June 2015
William Byrd: Mass for Five Voices

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William Byrd (ca. 1539-1623)
Mass for Five Voices
Caroline Harvey, directing

A lovely cathedral nave such as the one pictured would have been a typical setting for the sacred works that William Byrd wrote during his early years, most of which were for use by the Anglican Church. But the three monumental Masses that he wrote in the 1590’s — the Mass for Three Voices, the Mass for Four Voices, and the Mass for Five Voices — could never have been sung in such a setting. For by that time Byrd’s personal Catholic leanings had intensified, just when Catholicism in England was being more and more suppressed by the Crown. Because an admission of authorship of The Mass for Five Voices could have led to imprisonment, he omitted his name from its first publication, and allowed it to be sung only in secret — in the country manor houses of his fellow Catholic gentry, far from the suspicious eyes of royal agents. In the soaring phrases and resplendent harmonies of this transcendent work there resounds William Byrd’s courageous cry for religious liberty.


1 pm Saturday, June 13, 2015
Church of the Covenant
67 Newbury Street
Boston, MA