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Extra Tracks

Below are tracks from our library that never made it onto one of our compact discs. They can be downloaded here as high quality 320kbs AAC encoded (MP3) files.

Purchasers of tracks have unlimited personal use but must not pass or sell on to third parties nor broadcast without prior permission from PPL

William Byrd (1540-1623)

William Byrd was a pupil of Thomas Tallis, then the leading composing member of the Chapel Royal Choir in London.

Byrd's first known professional employment was an organist and choirmaster of Lincoln Cathedral, a post which he held from 25 March 1563. Residing at 6 Minster Yard Lincoln, he remained in post until 1572. His period at Lincoln was not entirely trouble-free, for on 19 November 1569 the Dean and Chapter cited him for ‘certain matters alleged against him’ as the result of which his salary was suspended. Since Puritanism was influential at Lincoln, it is possible that the allegations were connected with over-elaborate choral polyphony or organ playing. A second directive dated 29 November issued detailed instructions regarding Byrd's use of the organ in the liturgy.

His years at Lincoln were to be his formative years as a composer. The Short Service, an unpretentious setting of items for the Anglican Matins, Communion and Evensong services, which seems to designed to comply with the Protestant reformers’ demand for clear words and simple musical textures, may well have been composed at this time. Eeven after leaving Lincoln they still paid Byrd to compose for them. His seven In Nomine settings for consort, at least one of the consort fantasias and a number of important keyboard works originated during the Lincoln years. Some sets of keyboard variations, such as The Hunt's Up and the imperfectly preserved set on Gypsies’ Round also seem to be from this period and he continued to compose settings Latin liturgical texts at Lincoln.

Byrd obtained the prestigious post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1572 following the death of Robert Parsons, a gifted composer who drowned in the Trent near Newark on 25 January of that year. Almost from the outset Byrd is named as ‘organist’, which however was not a designated post but an occupation for any Chapel Royal member capable of filling it. This career move vastly increased Byrd's opportunities to widen his scope as a composer and also to make contacts at Court. Queen Elizabeth (1558–1603) was a moderate Protestant who eschewed the more extreme forms of Puritanism and retained a fondness for elaborate ritual, besides being a music lover and keyboard player herself. Byrd's output of Anglican church music (defined in the strictest sense as sacred music designed for performance in church) is surprisingly small, but it stretches the limits of elaboration then regarded as acceptable by some reforming Protestants who regarded highly wrought music as a distraction from the Word of God.

From the early 1570s Byrd became increasingly involved with Catholicism, which became a major factor in his personal and creative life. Following Pius V's Papal Bull of 1570, which absolved Elizabeth's subjects from allegiance to her and effectively made her an outlaw in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Catholicism became increasingly identified with sedition in the eyes of the Tudor authorities. With the influx of missionary priests trained in the English Colleges in Douai and Rome from the 1570s onwards relations between the authorities and the Catholic community took a further turn for the worse. Byrd himself is found in the company of prominent Catholics. In 1583 he got into serious trouble because of his association with Lord Thomas Paget, who was suspected of involvement in the Throckmorton Plot, and for sending money to Catholics abroad. As a result of this Byrd's membership of the Chapel Royal was suspended for a time, restrictions were placed on his movements and his house was placed on the search list. Byrd's commitment to the Catholic cause found expression in his motets, of which he composed about 50 between 1575 and 1591.

In 1588 and 1589 Byrd published two collections of English songs. The first, consists mainly of adapted consort songs, which Byrd, probably guided by commercial instincts, had turned into vocal part-songs by adding words to the accompanying instrumental parts and labelling the original solo voice as ‘the first singing part’. The consort song, which was the most popular form of vernacular polyphony in England in the third quarter of the sixteenth century, was a solo song for a high voice (often sung by a boy) accompanied by a consort of four consort instruments (normally viols). Consort songs varied widely in character. The Songs of Sundrie Natures (1589) contain sections in three, four, five and six parts, a format which follows the plan of many Tudor manuscript collections of household music and was probably intended to emulate the madrigal collection Musica transalpina, which had appeared in print the previous year. Byrd's set contains compositions in a wide variety of musical styles, reflecting the variegated character of the texts he was setting.

Having reached his fiftes Byrd retired from London to the Essex countryside where he was to embark upon a grandiose programme to provide a cycle of liturgical music covering all the principal feasts of the Catholic Church calendar.

Byrd's output of about 470 compositions amply justifies his reputation as one of the great masters of European Renaissance music. Although Byrd had a major reputation in England during his lifetime, his music was in many respects curiously uninfluential. The native tradition of Latin music which Byrd had done so much to keep alive died with him. Byrd's exceptionally long lifespan meant that he lived into an age in which many of the forms of vocal and instrumental music which he had made his own had lost their appeal to most musicians. Ironically in view of Byrd's own religious beliefs, it was his Anglican church music which came closest to establishing a continuous tradition. Byrd's music had to wait for the pioneering work of twentieth-century scholars from E. H. Fellowes onwards to become popular once more.
ave verum corpus sung by kings college choir
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o you that hear this voice
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