The Marian Consort sang beautifully – the tone, intonation and emotion were perfectly pitched… both innovative in its presentation of early music and of the highest quality in terms of technique and musicianship… A highlight of my musical year. Audience members 2016
This morning’s programme takes as its theme Singing in Secret: music from recusant renaissance England. It draws on the rich corpus of music written by William Byrd, our greatest renaissance composer. A devout Catholic, Byrd lived the life of an Elizabethan recusant and in his Gradualia publications and settings of the Mass Ordinary he provided a comprehensive compendium of music for the Catholic mass, which in the early seventeenth century was still being conducted in clandestine services held in the private houses of the nobility. More than this, many of Byrd’s chosen motet texts, with their themes of desolation and a desire for divine intervention, have been seen to allude to the plight of Catholics in England during his lifetime. Interspersed with Byrd’s music are motets by his contemporaries, many of whom either shared his recusant sensibilities or whose motet texts have been read in this light.