Wednesday, July 03, 2013


The Stondon Singers in Stondon Massey Church

This year's concert featured an early Tudor mass setting by Byrd's teacher John Sheppard – the Western Wind, based on a popular song, whose choral textures are often distilled to solo voices, for example in the Crucifixus and the Benedictus. Sung with lucidity and precision by the Stondons, conducted by Christopher Tinker. Just as enjoyable was the lollipop which closed the evening: Richard GenĂ©e's Insalata Italiana, an amusing parody of opera, using the gamut of Italian score markings, from piano to piu mosso, fronted by the impressive bass of Mark Ellis.

But the main theme of the programme was the influence on Byrd of another foreigner, the madrigalist and secret agent Alfonso Ferrabosco. So, helped by a brief talk by Richard Turbet, we could play compare and contrast, and spot the difference, for example with two very different settings of Susanna Fair, and two strikingly similar songs called The Nightingale.
And to end the first half, a collector's item, long misattributed, O Praise Our Lord. A lively piece, which, like the opening Laudibus in Sanctis, enumerates the instruments of praise, like "the gladsome sound of silver bells", before sinking back into a restful Amen.
As is traditional, we take refreshment amongst the gravestones. Somewhere in this remote churchyard William Byrd is buried, and may feel the footfall of those faithful few who still value his music and his witness.

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