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.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Madrigalian Era

Extracts from ‘A History of Music in England’ by Ernest Walker M.A., D.Mus. Balliol College, Oxford (published in 1907). [With additional notes taken from ‘The English Madrigal Composers’ by Edmund H. Fellowes (1948).]

The long-lived William Byrd is the typical figure of the music for this period, in every form of which – instrumental, secular vocal and ecclesiastical – he left numerous works. He is said to have been a pupil of Tallis, and was appointed organist of the Cathedral of Lincoln (of which town he was probably a native) when about twenty years of age; he subsequently joined the Chapel Royal, and remained in the service of the Court for throughout his life, though an avowed Romanist and suffering considerable persecution in consequence. The monopoly in music-making (for a term of years) granted to Tallis and Byrd, which on the death of the former in 1585 became Byrd’s sole property. The works published during his lifetime include two sets of Gradualia, Psalms Sonnets and Songs of Sadness and Piety, Songs of Sundry Natures, and Psalms Songs and Sonnets, beside some detached madrigals and anthems and instrumental pieces; three masses, the numerous pieces in the ‘Fitzwilliam Virginal Book’, and various other works are also available in modern editions, but a considerable amount remains in manuscript.

It is not until the close of the sixteenth century that the English madrigal proper makes its appearance. It is a combination of two elements originally totally separate, the contrapuntal secular music of the Italians and their resident masters of Netherlandish blood, and the harmonic Italian quasi-popular songs, the ‘Frottle’ and such-like, of which numerous examples were published in the earlier part of the century. All the English madrigal-writers show both contrapuntal and the harmonic elements I their works, and indeed generally combine them in the same composition.

The first madrigals published in England (if we exclude Byrd’s mixed collection of ‘Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs’) were due to the enterprise of an amateur ,music-lover named Nicholas Yonge, who had procured copies from the continent and had daily performances in his private house; in 1588 he brought out fifty-seven of the best Italian and Italianized Netherlandish composers, to English translations, with the addition of two by Byrd. [“Thomas Watson described as ‘excellent’ the two madrigals of ‘Master William Byrds’, composed at his request for his ‘First sett of Italian Madrigalls Englished’ in 1590” (Fellowes).] Twenty-four more were published by him nine years later, and in the meantime others had been issued under different auspices: but this interest in foreign works was quickly swamped by the flood of native madrigals that began to pour from the press. The most famous of these publications was that known as ‘The Triumphs of Oriana’ which was edited by Morley, and issued in 1601. [Byrd did not contribute to this cycle: “It so happens that the year 1601 comes in the course of that period from 1589 to 1605 in which none of his music was published. It cannot be supposed that his musical activity ceased during those years but it may possibly mean that he was avoiding publicity” (Fellowes).]

Many collections of madrigals and similar works have on the title-page the words ‘apt for voices or viols (even when, as in Byrd’s ‘Psalms, Songs and Sonnets’ of 1611, the title-page also specially remarks that the music is ‘framed to the life of the words’); and, strange as it appears to us, there is no doubt that the compositions of Wilbye and Morley, and all the rest, were often played as purely instrumental pieces.

The secular vocal music of Byrd is a curious instance of the limitations of the great man. [Henry Peacham, writing in 1622, says of Byrd “as comparing favourably with the best Italian work” (Fellowes).] Thirty out of forty-seven ‘Songs of Sundry Natures’ are secular, and yet it is hard to discover any particular genius of any kind in any of them, while in the remaining seventeen there is really noble work. Indeed, in an age that was, on the whole, decidedly non-ecclesiastical in its art, the disposition of Byrd is noteworthy; he seems to have become a new man when he touches religious words. Somehow he, consciously or unconsciously, inclined to the view that vocal music should be primarily religious. A few exceptions there no doubt are; two of the ‘Psalms, Songs and Sonnets’ - No. 9, ‘This sweet and merry month of May,’ and especially No. 13, ‘Come jolly swains,’ with its delightful half-realistic setting of the refrain ‘We smiling laugh, while others sigh repenting’, are full of gay charm of a subtle kind.

