Chorworks Annual Summer Workshop
The Elizabethans - Part Three -
During the lectures, we listened to and occasionally sang selections from this profoundly emotional music, including excerpts from several Byrd Masses. Through this experience we saw how universal and timeless was Byrd’s and Tallis’ brand of heroism, as was the peril their convicted creativity placed them in. Little has changed in 500 years, sad to say.
The first public performance took place Wednesday evening in the Cathedral where, in the Great Choir, the faculty (Philip, Michael, Sally, Jackie, et al.) sang choral evensong. The program consisted of Tallis’ O Nata Lux (introit); the Responses of Thomas Morley, familiar to the Anglican Singers; Anglican-chant settings of Psalms 12, 13, and 14; the Short Service of Thomas Weelkes; and the anthem Loquebantur variis linguis by the Elizabethan composer Peter Philips. If, as Philip had advised, to listen is to learn, we workshop participants could have enjoyed no better opportunity to learn from the best than we had that evening.
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On Thursday, the consort presented its first performance at National Cathedral by leading the service of evensong. Of the Anglican Singers, consort members were Susan Bainbridge, Kim Bingham and Marty Minich. They had prepared a marvelous program of works by Byrd and Morley, as well as two later Anglican chant settings of Psalm 18.
Friday evening it was the schola, joined by the faculty, who inspired listeners with their program of evensong.
On Friday and Saturday we got a taste of the secular madrigal music of Elizabethan times. Influenced by the popularity of Italian consort music, English composers like Thomas Morley, John Dowland and John Wilbye introduced the genre to their countrymen; and the joining of instrumentalists to vocalists in small, intimate settings became a popular pastime in England. On Saturday afternoon in the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea, we were treated to an informal madrigal recital of schola members, accompanied by a very fine lutist.
The consort went on to perform four more times in the Cathedral: Saturday evening, as a separate group and in conjunction with the main choir, the faculty and the schola; two morning services with the schola Sunday; and another choral evensong Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the workshop. At Saturday night’s concert before the High Altar, the full choir joined the other ensembles, singing music they had prepared as solo pieces and as joint anthems.
This lengthy list of works included the finest examples of the sacred choral music of Elizabethan England, featuring Byrd, Tallis, and Morley. In addition to Sheppard’s aforementioned Libera nos, salva nos, familiar motets by Richard Farrant and Orlando Gibbons, among others, were presented.
The pieces which the consort and schola sang at Sunday Eucharist services were Byrd’s Sacerdotes Domini, Adrian Batten’s “O sing joyfully” and Peter Philips’ Ave verum corpus.
[Click here to see a webcast of the service.]