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.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Top Choir to Sing at Stondon

William Byrd fans should not miss this final opportunity to buy tickets for the Cardinall's Musick concerts at Stondon Massey Church on Sunday 2 September.  Tickets are likely to sell out shortly. 

There will be two concerts, with two separate programmes: one starting at 3.00pm, the second at 5.30pm.  Between the two hour-long performances, Andrew Carwood, the artistic director of the Choir, will talk to ticket holders of either concert about Byrd. 

Contact us, or the Civic Theatre Box Office in Chelmsford, for ticket information.  

Watch this video by Cardinall's Musick in recent rehearsal and hear Andrew Carwood enthuse about this group and about Byrd himself and his music.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Cardinall's Musick at Fotheringhay: An Amazing Concert

It is difficult to describe in words the marvellous sound of Cardinall's Musick at Fotheringhay Church last evening.  This was the ninth of a series of fifteen 'Byrd Tour' concerts, but the first in a Parish Church setting. It was good to be part of the audience.  Andrew Carwood, their Artistic Director, wanted to bring the Choir to this Northamptonshire village because of Fotheringhay's association with Mary Queen of Scots, who was executed at the Castle in 1587. Byrd never went to Fotheringhay but the Catholic association for the Choir was irresistible.   There had been many fanatical Catholic plots to rid Elizabeth I and substitute Mary her cousin in her place. The Throckmorton Plot in the early 1580s was the most notorious and William Byrd himself came under some suspicion for a while because of his friendship with Lord Thomas Paget, the main ring-leader.

The first half of the programme could be regarded as a service of devotion and meditation. Andrew Carwood asked for applause at the end of a 45 minute sequence which included a complete performance of the 'Four Part Mass' interspersed with Mass settings for Lady Day and Easter.  The joy of the Easter sequence of music could be heard in contrast to the Propers. The sound was glorious and moving. Few voices, clear, audible diction: a sublime balance. Single out the words of the 'Credo': "Crucifixus etiam pro nobis, sub Pontio Pilato passus et sepultus est" ("He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate: he died and was buried"), and you could hear anguish in the voices; then the next line, "Et resurrexit tertia die secundum scripturas, et ascendit in caelum" ("And he rose on the third day according to the scriptures and ascended into heaven"), the sheer uplifting joy of that Easter event. Incredible word painting by this Choir from the pen of Byrd.

The second half contained a range of Byrd's Latin text output.  Andrew Carwood described 'Regina caeli laetare' ('Rejoice, O queen of heaven') as a symphony in four movements but with only three voices: the final 'Alleluia' being passed around between the singers.

After the Winchester Festival on Tuesday (10 July) the next 'Byrd Tour' concerts are at St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey on Sunday 2 September.  If you love early music and fabulous choral singing then make sure you are there at what will be Cardinall's Musick's smallest and most intimate venue. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

William Byrd Anniversary Concert 2012

Byrd's popularity is clearly undiminished considering the near capacity audience who came to the Stondon Singers concert last evening. The 'William Byrd Anniversary Concert' is something of a fixture for the Choir and St Peter & St Paul Church, thought to be the 43rd occasion the event was held (with the next already programmed for Tuesday 2 July 2013).

This was a programme very much in two parts.  The first included a performance of the 'Five Part Mass' (excluding the Credo) framed first and last by a piece from Byrd's great Gradualia cycle ('Gaudaemus omnes in Domino' (1605) opened; 'Laudate Dominum' (1607) closed). The programme was interspersed by three short pieces by contemporaries of Byrd: Robert White, John Mundy and Robert Parsons (the latter two members of the Chapel Royal).  An organ solo, Byrd's 'Pavan The Earl of Salisbury and Galliard' illustrated to many present Byrd's talent as a keyboard composer.  (We hear very little Byrd performed locally on instruments.)  This was played by Christopher Tinker, the Choir's conductor.

After a long interval so that all could have drinks and nibbles, the second half began with a royal tribute with 'Pastyme with good companye' (Henry VIII); 'O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth' (Byrd) and 'All Creatures Now' (Bennet).  A reading, four Italian madrigals and a 20th century piece by Kodaly concluded the programme with a song about stealing chickens!

Byrd died on 4 July 1623.