24 August 2024, 19:30
Scenes from the life and music of William Byrd
in the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral.
Written and acted by Brean Hammond
Music performed by Cantica Viva
Conducted by Deborah Davies
With Soloists Mark Hacking (Gamba), Drew Dennis (Tenor) and Rosemary Field (Organ)
The year is 1611. William Byrd rehearses a makeshift choir in his patron’s house in Ingatestone, Essex. In a series of 6 short monologues, Byrd reflects on his life, his music, his marriage and his religion. He ponders on the difficulty of writing Catholic music in extreme Protestant times. He muses on his relationship with the Queen. He relives the terror of persecution and of the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. He thinks also about great contemporary figures and writers, above all the dramatist whose work intrigues him, Shakespeare. We watch Byrd struggling to understand the mystery that is his music and what lies at its heart.
Master Byrd is not the kind of ‘greatest hit’ compilation that many choirs performed in 2023, the 400th anniversary year of the English composer’s death. It is a dramatic presentation that helps an audience to understand his life and the conditions of composition of his music.
Rather than being a static ‘and now we’d like to sing for you’ playlist, Master Byrd develops a narrative by which the music is motivated and from which it emerges. And you don’t miss out on the greatest hits.