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.”