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.
Thursday, 27 December 2012
Friday, 7 December 2012
ESAH160: ESAH Forum: 'Tallis, Byrd & The Tudors' on TV agai...: 'Tallis, Byrd and The Tudors' in the BBC TV series 'Sacred Music' is a programme I would never tire of seeing. It is on BBC FOUR at 7.3...
Posted by Andrew Smith at 18:08
Tuesday, 4 September 2012
In July 1923, as part of the London celebrations commemorating the Tercentenary of the death of William Byrd, an audience heard the first performance for some considerable time of the composer’s ‘Great Service’ at Westminster Abbey in the context of Evensong. The manuscript had been found the previous year in the Library of Durham Cathedral by Edmund Fellowes who at the time was researching the music of Orlando Gibbons. Fellowes later became Byrd’s biographer. One of the people attending the London event was Canon Reeve of Stondon Massey, who knew Fellowes well and was instrumental in the commemoration of Byrd at Stondon Massey Church by way of a Memorial Tablet on the south wall. Reeve described the Great Service as a “glorious effect produced by the 200 trained voices as the melodies floated around the pillars and arcades of the sacred building”.
The ‘Great Service’ is so named because of its length and size in terms of choral parts. It is set for two choirs of five voices. There are seven “movements”, which are settings for Morning and Evening Prayer as well as the Communion Service. It was one of very few works Byrd composed in English for the Reformed (Anglican) Church. It was never published during his lifetime.
Joining the list of recordings of the work is one by The Cardinall’s Musick under their director Andrew Carwood. (Available on Hyperion Records from 1 October 2012: CDA67937.) It was a work sung at the opening concert of their ‘Byrd Tour’ at the Wigmore Hall in March. Those who attended two successful concerts at St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey on 2 September were able to purchase “advance” copies.
To my knowledge there are five recordings of the Great Service available. I own three, so in ‘Building A Library’ fashion I listened to all movements back to back. (I must add that I am not in any way a musician but like Byrd’s work, and so my view is one based on the enjoyment.) The two discs not in my collection are by The Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips (2001) and a very recent offering (June 2012) by Musica Contexta on Chandos records complete with sackbuts and cornets. Having listened to clips of the recording on Amazon I am not convinced about the interpretation. Maybe I am a purist preferring those with organ accompaniment.
My three contenders are:
The Choir of Westminster Abbey directed by James O’Donnell (Hyperion CDA67533, released 2005).
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, directed by Stephen Cleobury (EMI Digital CDC 7 47771 2, released 1987).
The Cardinall’s Musick directed by Andrew Carwood (Hyperion CDA67937, to be released 1.10.12).
The King’s version comprises two trebles, three altos, three tenors and two basses. Listening to the opening ‘Venite’ you are struck that this is a quieter, perhaps more introspective performance than the others and is presented in the Evening Service portion of the disc as a Service for Ascension Day. The presentation is a little sweet for my liking, perhaps hesitant. The ‘Magnificat’ is not the slowest of the three recordings but seems to come to a halt at a point just before midway, before continuing … “and the rich he hath sent empty away” seemed desolate; then another pause. The ‘Nunc Dimittis’ is a little disappointing. It’s pleasant enough but the diction is not as clear as the others so maybe the dynamic sound Byrd envisaged is a little lost.
The Westminster Abbey recording has a richer sound with organ accompaniment by Robert Quinney. (Andrew Carwood writes the notes in the booklet.) This is a lovely recording. The final words of the ‘Benedictus’, “Glory be to the Father … “ and the ‘Kyrie’ are sung with real conviction. The trebles give their all in the ‘Creed’, perhaps a little too much. Byrd’s musicianship can be heard in the line of the ‘Magnificat’ with everyone taking a turn singing “all generations shall call me blessed” – related and inclusive. When the “rich are sent empty away” we are reminded more in voice of the link with the preceding lines about the good things they have missed. The disc’s layout is again in two parts – Matins and Evensong – with anthems framing the main work. These days, of course, we can select individual tracks at will. It’s a nice recording and recommended if you believe that only male voices should sing Byrd.
