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.