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A Tudor Mass & an Elizabethan Enigma

Vocal Ensemble directed by Andrew Lawrence-King (harp, organ)

Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, John Dowland, William Shakespeare
Phoenix & Turtle.png

Candlemas in context

Our concert program presents the choral music of a Tudor Candlemas, which in private households and secret Catholic ceremonies might have been sung by women and men, rather than by the boys’ choirs of the Anglican rite. Avoiding the now discredited 20th-century musicology that suggested this repertoire should be sung at very high pitch and with the fake solemnity of slow tempi and romantic legato, we recognise and revel in the rhythmic drive of William Byrd’s counterpoint, and share the robust strength of his commitment to the meaning of Latin and English texts, no less dramatic than the plays of his literary contemporary, William Shakespeare.



 Whilst this glorious polyphony might be heard as a plausible reconstruction, the interspersed solo songs, poems and instrumental pieces are most definitely not part of the sacred liturgy. Rather they offer a glimpse of the historical context, the inner world of the Tudor mind, full of cultural cross-connections: European cosmopolitanism and English boldness, Catholic complexity and Protestant sincerity, faith and fire, rich poetry and complex polyphony, secret allusions and enigmatic references, luminous joy and hidden melancholy.         

Byrd: Mass for 5 voices, Motets from Gradualia,
The Queen's Alman, Nunc Dimittis
O Lord make thy Servant Elizabeth our Queen,
Tallis: O nata Lux de Lumine, If ye Love me
Dowland: Fantasies, Pavans, Galliards
The most sacred Queen Elizabeth, her Galliard
Shakespeare: The Phoenix & the Turtle

Program note and sample program here





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