The Cardinall’s Musick is a quite different offering: profound. From the off you are aware of the voices blended in ‘O Come, let us sing unto the Lord’, but equally the sum of the individual parts. The organist, again Robert Quinney, provides a supporting accompaniment which is never intrusive. If Andrew Carwood’s theory is right that Byrd intended the Great Service as a farewell piece to his friends at the Chapel Royal (according to the notes in the booklet), then you can understand through this recording how interaction between each of the singers work. Is there a choral parallel with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘Serenade to Music’, specifically written with sixteen leading British soloists in mind? Mozart wrote Horn Concertos for his friend. So is it not fanciful to suggest Byrd did the same for his friends? Trebles in this recording are replaced by sopranos. But if there is any notion that this is a less spiritual presentation because it is by an ensemble rather than a cathedral choir, think again. The shortest movement, ‘Kyrie’ is beautiful and the most penitential of all three recordings (perhaps because it is the most expansive at 1’12 rather than 1’01 – a photo finish – for both of the other recordings). The sound is very clear and listeners don’t need the text in the booklet to hear the words. The crafting of the words “… according to the scriptures …“in the Creed is sublime. Then the Evening Service starts with “My soul doth magnify the Lord” in rapturous joy. A magnificent ‘Magnificat’: in the phrase “filled the humble with good things” – how good are the good things! The words “... for my eyes have seen thy salvation” in the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ with the rising notes of “eyes” seems to lift the voice to heaven. The five anthems at the end of the programme are hardly fillers. Turn this up in your living room! If this doesn’t win a Gramophone Award I’ll eat my Hymn Book!
King’s College / Cleobury: ***
Westminster Abbey / O’Donnell: ****
Cardinall’s Musick / Carwood: *******
Monday, 3 September 2012
|Cardinall's Musick at Stondon Massey|
The Cardinall’s Musick under their music director Andrew Carwood gave two concerts at Stondon Massey Church as part of their ‘Byrd Tour 2012’ yesterday. The eagerly anticipated event was one of the highlights of a year-long programme celebrating William Byrd’s Latin work and the successful recording cycle by the internationally known Choir. The first concert included the Mass for Three Parts and the second a number of Byrd’s motets. Cardinall’s Musick’s members’ voices blended together in an extraordinary and powerful way filling every corner right up to the belfry with the most beautiful sound. The Mass was interspersed with the Propers for Lady Mass from Christmas to the Purification and performed as a sequence without applause ending ‘Ite missa est’ (‘The Mass is ended’). In the audience one or two were visibly moved by the music and many bought copies of the Cardinall’s CDs including a recording of ‘The Great Service’ which is not on general release by Hyperion Records until 1 October.
During the period between the two concerts – a prolonged interval for some who attended the whole event – Andrew Carwood spoke about William Byrd in context of anti-Catholicism which was sweeping the country at the time. The music of the middle period of his life (1580s) is darker and perhaps reflects a time when he was under house arrest on suspicion of involvement in the Throckmorton Plot (to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne). Byrd knew the ringleader, Thomas Paget. A year later, in 1585, Thomas Tallis, his good friend and fellow composer was dead (“and music dies”). Byrd appears to come out of his mid-life crisis through his friendship with the Petre family. While other composers and Catholic sympathisers fled the country Byrd stayed. He moved to Stondon Massey by the mid-1590s in semi-retirement where he began to write his very best and joyful music. Andrew Carwood believes that ‘The Great Service’ was a farewell piece to his colleagues in the Chapel Royal Choir. Although Byrd remained a member of the Gentlemen his visits were far less frequent.
The central work in the second concert was the Propers for The Annunciation. Concerts in which conductors turn round and engage with the audience are always appreciated. Andrew Carwood is both informative and entertaining. One of the shorter pieces in the second concert was ‘Dileges Dominum’ (known to Anglicans as the ‘Summary of the Law’). It is a Canon in which the first sings a number of notes, but is followed by the second who sings the notes in reserve: a kind of mirror musically. Byrd clearly intended this in the mirroring the words “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.
Andrew Carwood commented on the lovely acoustics the church has.
The focus of local organisers is inevitably turned 180 degrees towards the audience: ensuring that those who came had an enjoyable time and knew where to go for refreshments (in addition to the complex car parking arrangements at the small church). Some who attended had never heard music of William Byrd. Others were seasoned aficionados and knowledgeable about Byrd and his music. We met someone who had just completed a dissertation on William Byrd – and had come from Dublin to be in Essex on a kind of pilgrimage. Some had travelled many miles to Stondon while others were members and supporters of local choirs including the Stondon Singers. Someone gave me an old newspaper cutting of Stondon Place, Byrd’s home (although subsequently rebuilt), which was for sale at that time for (wait for it!) £55,000.
The queue outside the church before the first concert stretched the entire length of the path to the gate. The event was advertised as two concerts but for many was an enriching and spiritual occasion.
|Andrew Carwood and The Cardinall's Musick:|
in rehearsal at Stondon
The Cardinall's Musick:
Sopranos: Amy Haworth, Charlotte Mobbs
Altos: Patrick Craig, David Gould
Tenors: William Balkwill, Ashley Turnell
Baritones: Robert Rice, Greg Skidmore
Basses: Edward Grint, Reuben Thomas
Sopranos: Amy Haworth, Charlotte Mobbs
Altos: Patrick Craig, David Gould
Tenors: William Balkwill, Ashley Turnell
Baritones: Robert Rice, Greg Skidmore
Basses: Edward Grint, Reuben Thomas
Sunday, 2 September 2012
Cardinall’s Musick, under their music director Andrew Carwood, are at St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey for the second of two concerts dedicated to the music of William Byrd.
