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, 15 July 2011

Was Byrd buried at Stondon Massey?


Stondon Massey churchyard will have a newly constructed Garden of Remembrance this year. The money has been raised from an anonymous donation and the receipts from a highly successful William Byrd Festival held in May. It will be a three-sided commemorative wall on which plaques will be placed to the memory of those who have cremated burials in the churchyard.

William Byrd, the great composer, is thought to have been buried in Stondon Massey churchyard. However there is no conclusive evidence that the wishes expressed in his Last Will and Testament were carried out. The absence of the Parish Burial Register before 1708 means that Byrd’s burial place may never be truly known but, to date, there is no evidence to the contrary. There are some who believe that the lack of evidence to the contrary is not proof of confirming evidence.

It is interesting to look back over the recognition of William Byrd’s death over the past one hundred years or so. In 1906 William Barclay Squire expressed an interest to the then Rector of Stondon Massey that, “if by chance you ever succeed in proving that Byrd is really buried at Stondon … I will collect enough to put up a memorial to him in the church or churchyard”. The Rector was Revd. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (1858 – 1936), a minister of religion and amateur historian.

At the time of the Tercentenary of Byrd’s death in 1923 Reeve wrote to ‘The Times’ suggesting, “Is it not time (in these broader-minded days) that some local monument were erected to his memory?” The London concerts realised a sufficient surplus which was employed towards the memorial inside St Peter & St Paul Church being erected. But the words on the Memorial carefully ignore any suggestion that Byrd was buried at Stondon: He “lived … for the last thirty years of his life. He died 4 July 1623 aged eighty”. This was historically accurate at the time.

Reeve suggests that since Stondon is the only place named in the Will “we can claim Byrd for our own”. He adds elsewhere in his notes, “I little thought, twenty years ago, that I should have witnessed such a Service [referring to the Memorial’s dedication] … or found Stondon so generally accepted as Byrd’s home and burial place”.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Stondon Singers: 1611 and all that

Although not entitled '1611 and all that', the William Byrd Anniversary Concert at St Peter and St Paul Church explored within the wide-ranging tribute three associations with the year 1611.  Tomas Luis de Victoria, who died in 1611, was represented in the first half by the 'Missa Vidi Speciosam'.  In the second, the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible was celebrated in Michael Aves' 'A Vision of the Word' which drew from the book of Revelation centered on the text in Chapter 1: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of prophesy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand". Byrd's own music was represented by the songs 'This Sweet and Merry Month' and 'Though Amaryllis dance in green', the former re-published in a collection of 1611; 'Sing Joyfully', the anthem which started the concert; and, three versions of 'Ave Maria'  as representative of his sacred Latin output. At the back of the church the sound was most wonderful and our church representative at the end bid them thanks for the concert and their support of the recent William Byrd Festival, adding "same place, same time, next year".  Hear, hear! 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Stondon Singers: William Byrd Anniversary Concert

Tuesday 5 July. 8pm.  St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey, Essex. CM15 0LD.
Tickets will be available on the door.

Change of Blog Name

The Festival in May 2011 may be over but the decision to promote William Byrd and his association with Stondon Massey in Essex, and to raise funds for St Peter & St Paul Church, will continue.  The name change on the blog from today reflects this.

William Byrd (c1540 - 1623) died today, 4 July 1623, aged 82.

Byrd is now on Twitter

In addition to this site we have opened a Twitter account.
User name: Stondon Massey.
Account: @WilliamByrd1623.  

Saturday, 2 July 2011

LMMC Sing Byrd at Stondon

London Motet & Madrigal Club visit to St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey
The Choir run through an extract from the 'Four Part Mass', which has a
strong association with  Ingatestone Hall
Over thirty members of the London Motet and Madrigal Club visited St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey today to sing music by Byrd and his contemporaries.  It was part of their annual visit to places associated with the great composers of the golden era.  Their informal programme included 'Ave Verum Corpus' by Byrd as well as 'Laetentur Coeli' and extracts from the 'Mass for Four Voices' - (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei).   They also sang two pieces by Tallis: 'O Nata Lux' and 'If Ye Love Me'.  Before they sang, the church's local historian gave a short talk on William Byrd and his association with Stondon Massey and Ingatestone Hall, considering how Byrd's Catholic faith was known but quietly ignored because of this friends in high places. Pictured here is the Club in full voice. 

A coach outing to sing at Stondon where Byrd lived

London Motet and Madrigal Club sing Byrd at Stondon


The London Motet and Madrigal Club's annual summer visit is held today exploring the music and places associated with William Byrd in Essex. Leaving Shenfield railway station by coach, the party will come along the lanes to St Peter & St Paul Church here in Stondon Massey, the village where the great composer lived in semi-retirement until his death in 1623. After morning refreshments the group will be entertained with a short talk about William Byrd and his association with the parish. This is the first time our local historian has given a talk on the subject. He is the author of ‘William Byrd: Some Notes’ a booklet on sale in aid of church funds. Following the talk the focus will be on singing. After lunch the LMMC move on to Ingatestone Hall, still the home of the Petre family where Byrd was their musician.

The Club was formed in 1942 for “the cultivation of the art of singing motets, madrigals and other similar music”. They sing for pleasure. Annual visits have taken place since the early 1960s to churches and stately homes associated, where possible, with the great madrigalists. Their last visit to Stondon Massey was in 1988, so they make a very welcome return thanks to a connection with the Rector and an LMMC member, a former organist in the parish where she came from. Members of the congregation are delighted to act as hosts in return for a donation to church funds.

On their very first outing to this part of Essex in 1965 the Club sang music by Byrd and his pupils Morley and Tomkins, in the Long Gallery of Ingatestone Hall. They then sang the ‘Agnus Dei’ from Byrd’s Four Part Mass and music by Tallis “in the fine acoustic of Stondon Church”.

This year the LMMC will sing an all Byrd selection: anthems in the morning at Stondon, and madrigals in the afternoon at Ingatestone.

For more about the London Motet and Madrigal Club visit http://www.londonmotetandmadrigalclub.org.uk/Home_Page.html