Welcome to our Festival blog
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
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Friday, 12 August 2011
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Friday, 15 July 2011
Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Monday, 4 July 2011
William Byrd (c1540 - 1623) died today, 4 July 1623, aged 82.
Saturday, 2 July 2011
|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
|A coach outing to sing at Stondon where Byrd lived|
Monday, 27 June 2011
Friday, 10 June 2011
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
Monday, 6 June 2011
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
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
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
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.”
“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
Sunday, 22 May 2011
Saturday, 21 May 2011
Friday, 20 May 2011
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
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
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Monday, 16 May 2011
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
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”.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.