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, 28 February 2011

Sponsor The Festival

To all interested readers who are unable to attend any of the William Byrd Festival fund raising events (on 7 & 14 May 2011) but would like to sponsor them, please forward your donation (with your name & address) and you will be included in all four programmes. If you are able to support Stondon Massey PCC in this way, please send your cheque and details to the Church Office by 10 April.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Byrd On The Wire: Brentwood Gazette item on Internet

Our local newspaper, the Brentwood Gazette, ran an item promoting the forthcoming William Byrd Festival last month. This has been published. For the full text go to http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/brentwood-gazette/mi_8088/is_20110119/elizabethan-maestro-buried-church-honour/ai_n56696290/

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Flock To "Birde" Festival

We hope that 'Early Music' lovers across the country will want to come to the William Byrd Festival. Tickets are on sale.

Monday, 14 February 2011

What's Your Favourite?

A survey has begun at Stondon Massey and Blackmore parish churches to find out what are peoples' favourite hymns. A Top Ten will be compiled to be sung at a special service on Sunday 15 May to close the William Byrd Festival.

Anyone can vote. Send us your three favourite hymns and we will add the titles onto the spreadsheet. (Use the comments field below?)

The last poll was carried out in 2004 for a Service which closed the Flower Festival at the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore. Then the Top Ten were: (1) And Did Those Feet (Jerusalem); (2) Lord The Light Of Your Light Is Shining (Shine Jesus Shine); (3) O Lord My God (How Great Thou Art); (4) All Things Bright and Beautiful; (5) Be Still For The Presence of The Lord; (6) Praise My Soul The King of Heaven; (7) I The Lord of Sea and Sky; (8) I Vow To Thee My Country; (9) Amazing Grace; (10) Love Divine All Love's Excelling.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

"William Byrd is England's Greatest Composer"

Richard Turbet is our guest speaker over the first weekend of the William Byrd Festival when he co-presents ‘William Byrd: His Essex Years’. Tickets are now on sale, priced £12.50 (under 16s £6).

Richard says, “I think it is appropriate to begin by saying simply ‘William Byrd is England's greatest composer’. No point in pussyfooting around.”

Byrd was born around 1540 and became a well known organist, musician and composer of his day, writing and publishing both sacred and secular music. He was engaged as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, as such Queen Elizabeth’s sacred choir, following the death of Robert Parsons.

Byrd moved to Stondon Massey around the year 1594 and spent thirty years in semi-retirement. It was at Stondon Massey that his true religious feelings came to the fore in the writing of his music. He was a great friend of the Petre family, who were Catholics and his Patrons, and made several visits to Ingatestone Hall, where his clandestine and illegal Catholic Masses were sung. He later wrote a complete set of music for the church year – two books of ‘Gradualia’, the second of which in 1607 was dedicated to his patron, John Petre. This was a most dangerous and daring pursuit.

“It was well known to the authorities that Byrd was composing and publishing music for the Roman Catholic church” Richard says. “Indeed, the person who licensed Byrd's two books of ‘Gradualia’ (the music he composed for the services of the RC Church throughout the liturgical year) was Richard Bancroft, successively the Anglican Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury.”

“Byrd was a formidable networker and had friends in the highest places - from the Queen and subsequent King downwards. He composed and published a large quantity of music for the illegal Roman Catholic rite. Such was his status with The Queen, by whom he was employed as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, no action was taken against him."

Byrd also composed a small but significant amount of music for the Church of England. This included the Great Service as well as other anthems.

“His Roman Catholic music could not be performed in the Anglican Church during his lifetime. His Latin music started to be published again in the 1840s, but even between his death and then it was never neglected, and it circulated in manuscripts among prominent London musicians. However during the earlier twentieth century it gained acceptability among the Anglican hierarchy”. Today his Latin work has been recorded by Cardinall’s Musick under its director Andrew Carwood. The completion of this cycle of work has been likened in importance to Bach’s Cantatas and Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

On his death in 1623 Byrd was described as the ‘Father of Music’, perhaps due more to his great age – and seniority in the Chapel Royal, much like is described ‘The Father of the House’ of the senior politician in the British Parliament – than being at the vanguard of new music.

