Next year marks 400 years since the deaths of two of England’s greatest composers: Thomas Weelkes and William Byrd. As well as being revered masters of renaissance church music, they were highly interesting men, with senses of humour, deep flaws, and a musical life outside of the church. To mark this anniversary, we’ve collaborated with Fretwork viol consort to make ‘Tom + Will’ – an album of some of their spell-binding English language music (ie. not Latin!). This includes consort songs, for solo voice and viols, verse anthems, madrigals and instrumental ‘in nomines’. The album will be out on 13 January 2023 on Signum Records. You can pre-order it now.
Today, we’ve released a single from the album. It’s actually the opening track, ‘Praise our Lord, all ye Gentiles’, a motet by Byrd which he published in 1611. It’s in a very madrigalian style, with fanfaric chorus textures interspersed with expressive text-led phrases, and all wrapped up with one of his very finest ‘Amen’ settings. We chose to perform this piece with a mixture of voices and viols on each line, giving a very special re-inforced quality to the lines, and emulating what may have been done in domestic music-making during the two men’s lifetimes.
To coincide with this first taste of ‘Tom + Will’, Pat has written an account of some memories of how he first got interested with the music of this period, and how it makes him feel like he is time-travelling when he sings and reads it. He wrote the article for ‘Byrd Central’ – a website which is acting as a hub and community for celebrations of Byrd’s anniversary in 2023.
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