William Byrd (1543-1623)

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0120100329

Donald Macleod follows William Byrd through his early years.

Listen to his music and you'd think 16th-century William Byrd was the very model of an Elizabethan citizen, a refined character capable of producing some of the most beautiful music for the church ever composed, as well as inventive keyboard and vocal pieces which charm the ear and the mind in equal measure.

But, as Donald Macleod discovers, Byrd was also a complex man who pushed the religious mores of his age to the limit, and simultaneously indulged in a lifetime of petty-fogging legal cases which even Victor Meldrew would have been proud of.

His story takes us to Lincoln, where he took his first major job.

The atmosphere couldn't have been more unsuitable; a Royal inspection had decided that the music was far too lavish for the new Protestant regime, and recommended not just simplifying the worship but even the dismantling of the organ.

But this kind of challenge was to be the making of Byrd; again and again he would find ways to work the system, and was quickly found lavishing the cathedral's money on organ upgrades and scouting for new chorister talent.

Later in the week we focus on squarely on his Catholic defiance, in works such as 'Why do I use my paper, pen and ink' which refers explicitly to Edmund Campion, brutally executed at Tyburn.

And we hear how Byrd was repeatedly reported to the authorities for failing to attend church, and even prevented his servants from worshipping.

His personal connections read like an episode of Crimewatch, countless leading Catholics whose names were circulated by the authorities for their religious dissent.

But we also explore another, more human side to Byrd: his irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit.

This saw him take one of music's greatest ever financial risks as he set up the country's first ever music publishing concern with his great mentor Thomas Tallis, and which at first pushed him to the brink of bankruptcy.

And as well as musical interests, we find him pursuing a hectic life as a property speculator, forever in the courts evicting tenants, or battling over some arcane right of way.

The week begins, though, with a fresh look at Byrd's musical beginnings.

New research has revealed that he grew up in Lincoln, not London as previously thought, and also allows us a fascinating glimpse of his bookcase, home to the most controversial texts of the day.

01The Bird of Loudest Lay20160418

01The Bird of Loudest Lay20160418

Donald Macleod explores some of the vast range of Byrd's music including secret settings of the Latin Mass, instrumental dances and erotic songs.

Religious intolerance cast a long shadow over the life and music of William Byrd. As a Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England, he was persecuted by the state and often forced to tread a dangerous path between his personal convictions and his duty to the Queen.

His musical talent and his strength of character enabled him not just to survive, but thrive. Despite his trials he was, and continues to be, celebrated as the greatest British musician of his age.

There is frustratingly little evidence that William Byrd was personally acquainted with his fellow Elizabethan, William Shakespeare. Although, a tantalising reference to "the bird of loudest lay" in Shakespeare's sonnet, The Phoenix and the Turtle hints that they may have been more than mere contemporaries. Byrd did move in celebrated circles, including his long service in the Queen's Chapel Royal choir. In this first programme Donald Macleod explores how Byrd's faith marked him out as an outsider, even as his talent led him to the very heart of the British musical establishment.

Fantasia a6 (II)

Phantasm

Mass for Four Voices (Extract)

The Cardinall's Musick

O dear life, when may it be

Robin Blaze, countertenor

Concordia

Galiardo Mistris Marye Brownlow

Davitt Moroney (harpsichord)

Infelix ego

Stile Antico

Producer: Chris Taylor.

01The Bird of Loudest Lay20160418

Donald Macleod introduces some of the vast range of Byrd's music.

0220100330

Donald Macleod follows Byrd as he took up his first major appointment.

Donald Macleod follows Byrd as he takes up his first major appointment at Lincoln Cathedral.

It should be the perfect opportunity for the ambitious composer to flourish, but soon finds him having to use all his diplomatic skills to work around the restrictive rules of the Protestant authorities.

02Lincoln20160419

02Lincoln20160419

Donald Macleod charts Byrd's rise from boy chorister to music chief at Lincoln Cathedral.

02Lincoln20160419

Donald Macleod looks at Byrd's early life. The celebrated composer began his career as a boy chorister at the Chapel Royal, becoming apprentice to its organist, Thomas Tallis, before winning his first music director post at Lincoln Cathedral.

Religious intolerance cast a long shadow over the life and music of William Byrd. As a Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England, he was persecuted by the state and often forced to tread a dangerous path between his personal convictions and his duty to the Queen.

His musical talent and his strength of character enabled him not just to survive, but thrive. Despite his trials he was, and continues to be, celebrated as the greatest British musician of his age.

By the time he was twenty, Byrd had already served under four successive monarchs. He experienced first-hand how musicians were put at the front line in the battle of faiths, as Britain's rulers see-sawed between new Anglican religion and Roman Catholicism.

Donald follows young William to his first proper job, at Lincoln Cathedral, where he composed for voices and instruments. At Lincoln he also converted to Catholicism, a decision that would profoundly affect the rest of his life.

O lord, make thy servant Elizabeth

Tallis Scholars

Peter Philips, director

Great Service (Hodie, Psalm 47, Magnificat)

Musica Contexta

The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble

Steven Devine, organ

Simon Ravens, director

In Nomine, a5 (IV)

Rose Consort of Viols

Christe qui Lux es, a4 (III)

In Nomine, a 5 (V)

Phantasm

Second Service (Magnificat)

Choir of Magdalen college Oxford

Fretwork

Ryan Leonard, organ

Bill Ives, director

Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, :a

Davitt Moroney, organ

Libera me Domine et pone

Alamire

David Skinner, director.

