WILLIAM BYRD ANNIVERSARY CONCERT
Stondon Singers at Stondon Massey
Imogen Holst's lovely Mass setting of 1927, rarely heard since she composed it while still a student, was the centrepiece of this year's Byrd concert.
Performed with immaculate styling by the Stondons under Christopher Tinker – the graphic setting of “Jesu Christe” in the Gloria and the final “pacem” of the Agnus Dei were beautifully realised – it betrays the influence of her teachers Howells, Dyson and especially Vaughan Williams, as well as the Renaissance masters whose work made up the programme.
Tallis – an assured O Sacrum Convivium – and of course William Byrd, his heartfelt setting of Savonarola's Infelix Ego, dramatically progressing from a tentative “non audeo” to the climactic redemptive “misericordiam”. Plus four motets from the second book of Gradualia, dedicated to his fellow Catholic the First Baron Petre and described in the dedication as “blooms collected in your own garden”. And to end, a light-footed Madrigal, Though Amaryllis Dance in Green.
Always a pleasure to celebrate Byrd in the church by his Stondon Massey house; to sit in the nave he seldom frequented, to listen to a selection of his life's work, and to drink wine in the churchyard where he was “grudgingly” interred in 1623 and still lies in the tranquillity of an unmarked grave.