Da mihi auxilium
Ave regina caelorum [a 5 MS]
Propers for Annunciation:
Diffusa est gratia
Ecce virgo concipies
Domine tu iurasti
Haec dies [a 3 Gr]
O Domine adjuva
Cardinall’s Musick, under their music director Andrew Carwood, are at St Peter & St Paul Church Stondon Massey for the first of two concerts dedicated to the music of William Byrd.
Mass for Three Voices
Propers for Lady Mass from Christmas to the Purification Vultum tuum
Speciosus forma Post partum virgo Gaude Maria Felix namque est Beata viscera
Miserere mihi Domine
Te lucis ante terminum
Domine secundum actum meum
O quam gloriosum
Friday, 20 July 2012
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
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
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.
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Saturday, 2 June 2012
The internationally recognised choir, Cardinall’s Musick, has included St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey, as a key venue in their celebration of the music of renaissance composer William Byrd. Their “Byrd Tour”, which began in March and continues through to Christmas, visits a number of places both large and small. Andrew Carwood, the director of Cardinall’s Musick, was particularly keen to include Stondon Massey on the tour because of the composer’s close association with the Essex village. Byrd is thought to have been buried in the parish churchyard.
The Choir will be performing two concerts containing different programmes, commencing at 3.00pm and 5.30pm on Sunday 2 September 2012 at the church. The first concert will include a performance on the Mass for Three Voices. The second concert will concentrate on Byrd’s motets. Each concert will last about an hour without an interval. Refreshments will be served. Tickets are £10.00 each for each concert and are now available online from the Civic Theatre Box Office in Chelmsford (by phone on 01245 606606, in person at Fairfield Road, Chelmsford and online at http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=10086&ayear=2012&amonth=9&aday=1). A small number of tickets (20 of the 70) will be available for local sale, and posters and handbills will arrive shortly for publicity. We will be taking bookings for both concerts shortly. Contact me for further information.
Monday, 28 May 2012
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Renaissance sacred choral music is the theme of the BBC Music Magazine cover disc for April 2012 (published today). Cardinall’s Musick, under the direction of Andrew Carwood, sing works by Byrd and Tallis recorded at the Kilkenny Arts Festival (August 2010) and St John’s College, Cambridge (June 2011). Highlight works by Byrd are ‘Infelix ego’ and ‘Iustorum animae’ (perhaps misspelt on other discs with a letter ‘J’ for ‘Justorum’ – I learned recently that the letter ‘J’ does not exist in the23-letter Latin alphabet).
The disc also mentions the group’s celebration of Byrd’s Latin music throughout 2012 in a series of concerts “that takes in a series of venues and historical locations linked to the great English composer”. This includes Stondon Massey Church in Essex on Sunday 2 September. There is an advertisement on page 113 listing the entire ‘Byrd Tour 2012’ giving website connections for each place.
If you are interested in tickets for St Peter and St Paul Church – there are only 70 available per performance – or would like further information, please e mail.
Saturday, 3 March 2012
The multi-Gramophone Award winning Choir the Cardinall’s Musick will be coming to St Peter and St Paul Church Stondon Massey on Sunday 2 September to perform two short concerts as part of their Byrd Tour 2012.
Cardinall’s Musick is an internationally recognised Choir specialising in early music. In 2010, under the direction of Andrew Carwood, the singers released their 13th disc concluding the complete Latin choral works of William Byrd. ‘Infelix Ego’ won them the Recording of the Year.
The Byrd Tour 2012 celebrates the recording achievement by taking the music of the great Elizabethan composer to venues both great and small. St Peter and St Paul Church, the only stop planned in Essex, is one of the smallest on the tour but has such a strong association with Byrd that Andrew Carwood felt that the opportunity to perform here should not be missed. The tour will be extensively advertised by Cardinall’s Musick in national newspapers and the music press. The Choir can be heard on the cover CD of the BBC Music Magazine soon.
Members of Stondon’s congregation will be there on the day to supervise car parking, provide front of house support and post-concert refreshments. The professional Choir will be offering tickets for sale online for about £10 for each of the two concerts. (However please indicate to us now whether you are interested so that we can seek to secure tickets for sale locally).
Provisional times for the concerts are 3.00pm and 5.30pm on Sunday 2 September 2012. Each hour-long offering will include motets by Byrd.
Contact us for further information.
The Financial Times carried an interesting article giving information on Byrd and heralding the Byrd Tour 2012, which begins at the Wigmore Hall in London on Monday 5 March: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/73e967be-597c-11e1-abf1-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1nN4pStYi . For the latest tour information go to http://www.cardinallsmusick.com/news/byrd-tour-2012 and specifically, for Stondon Massey Essex, follow the link to the William Byrd Festival blog, http://www.williambyrdfestival.blogspot.com/ .