X hits on this document

104 views

0 shares

0 downloads

0 comments

12 / 32

were 120 together, and 60 communicants at a time had the benefit of the B. Sacrament. 10

She continued to cultivate the arts for many years, and after she died in 1608, Byrd composed an elegy for her. It was one of the last pieces he wrote.

The Montague house was of course a rare, even a unique, case of recusant liturgical propriety, "perhaps not to be seene in all England besides." This was far from the norm. We have a number of accounts of sung feast-day liturgies among the English re cusants, but it is difficult to know if, and when, Byrd's great musical cycle was truly done justice. Hundreds of copies of Gradualia were printed; only a handful now sur vive. Contemporary manuscripts copied from these books reveal a jumble of correct and incorrect groupings, scribal alterations, and thoroughly non-liturgical arrange ments for the lute. The most solid evidence we have on their reception is the record of an unfortunate Jesuit who was arrested in a London pub, in the aftermath of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, in possession of "certain papistical books written by William Byrd, and dedicated to the Seigneur Henry Houardo, earl of Northampton"-a clear refer ence to the first set of Gradualia. 1' The more successful uses of this music have, by their very nature, remained undetected.

These works have also had a mixed reception in our day. They sit uneasily in both standard categories of sacred polyphony, the Mass and the motet. Well-meaning crit ics in the late twentieth century have berated, or sympathized with, Byrd for not achieving the same expressive results with set liturgical texts as he did with the impas sioned Cantiones sacrae of his earlier years. One author laments the fact that pieces from Gradualia "found their way for the first time into choral evensong only during the nine teenth century"12: an accurate observation, though a slightly odd criterion for the ac ceptance of Roman liturgical music. The great Anglican choral tradition has cultivated short free-standing works (including even Latin motets) as "anthems," pieces ad libitum to be sung at the conclusion of a service such as evensong; the reform of the Communion service in England removed the need for musical settings of the proper. Being neither anthems nor motets, the Gradualia propers, with the exception of a few well-known pieces, have often gone unnoticed even in their own country.

Placing (or replacing) this music in its ritual context has been a rewarding project, though we,like Byrd's contemporaries, are far from exhausting its possibilities. The ex cellent five-volume Gradualia series of the new Byrd Edition, edited by Philip Brett for Stainer & Bell, was completed only in 1997. Our own reconstruction of the main feast day cycle barely covered three-fifths of the music. We are continuing with other ser vices-most recently a Byrd compline using a number of the Office items, including Visita quaesumus, In manus tuas, Dea gratias, Salve Regina, and the Litany. We hope to perform the votive Masses in the future, as well as the Passion choruses and other largely undiscovered riches. ll

"The expressing well of our songs," Byrd once wrote, "is the life of our labours." Many thanks are due to the musicians who gave their time and talent to the Gradualia cycle in 2000. Lois Gerber (soprano), Jeff Hoel (tenor), and William Mahrt (bass), along with the present author (alto and director), formed the core of the group and sang

throughout the year. Virginia Hancock, Lisa

Deborah Meteyer,

Barney, Walter Baxter, Robert Busch, and Kaneez Munjee all took part in one

Joanne Dadd, or more of the

five-part and six-part Masses. The Fr. Christopher Dietz, who would

project was made possible by our intrepid celebrant, have been the pride of any recusant chapel.

11

BYRD GRADUALIA

Document info
Document views104
Page views104
Page last viewedWed Dec 07 20:53:11 UTC 2016
Pages32
Paragraphs800
Words14929

Comments