd piece not heard for over 200 years. At the lecture / recital entitled ‘William Byrd: His Essex Years’, the Stondon Singers performed ‘Jubilate’, thanks to the research of speaker and early music expert Richard Turbet (photographed), who co-presented the event.

Byrd enthusiasts may know that nowhere in his repertoire is there a piece called ‘Jubilate’, which is the shorter canticle to the Benedictus in the Book of Common Prayer Matins service.

Richard Turbet said, “Jubilate is an arrangement, or musically an abridgment, of the Benedictus from Byrd's Short Service, made by Robert Shenton (1730-98), dean's vicar in the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, from 1757.

“The sole source for this arrangement is a manuscript in Durham Cathedral Library, copied by John Matthews while a stipendiary of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Matthews sent the manuscript to Durham Cathedral in 1777. The following year he was appointed a vicar choral there.

This version must have shared a place with the ‘Great Service’ discovered at the Cathedral by Edmund Fellowes, “Byrd’s cheer leader” in the early 1920s.

Richard added, “I am confident that the performance of Byrd's so-called Jubilate was a coup for the Festival, especially for those at the matinee [4pm performance on 7 May 2011], and the first in over two centuries. The publisher told me that the Stondon Singers were the first choir to purchase a job lot since he had published it.”

Sunday, 15 May 2011

'William Byrd: His Essex Years': Press Release

Early music lovers from far and wide flocked to the small village church of Stondon Massey last weekend to celebrate the life and work of sixteenth century musician and composer William Byrd. The ‘William Byrd Festival’ –which concluded this weekend - has been organised by the congregation in order to raise money to build a new Garden of Remembrance in the churchyard where Byrd is thought to have been buried in 1623.

Leading the cast last Saturday was Richard Turbet, from the University of Aberdeen, an expert on the topic. He was assisted, in a programme called “William Byrd: His Essex Years”, with musical illustrations by the Stondon Singers under their conductor Christopher Tinker.

The Stondon Singers were formed over 40 years ago mainly to perform the music of Byrd and his contemporaries. The Choir holds an Annual Memorial Concert at the church every July.

Lord Petre, whose forebears were Byrd’s patron, attended the matinee performance.

“It was wonderful to welcome Lord Petre to our Festival”, Andrew Smith one of the organisers said. “William Byrd moved to Stondon Massey in about 1593 to be near to Sir John Petre, a Catholic, at Ingatestone Hall. Byrd wrote daring and illegal music for performance at clandestine gatherings. He too was a Catholic at a time when saying the Catholic Mass was illegal. This did not deter him, because he had friends in high places: his music was loved by Queen Elizabeth I who turned a blind eye to his recusant activities”.

Clutch of Brentwood Gazette reporters come to Byrd Festival

Media interest has been large for the William Byrd Festival. Last Saturday (7 May) we had both a photographer and reporter from the Brentwood Gazette. The local newspaper covered the Stondon Singers / Richard Turbet event admirably by interviewing the choir and members of the audience. The item can be read in full be following this link: http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk/where/brentwood/Byrd-s-songs-huge-draw/article-3539350-detail/article.html

William Byrd Festival: "Every man should learne to sing"

The 'William Byrd Festival' has migrated!!

Our 'Top 10 hymns' service is repeated at the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore. Once again Anthea Gray is officiating but with John Hatt playing the organ.

The Service was inspired by William Byrd's famous appeal to everyone to take up singing. In his preface to the First Book of Cantiones Sacrae he wrote:

Reasons briefly set downe by th' auctor to perswade every one to learne to sing.
First it is a Knowldge easely taught, and quickly learned where there is a good Master, and an apt Scoller.
2. The exercise of singing is delightfull to Nature & good to preserve the health of Man.
3. It doth strengthen all the parts of the brest, & doth open the pipes.
4. It is a singular good remedie for a stutting & stammering in the speech.
5. It is the best meanes to procure a perfect pronunciation & to make a good Orator.
6. It is the onely way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voyce: which guift is so rare, as there is not one in a thousand, that hath it: and in many, that excellent guift is lost, because they want Art to express Nature.
7. There is not any Musick of Instruments whatsoever, comparable to that which is made of the voyces of Men, where the voyces are good, and the same well sorted and ordered.
8. The better the voyce is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God there-with: and the voyce of man is chiefly to be imployed to that ende.
omis spiritus laudet Dominum.
Since singing is so good a thing
I wish all men would learne to sing.

William Byrd Festival: "Every man should learne to sing"

Our Festival Service this morning is a Top Ten hymns service. It is led by our reader, Anthea Gray. Our organist today is Brian Scott.

