Saturday, September 09, 2023

Byrd Festival in London


The Latin Mass Society is sponsoring a festival of William Byrd's Catholic liturgical music, to mark the 400th anniversary of his death, in London. You can see the full programme of Masses here. William Byrd, one of England's greatest composers, managed to combine a job at the court of Queen Elizabeth I ('Bloody Bess') not only with his Catholic Faith, but active support of the underground Catholic community through his composing.

Because these Masses are Traditional Masses, we are able to use not only his well-known Mass settings (he wrote Masses for 3, 4, and 5 voices), but pieces from his 'Gradualia', which give polyphonic settings to a vast number of Mass propers (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and Communion). We have carefully planned the festival to enable these pieces to be sung, not only in the context of the traditional liturgy, as he intended, but on the correct feast days.


They are being sung by the Latin Mass Society's polyphonic consort, the Southwell Consort, which combines professional singers with singers who have received training but who have not pursued singing as a career. The opportunity to sing these wonderful pieces has been enthusiastically taken up by members of the consort, who are regularly fielding about 20 singers on these occasions.


Last evening I attended the second Mass of the series in St Mary Magdalen's, Wandsworth, which had a congregation of about 85. Mass was celebrated by the Parish Priest, Canon Martin Edwards. The majority of the Masses are taking place in Corpus Christi Maiden Lane, on Mondays at 6:30pm.


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