'Reverend Edward Henry Lisle Reeve. The Last Gentleman Clergyman of Stondon Massey (Essex)'

A former Rector of Stondon Massey is celebrated with the publication of his biography. Canon Edward Reeve was parish rector for 42 years, succeeding his father in the role. His family moved to the village in 1849 from Dedham. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve was born in 1858, and died at Stondon in 1936. He inhabited an age which has long gone, and he is truly the last gentleman clergyman of his era. Lisle, as he was known only to his family and close friends, was also a keen local historian. During his years as parish priest he did much to promote the image of William Byrd. It was through Reeve’s connections that the Byrd Tercentenary Memorial Tablet was erected on the south wall of the church in 1924. Richard Turbet, our guest speaker at the William Byrd Festival (7 May), describes Reeve as being among “the right people in the right place at the right time” and with “no trace of self-aggrandizement he [Reeve] was successful”.

‘Reverend Edward Henry Lisle Reeve. The Last Gentleman Clergyman of Stondon Massey’ is available, price £2.00 (or £3.00 posted to UK address).

For more information on this clergyman visit Blackmore Area Local History, clicking on this link http://blackmorehistory.blogspot.com/search?q=reeve

William Byrd Festival Sponsor

Noble & Taylor (Ongar) Ltd, (Building Contractors)

Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding day

USA Today suggested this week that the Order of Service for Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton's wedding this morning might include music by William Byrd. Alas not, but a great day of celebration lies ahead. Greetings to all Americans visiting this site, for their interest in England's greatest first Elizabethan composer, and for their support of Britain's fabulous Royal Family. Here we go!

Reeve's Vestry

Step into the Vestry at St Peter & St Paul Stondon Massey and you step back to a time when Edward Reeve (1858 – 1936) was rector. It contains a collection of brass rubbings, a map of the village and two items given to him on the occasion of the William Byrd Tercentenary in 1923: a photograph copy of William Byrd’s will and a copy of G Vander Gucht’s engraving of the great composer with his mentor, Thomas Tallis. This short video was made with thanks to the current rector and churchwarden.

Two books on Byrd and Reeve will be launched on Sunday (1 May).

Visitors may view the Vestry on Sunday 8 May*, from 2.30 to 4.30pm, when the church is open for a general look round. Tea will be available too.

(* and every second Sunday in month from May to September)

William Byrd Festival Sponsor

P.W. Keen Sand and Ballast Merchants Hallsford Bridge Stondon Massey Ongar

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Byrd Book

The most authoritative account of Byrd's life and work to date is told in 'William Byrd. Gentleman of the Chapel Royal' by John Harley, published in 1997 (Ashgate). Chapter 5 covers Byrd's time at Stondon Massey.

William Byrd Festival Sponsor

Home Security Construction

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

William Byrd Festival Programme

The Festival will be held over two weekends in May 2011 at St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey. We are raising funds to create a new Garden of Remembrance in the churchyard where William Byrd was buried.

Sunday 1 May
During the 9am service music by Byrd will be played.

Saturday 7 May
4.00pm (repeated at 7.30pm)
"William Byrd: His Essex Years"
A talk given by Richard Turbet (Aberdeen University), illustrated with pieces performed by The Stondon Singers, conducted by Christopher Tinker.
Tickets: £12.50 (under 16s, £6.00)

Sunday 8 May
Morning Prayer. 1662 Service
Our service, otherwise known as Matins, is taken from the Book of Common Prayer and will include recorded as well as live music by William Byrd. Jubilate, our church music group, will sing the anthem: 'If Ye Love Me' by Thomas Tallis. The address will be given by Richard Turbet. No tickets necessary. Collection plate will come around during the singing of one of the hymns.

Sunday 8 May - 'Fringe Event'
2.30 - 4.30pm
St Peter & St Paul Church will be open to visitors.

Saturday 14 May
"William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor?"
The Writtle Singers, conducted by Christine Gwynn, and Martyn Richards will explore in words ans music Byrd's recusant Catholic faith and his honoured relationship with Queen Elizabeth I.
Tickets: £12.50 (under 16s, £6.00)

Sunday 15 May
9.00am (repeated at 11.00am at the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore)
"Every man should learne to sing"
A Service of your Top 10 favourite hymns.

William Byrd Festival: Just 10 Days Away

Missed the Olympics Games ticket deadline?
Disappointed that William Byrd did not feature in the Classic fm Hall of Fame over Easter?
Wondering why Byrd is not anywhere in the BBC Proms programme this summer?

Don't worry! You can still apply for tickets for our local William Byrd Festival.
Some tickets are still available.