In many respects William Byrd’s music is as well known as it has ever been.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Spring Concerts for Byrd Choirs

Stondon Singers, under the direction of Christopher Tinker, perform Faure’s Requiem as the centrepiece of their Spring Concert at the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore, at 7.30pm on Saturday 5 March. For more information follow this link: http://www.gerontius.net/cgi-bin/event.cgi?cname=10692

Writtle Singers Spring Concert is on Saturday 12 March commencing at 7.30pm. It will be held at All Saints Church, Writtle, and is entitled ‘Radiance: Music of Light’. For more information visit their website: http://www.writtlesingers.org/#nextconcert

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Two Weekends: Four Events: Six Occasions

Everyone involved in the William Byrd Festival is busy preparing their programmes for the events to be held over two weekends, from 7 to 15 May. This promises to be a great occasion for Stondon Massey, and will help raise funds to build a new Memorial Garden for the churchyard where our great composer, William Byrd, was buried in 1623.

The Festival begins on Saturday 7 May when the Stondon Singers, a renowned local choir, accompany Richard Turbet in a lecture / recital entitled ‘William Byrd: His Essex Years’. Richard Turbet is an internationally respected authority on Byrd’s life and work. He is preparing the third edition of ‘William Byrd: A Guide to Research’ in which he catalogues and reviews all that has been produced about the Elizabethan composer and musician. He makes what will probably be a unique appearance to the place where Byrd lived and died. There are two performances: at 4.00pm and 7.30pm. Tickets at £12.50 each and are available from the Church Office c/o The Vicarage, Church Street, Blackmore, Ingatestone, Essex. Please make your cheque payable to ‘Stondon Massey PCC’ and enclose a Stamped Addressed Envelope. Oh yes, do mention whether you want to come to the matinee (4pm) or evening performance (7.30pm).

On Sunday 8 May, no tickets are needed to attend the 9.00am Morning Prayer Service based on a Byrd theme. In addition to following the liturgy contained in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) service, our organist John Hatt will play three pieces by Byrd. Jubilate, our benefice choir, will sing ‘If Ye Love Me’ by Byrd’s friend and mentor Thomas Tallis. The readings will be taken from the Authorised Version of the Bible (King James Version) which came into use during Byrd’s residence at Stondon Massey in 1611. Richard Turbet, our guest over the first weekend, will give a short address. The programme is nearing completion. As one of the service leaders all I have to do is ensure I do not get tongue-tied by the language which has come down to us from the seventeenth century.

Weekend two is marked by a concert by the Writtle Singers under the direction of Christine Gwynn. This will be held on Saturday 14 May at 7.30pm at St Peter and St Paul Church. The title of the event will be ‘William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor?’ and will explore in words and music the composer’s life as a recusant Catholic, at odds with the law of the time proscribed by Queen Elizabeth I yet regarded by her as a master of his craft. Poor Parson Nobbs, the Rector of Stondon Massey, was required to present before the Archdeaconry Court a list of non-attenders. Byrd never crossed the threshold of the parish church and was fined time and again. We hope that you will want to attend the event will want to buy tickets, again priced £12.50 from the Church Office. The evening will include Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices, composed for private and illegal worship for the Petre family and their friends at nearby Ingatestone Hall. There will be one performance at 7.30pm.

Finally, on Sunday 15 May at 9.00am (repeated at 11.00am at the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore) we will have a service of Favourite Hymns. Voting has opened to compile a Top Ten. With the ticket application form attached you will see space for your Top Three. Let us know your favourites and come to a service led by our Reader, Anthea Gray. No entrance fee. A collection will be taken during the service.

All money raised from the concerts will go to the Fabric Fund of St Peter and St Paul Church, Stondon Massey.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Singers to Explore Queen and William Byrd

The Writtle Singers have announced the theme of their concert to be held at Stondon as part of the William Byrd Festival. On Saturday 14 May, at 7.30pm, Christine Gwynn will be directing the singers and narrator, Martyn Richards, in a performance entitled 'William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor?'

The evening will explore through words and music Byrd's subversive life as a recusant Catholic. It was something which Queen Elizabeth I found hard to stomach but, because he was such a great composer and musician, she turned a blind eye to his behaviour.

The evening will include a complete performance of Byrd's 'Mass for Four Voices', plus settings of Psalm 137 in which Byrd, in composition, replies to de Monte, "How Do We Sing The Lord's Song In A Strange Land".

Tickets are now on sale price £12.50 each.