0320100331

Donald Macleod focuses on Byrd's appointment to the Chapel Royal.

Donald Macleod rejoins the Elizabethan composer as he takes up an appointment at the Chapel Royal.

It soon sees him taking the biggest financial risk of his career as he sets up the country's first ever major music publishing concern, a venture which quickly runs into difficulties.

03Businessman20160420

03Businessman20160420

Byrd risks his livelihood and his reputation as he ventures into music publishing. With Donald Macleod.

Religious intolerance cast a long shadow over the life and music of William Byrd. As a Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England, he was persecuted by the state and often forced to tread a dangerous path between his personal convictions and his duty to the Queen.

His musical talent and his strength of character enabled him not just to survive, but thrive. Despite his trials he was, and continues to be, celebrated as the greatest British musician of his age.

The book business was booming in London, with a hundred and seventy-five booksellers thriving in the city. So, Byrd felt certain he would make his fortune when the Queen herself awarded him a monopoly on the printing and sale of music. Things didn't turn out quite as he planned.

Susanna fair

Geraldine McGreevy, soprano

Phantasm

Emendemus in melius; Peccantem me quotidie

The Cardinall's Musick

Andrew Carwood, director

Clarifica me, pater

Davitt, Morone, organ

Domine secundum actum meum

Alamire

David Skinner, director

O that most rare breast

Emma Kirkby, soprano

Fretwork

Galliards Gygge

Elizabeth Farr, Harpsichord

Lullaby

Geraldine McGreevy, soprano

Phantasm.

03Businessman20160420

Donald Macleod on how Byrd risked his livelihood as he ventured into music publishing.

0420100401

Donald Macleod explores how Byrd walked a tight-rope between Catholic and Protestant.

Donald Macleod follows the composer as he walks the most precarious of tight-ropes, risking everything with the publication of a DIY 'mass kit' for Catholics, whilst doing everything he could to pacify the Protestant authorities.

04Friends and Patrons20160421

04Friends and Patrons20160421

Byrd's Catholic faith forced him to choose his allies carefully, but he rewarded them with extraordinary music. With Donald Macleod.

Religious intolerance cast a long shadow over the life and music of William Byrd. As a Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England, he was persecuted by the state and often forced to tread a dangerous path between his personal convictions and his duty to the Queen.

His musical talent and his strength of character enabled him not just to survive, but thrive. Despite his trials he was, and continues to be, celebrated as the greatest British musician of his age.

Byrd was fortunate to cultivate several friends in high places, including the family of Sir John Petre, who also shared Byrd's Catholic faith. Donald Macleod follows Byrd to the Petre estate at Thorndon Hall in Essex where many of his works were performed, and to the nearby village of Stondon Massey where Byrd eventually set up his own country pad. Plus, we take a look along the shelves in Byrd's personal library.

The Barley Breake

Sophie Yates, virginals

Ne irascaris Domine

Stile Antico

The Passinge Mesures: The Nynthe Pavian and Galliarede

Kathryn Farr, harpsichord

Mass for 5 voices (Sanctus, Agnus Dei)

The Choir of King's College, Cambridge

Sir David Willcocks, director

O you that hear this voice

Emma Kirkby, soprano

Fretwork.

04Friends and Patrons20160421

Donald Macleod on how Byrd's Catholic faith meant he had to choose his allies carefully.

05Retirement20160422

05Retirement20160422

Byrd attends Elizabeth I's funeral and looks to his own legacy. With Donald Macleod.

Religious intolerance cast a long shadow over the life and music of William Byrd. As a Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England, he was persecuted by the state and often forced to tread a dangerous path between his personal convictions and his duty to the Queen.

His musical talent and his strength of character enabled him not just to survive, but thrive. Despite his trials he was, and continues to be, celebrated as the greatest British musician of his age.

Byrd's reputation remained undimmed in his old age and, as the Tudors gave way to the Stewarts, things began to look rosier for musicians like Byrd. However, the activities of a certain Guy Fawkes meant that his plans to publish a set of 'Propers' for the Catholic Mass had to be put on hold.

In fields abroad

Ian Partridge, tenor

Phantasm

Propers for the Feast of All Saints

The Cardinall's Musick

Andrew Carwood, director

Ave Verum

Tallis Scholars

Fantasia a6 (III) 'to the vyolls'

Phantasm

Fair Britain Isle

James Bowman, counter-tenor

Ricercar Consort

Pavane & Galliard 'The Earle of Salisbury'

Catalina Vicens, Harpsichord

Sing joyfully unto God our strength

Musica Contexta

Steven Devine, organ

The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble

Simon Ravens, director

Producer: Chris Taylor.

05 LAST20100402

Donald Macleod on how Byrd had the opportunity to fulfil some of his musical ambitions.

Early retirement gives Byrd the opportunity not just to complete some of his musical ambitions but also to try to settle numerous legal disputes which had dogged him for much of his later life.

Not that it seemed to bother him - Byrd was always a man to relish his chance to make a case, as we find in his continued court appearances to defend his own religious activities.

Presented by Donald Macleod