The Top Ten

2011 survey

2004 survey



O Lord My God (How Great Thou Art)



I The Lord of Sea and Sky (Here I am, Lord)



All Things Bright and Beautiful



Great Is Thy Faithfulness



Lord The Light of Your Love (Shine Jesus Shine)



Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind



Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace



Be Still For The Presence Of The Lord



O Jesus I Have Promised



Love Divine All Loves Excelling

Forty three people participated in our survey to find out what are Stondon and Blackmore’s favourite hymns. Unlike the last survey, conducted for the Flower Festival at Blackmore in 2004, there was from the commencement of voting a very clear favourite. ‘How Great Thou Art’ led the field by a mile, with 13 people putting the hymn on their list. The rest of the Top 10 was much closer with chart placings changing through until closure day. ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ failed to pick up any votes until the last week but secured a number 5 place (down from 2). In 2004 these two hymns were in close contention with ‘Jerusalem’ for the top spot. However, ‘And Did Those Feet (Jerusalem)’ has toppled out of the ten: it is now number 14.

‘Favourite Hymns’ services are a great way to celebrate the end of a special event. The William Byrd Festival has been an enjoyable fortnight or so at Stondon.

The Singing Church In Essex

An extract from a booklet entitled ‘The Singing Church in Essex’, published in 1955 to coincide with the Exhibition of Essex Church Music held in the Chelmsford Cathedral Chapter House.

William Byrd was one of the greatest musicians of the sixteenth century, quite equal in stature to the great contemporary foreigners Palestrina and Lassus. His art shows a great step forward beyond that of Tallis in every way. The rhythmic and harmonic range has widened considerably and now, from some years’ experience in the setting of English words, we find a new sureness and freedom. We find Byrd writing with an engaging lilt.

In an age when the English language was at its finest the music of the period was to give the words their own importance, taking from them a new freedom. Byrd, like his master, Tallis, was a genius. Of his music it is possible to write as C. Henry Philips has written of his Three-part Agnus Dei, “Nothng so lovely has ever appeared from any pen”. Byrd caught the nobility of Tallis’s firmness of technique which has seldom been surpassed. There is something comparable between Shakespeare and Byrd in their creation of great art.

Byrd first comes into the Essex picture in 1574 when “the Earl of Oxenford made a lease for 31 years of the manor of Battylshall” at Stapleford Abbotts to take place at the death of the occupant. There followed a considerable amount of legal dispute concerning this lease, one of the many cases in which Byrd was concerned, and eventually the case went against him, rather unjustly as far as one can see. The next time we hear of Byrd in Essex is in the company of the Petre family. There are seven entries between 1586-90 in the Petre accounts which refer to visits made by Byrd. Mostly they are concerned with the purchase of horse-meat! The first entry is in October 1586:

Payed to John Reynoldes the lackey for Mr Bydes horsemeat and his sonnes at their comyng down from London ii s.

We know from other sources that Byrd had been friendly with the Petre family long before that. There is in the Britidh Museum a certificate which together with a letter in the Public Record Office, was sent by Byrd to William Petre concerning the case of a certain Mrs Tempest. Mrs Tempest was one of the instances of Byrd’s assistance to the Roman Catholic cause, which despite the wonderful Anglican settings that he wrote, he never forsook. Byrd remained a Roman Catholic – but a broadminded one – to the end of his days. This act of sympathy was in 1581.

In 1593 Byrd became an Essex man; he moved into Stondon Place at Stondon Massey, and so far as we know remained resident of Essex until his death in 1623, a period of thirty years. Of the three Byrd Masses that survive, two of them, the two four-part masses, belong to this period, as does the third volume of madrigals and songs. There is a note in the Essex Record Office, of the year 1608, which refers to the books of William Byrd:

2 Setts of Mr Bird’s books intituled Gradualia, the first and second sett.

One other sett of Mr Bird’s bookes contayninge songs of 3, 4, 5 and 6 parts.

One other of Mr Bird’s bookes of 5 parts.

The Gradualia belong to the Essex period. The first book includes the Ave Verum Corpus with its perfection of melodic outline. The Second Book is actually dedicated to John, first Lord Petre, Byrd’s next door neighbour at Stondon.

One of the Petre part-books, already mentioned, has a considerable number of Byrd’s compositions in it, mostly from the two books of Cantiones Sacrae. The First Book of Cantiones Sacrae has in it 11 pieces that are found in the Petre Book, including the short but brilliant Easter motet In resurrectione tua, which ends on a dazzling and complex Alleluia; and the Domine tu iurasti which John Alcock records as: “This piece in ye opinion of Mr Bird himself is ye best he ever compos’d”, a statement difficult to believe, since there is nothing special of note of it.