Quid Pro Quo

Organ Concert by Raul Prieto Ramirez at St Edmund's Parish Church, Chingford. Monday 2 May. 7.30pm. Tickets £7 Tel 07921 529583. Music by Bach, Durufle, Liszt, Mozart and Saint-Saens

William Byrd Festival Sponsor

Bennetts Bereavement Support 01277 624289

William Byrd Festival Sponsor

AJAYS Interior & Exterior Painters and Decorators. 07710 285158 07950 952124

William Byrd Festival Sponsor

Evicare Systems and Management Consultants Stondon Massey

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

William Byrd on Phoenix FM

Ed Wellman pre-recorded an interview with Andrew Smith about the forthcoming William Byrd Festival at St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey. It was broadcast on Phoenix FM, the local community radio station for Brentwood and Billericay, last Sunday (Easter Day) and is available to listen to by following this link: http://www.phoenixfm.com/2011/04/25/easter-sunday-breakfast/

Six of the Best: William Byrd recordings

In 1923 Reverend Reeve of Stondon Massey attended the Tercentenary celebrations of William Byrd's death in London. At Westminster Abbey he heard for the first time the rediscovered 'Great Service' of Anglican music performed by 200 voices. The manuscript had been found in Durham Cathedral library and then edited for performance by Edmund Fellowes. This disc, by the Choir of Westminster Abbey under conductor James O'Donnell, includes the setting for the Morning and Evening Services plus a scattering of anthems.

Two movements from the disc will be played at the William Byrd Service (BCP Matins) at Stondon Massey on Sunday 8 May at 9.00am.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Six of the Best: William Byrd recordings

This seven disc box set is a bargain. It features, as it says, 'The Complete Keyboard Music' of William Byrd performed on various instruments by Davitt Moroney. Some pieces were recorded at Ingatestone Hall. The box set comes complete with a 195 page booklet giving details of the pieces and a biographical account of William Byrd. My favourite piece is 'The Bells'.

Our organist, John Hatt, will be playing three keyboard pieces at the service at St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey (9am) on Sunday 8 May:
- 'Lord Willobies Welcome Home' from 'My Lady Nevells Booke of Virginal Music
- 'Monsieurs Alman'
- 'Fantasia' from 'Fitzwilliam Virginal Book'

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Six of the Best: William Byrd recordings

'Music for a Hidden Chapel' recalls the clandestine performances of Byrd's music in the great Catholic houses of such places as Ingatestone Hall in Essex. This disc includes Easter music taken from the composer's Gradualia cycle of 1607 dedicated to his patron Lord Petre of Ingatestone. Chanticleer are the performers.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Six of the Best: William Byrd recordings

'The Very Best of English Song' is a compilation of music on the EMI classics label. I have chosen this for the single Byrd track from the 2 CD set. 'Elegy on the death of Thomas Tallis' (otherwise known as 'Ye Sacred Muses') was composed by Byrd in honour of his great friend. Michael Chance's performance is really something. Worth going to Amazon to buy this collection.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Six of the Best: William Byrd recordings

For a great introduction to Byrd's music you cannot go wrong with the budget priced and nicely recorded disc on the Naxos label entitled 'Byrd. Consort and Keyboard Music Songs and Anthems'. It features the Rose Consort of Viols, with that rich warm sound of Elizabethan England, and Red Byrd. Tessa Bonner sings on four of the 17 tracks.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Six of the Best: William Byrd recordings

The Cardinall's Musick, under the direction of Andrew Carwood, completed the entire corpus of Byrd's Latin-text music last year with the Gramophone award winning disc 'In Felix Ego'. The fifth of the thirteen discs features the Mass for Three, Four and Five Voices, probably the most performed of all Byrd's music.

The Writtle Singers will perform the Mass for Four Voices in its entirety at their concert entitled 'William Byrd: Loyal Heart or Traitor' as part of the William Byrd Festival at St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey on Saturday 14 May (7.30pm).

The previous week the Masses feature among the musical illustrations to be given by the Stondon Singers when Richard Turbet talks on 'William Byrd: His Essex Years'.

If there is one Byrd CD to own, this is the one.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Byrd on Phoenix FM

Andrew Smith went to the studios of 'Phoenix FM' in Brentwood yesterday evening to record a piece about the William Byrd Festival. The item will be broadcast in Ed Wellman's show on Easter Sunday morning about 9.15am, and will be available to listen to on the web: www.phoenixfm.com.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Illegal Masses and Priest Holes

“You have all heard no doubt of the discovery of a hidden chamber at Ingatestone Hall in 1855. This was undoubtedly what is called a Priest’s Hole for hiding both Priest and vestments in the days when Mass was illegal. It measures 14ft. long, by 2ft. broad and 10ft. deep and was approached by a trap door and ladder and when discovered contained a chest for vestments and vessels”.

