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William Byrd programme to be performed at St. Paul's Anglican Church

UXBRIDGE: On Good Friday, March 29th, at 4 p.m., Cantorei sine Nomine, under the direction of Stuart Beaudoin, will perform an all William Byrd programme, at St Paul’s Anglican, Uxbridge. This is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd and it is appropriate to celebrate his music. He is considered the father of English sacred music.

William Byrd (/bɜːrd/; c. 1540 – 4 July 1623) was an English Renaissance composer. Considered among the greatest composers of the Renaissance, he had a profound influence on composers, both from his native country and on the Continent. He is often considered, along with John Dunstaple, Thomas Tallis and Henry Purcell, as one of England's most important composers of early music.

His life is unusual, as he and his friend, Thomas Tallis, lived at a time when England was either under a catholic queen (Mary) or a protestant queen (Elizabeth). The tensions between the factions was enormous and could easily lead to banishment or death.

Byrd and Tallis were the composers, in residence in the Royal Chapel, during this time of religious upheaval. Byrd was a staunch catholic, and as England became more Anglican he was becoming more Catholic and wrote most of his catholic motets. It is interesting, in spite of the politics, both Tallis and Byrd managed to set texts which were core catholic but did not conflict with Anglican tenets. We have seen composers over the years balance their politics with their music, especially in the former Soviet Union, and even now, with the music of Shostakovitch and Prokofiev.

When we listen to Byrd’s music we are in the heart of music, which reaches beyond the politics of the day, to support and uplift the listener.

In 1572, Byrd's appointment, at the Chapel Royal, increased his opportunities to widen his scope as a composer and also to make contacts at the court of Queen Elizabeth. The Queen was a moderate Protestant, who eschewed the more extreme forms of Puritanism and retained a fondness for elaborate ritual, besides being a music lover and keyboard player herself. Byrd's output of Anglican church music is small, but it stretches the limits of elaboration, then regarded as acceptable by some reforming Protestants who regarded highly wrought music as a distraction from the Word of God.

Byrd's staunch adherence to Catholicism did not prevent him from contributing memorably to the repertory of Anglican church music. Byrd's small output of church anthems ranges in style from relatively sober early examples, from: Bow thine ear, O Lord and Lord make me to know, to other, evidently late works, such as: Sing joyfully which is close in style to the English motets of Byrd's 1611 set. Byrd also played a role in the emergence of the new verse anthem which seems to have evolved, in part, from the practice of adding vocal refrains to consort songs.

This concert will contain examples of Byrd’s many successes, including: Verse anthems, the Fantasia in A minor, the sumptuous Ave Verum Corpus, Lamentations and especially perhaps his most important and beautiful work Tristitia et Anxietas.

The concert is free. We hope it moves listeners to a free will offering, to support the Music and Arts Ministry at St Paul’s Anglican Church. The church is located at 59 Toronto Street, in Uxbridge. For more information you can call the church office, at 905-852-7016 or view their website,

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