From the Second Book of Cantiones Sacrae we find six motets also to be found in the Petre collection, including the very beautiful Haec dicit Dominus with its unsurpassed tender expression and pathos: the fine Exsurge, Domine; and the Infelix ego which differs from all the other motets in that the words are neither biblical nor liturgical. There is one motet in the Petre part-book that is not found elsewhere, but of course it is only part of the six parts needed to make up the whole.

It was, of course, William Byrd who made the famous appeal to everyone to take up singing, in the prefix of his first collection.

And indeed in the hands of William Byrd all men might wish to sing. These words were printed in Psalms, Sonets & songs in 1588: a delightful collection some of which may be classed as madrigals but differ in style from others of the English School, like Wilbye. The last section includes the sublime little Lullaby.

There is no known epitaph to Byrd; it is believed that he was buried at Stondon as requested in his will. His only epitaph the simple entry in the ‘cheque book’ of the Chapel Royal:

1623. Wm. Bird a Father of Musick died the 4 of July.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

William Byrd Festival: "William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor?"

We welcome the Writtle Singers this evening for the first time to Stondon Massey Church for their concert. ‘William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor?’ explores in words and music Byrd's recusant Catholic faith and his honoured relationship with Queen Elizabeth I.

The Programme

trad. Fanfare

Claude Gervaise (c.1525 – c.1560): Bransle Double

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth

William Byrd (c.1540 – 1623): O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth c. 1577

Protestant worship

William Byrd: Kyrie from Mass for four voices c.1592

Catholic Persecution and Edmund Campion

William Byrd: Why do I use my paper, inke and pen c.1581/2

The Lord's song in a strange land

Philippe de Monte (1521 – 1603): Super flumina Babylonis (psalm 136 vv 1,3,4,2) 1583

Foreign correspondent

William Byrd: Quomodo cantabimus (psalm 136 vv 4-7) 1584


William Byrd: Gloria from Mass for four voices


Thomas Weelkes (c.1575 – 1623): Since Robin Hood

Recusant catholics

William Byrd: Credo from Mass for four voices

The Bye Plot and the Main Plot

William Byrd: Sanctus & Benedictus from Mass for four voices

The Gunpowder Plot

William Byrd: Rejoice, rejoice! 1589

Loyal hearts or traitors?

William Byrd: Agnus Dei from Mass for four voices

The Performers

Writtle Singers

Conductor: Christine Gwynn


Sopranos: Glyn Buckmaster, Alison Connolly, Jenny Haxell, Clare Oddy, Frances Quintrell, Jean Rose, Liz Saward, Helen Sismey

Altos: Audrey Cassidy, Anne Fradd, Gavin Oddy, Elizabeth Tiplin, Nanette Wright

Tenors: Stephen Burdge, Graham Frankel, Martin Mason, Graham Reeve

Basses: Clive Beale, John Buckmaster, Martin Clarke, Peter Quintrell, Andrew Taylor

Writtle Singers is a chamber choir based near Chelmsford, Essex. In addition to featuring a diverse range of smaller, unaccompanied pieces, the Singers’ repertoire embraces many larger scale works, recently: J S Bach Mass in B minor, Mozart Mass in C minor, Rutter The Wind in the Willows, Finzi In Terra Pax and, Chelmsford Cathedral last year, Bernstein Chichester Psalms, Janáček Otče Náš and Panufnik Westminster Mass.

2004 saw the choir’s first continental tour, which featured high mass in the magnificent cathedral of Antwerp. Subsequent trips have included performances in Prague, York Minster, Bolton Abbey, Caius College Cambridge, and, just last month, in Zurich. Writtle Singers has performed live on BBC radio and recorded three CDs: Wrelax was released in 2001, Wrejoice! (Christmas music) in 2003 and Wroving, musical highlights from their tours, in 2009.

Christine Gwynn ~ Conductor

Christine read music at Southampton University and subsequently studied at the Guildhall with Norman Beedie, laying the foundations for a freelance career involving many facets and styles of music. Christine has been musical director of Writtle Singers since 1997. In addition to an extensive choral repertoire, Christine’s conducting experience embraces orchestral direction and music theatre, from Dido & Aeneas to West Side Story and contemporary pieces – a wide variety of experience which she has brought to bear on her work in the choral field. In 2008 Christine co-founded Arbutus Music which seeks to encourage and enhance participation in group singing within the community; she also leads workshops for pianists and is musical director of Valentine Singers and Jericho Ensemble.

Martyn Richards ~ Narrator

Martyn has narrated many Writtle Singers’ concerts, with readings ranging from scripture to the children’s tale by Rutter, Brother Heinrich’s Christmas, as well as historical scripts around several Tudor projects. As a speaker of French and Italian he has helped with translations of choral works for his local choir. Martyn is a specialist in primary education as well as a choral singer himself, and has a special love of the sacred choral repertoire. Writtle Singers are delighted to be working with him once again.