Laurie, Major Allan D. Antiquities of Essex (1946)

Monday, 18 April 2011

Ingatestone Hall Open To Visitors

Ingatestone Hall, the seat of the Petre family, opens its doors once again to the public from Easter Sunday (next Sunday, 24 April) through until the end of September. The Hall was the location of frequent visits of the local composer William Byrd, both before and whilst in semi-retirement at Stondon Massey in Essex.

According to the website www.ingatestonehall.com the Hall and gardens are open from 12.00 – 5.00pm (last admission 4pm) on Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays (except Wednesdays in June).

Pictured here is an old postcard showing, to the right, the former Chapel (now demolished) used by the family and local Catholic community for Services.

The present Lord Petre is coming to the William Byrd Festival on 7 May at 4pm.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Lord Petre coming to Byrd matinee

We are delighted that John, the 18th Baron Petre of Ingatestone will be coming to the 4pm performance of 'William Byrd: His Essex Years' at St Peter & St Paul Church on Saturday 7 May.

The Petre family are synonymous with William Byrd, the Catholic composer and musician. William Petre was Byrd's patron.

'William Byrd: His Essex Years' will be a recital given by the Stondon Singers (under their conductor Christopher Tinker) with Richard Turbet, our special guest and Byrd expert, providing a narrative to the life and times of the musician in and around Stondon Massey.

Tickets for the event cost £12.50.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

William Byrd Festival: Only 3 Weeks to go

Have you got your tickets for the William Byrd Festival yet?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

William Byrd Festival: "Fringe Events"

Two extra dates for your diary.

On Sunday 1 May the 9am Holy Communion service at St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey will include music by William Byrd on disc. It will also be the launch date for two new booklets: 'William Byrd: Some Notes', and 'Revd. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve. The Last Gentleman Clergyman of Stondon Massey'. More about the Edwardian Rector will be published on this site shortly.

Then on Sunday 8 May, from 2.30 to 4.30pm, the church throws open its doors to visitors on the first of its 'second Sunday in the month' open afternoons. Come and see the William Byrd Memorial, a copy of his last will and testament. Listen to music by the great composer, and have a cup of tea. The church will also be open in 2011 on Sunday 12 June, Sunday 14 August, and Sunday 11 September.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Puns on Byrd

Both congregations at Stondon Massey and Blackmore have been very good in responding to requests to distribute leaflets and posters around the local community and to organisations whose members might be interested in attending the William Byrd Festival. This has meant me giving a notice at the beginning of the service each week.

Readers of our church magazine had a form enclosed which enabled them to buy tickets at a slightly reduced price for a short period of time. I called it the ‘Early Byrd discount’, which got a groan from those in church one Sunday. When I said that many people were buying tickets and flocking to the Byrd Festival, I got a “That’s terrible” remark from one of the congregation sitting in the front row. I then explained that the Festival has two objectives: to raise the awareness of the great composer and musician, and to raise money towards the creation of a new Garden of Remembrance in Stondon churchyard. By attending the Festival members of the congregation would be “killing two birds with one stone”. Of course the choirs will be engaging in bird song when they present their programmes in May. The Services on the Sunday mornings will be full of music: a dawn chorus. When a photographer comes to the event he or she will ask people to watch the birdie.

Once these play on words start you cannot stop, and find that others join in the fun.

One elderly lady came up to me after the service and said “Thanks for making me laugh”.

These puns however are perfectly justifiable! John Harley’s Byrd book, ‘Gentleman of the Chapel Royal’ notes that when John Bull gave a lecture about Byrd in 1597, he compared the great composer to “the Eagle”. Others referred to Byrd’s musical skill, describing him as “our phoenix”. There is also a drawing of an owl with the caption, “I wyll not sing shut in a cage”. This reference is surely to Byrd’s restricted life as a recusant Catholic, but equally someone who wrote protest songs. We learn also that Byrd himself revelled in punning too. On dedication of the first book of Gradualia to Henry Howard, the Earl of Northampton, he wrote (translated): “They say the swan sings more sweetly when death is near. If, in my old age, that BIRD’S sweetness has eluded me in these songs which I have decided ought to be dedicated to you, most illustrious Henry, I have had two powerful defences or incentives in trying in some way to imitate it”.