Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Stondon Massey: BBC TV / Open University series to feature St Peter & St Paul Church

Details have been released of a TV series, ‘Sacred Music’, which comes to our screens (if you ‘do digital’ that is) over the Easter period. The programmes will be broadcast on BBC FOUR.

And Stondon Massey, Essex, will appear in the third programme on 4 April 2008.

Stondon’s claim to fame is that William Byrd, a catholic and gentleman of the Chapel Royal, lived at Stondon Manor, from 1593 until his death on 4 July 1623.

Last October, Stondon’s Churchwardens were present at St Peter & St Paul Church during filming, which lasted for over five hours. One of them was interviewed and participated in a re-enactment of Byrd’s burial at night in the churchyard. Byrd is thought to have been laid to rest there - according to his Will - but without a surviving burial register for the period this cannot be proved. No memorial was erected at the time to the Elizabethan composer, no doubt because his Catholic conviction which brought him into conflict with the protestant locals.

In fact, it was not until the 1920s that Byrd received official local recognition, thanks to the efforts of the Rector and local historian, Canon Edward Reeve. On the south wall is a tablet commemorating the tercentenary of Byrd’s death, describing him as ‘A Father of Musick’ (see picture). The proceeds for the Tablet were paid for from the surplus received from Tercentenary Celebrations in London in 1923. The unveiling of the memorial, during a special Service on 12 March 1924, was attended by choristers from the Chapel Royal.

'Sacred Music', the TV series, (described as a history of 600 years of European Sacred Music from its roots in 12th Century Paris to the works of Johann Sebastian Bach), is an Open University documentary series which includes performances by conductor Harry Christophers and his world-famous choir, The Sixteen.

The series begins at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and journeys to Paris, Rome and Leipzig charting the political, social and musical developments of the time.

There is also a one-off 90-minute concert of music from the series which will broadcast on BBC FOUR on Easter Sunday.

Simon Russell Beale, the presenter, said in the press release: “I had a wonderful time making this series, travelling to extraordinary places, meeting fascinating people and above all listening to some of the most beautiful music ever written.

“The history of Sacred Music is an intriguing story and I hope the programmes will be a feast for both ear and eye.”

As well as London, the series also visits Dover, Waltham Abbey, the Cathedrals of Winchester, Lincoln and Canterbury, Stondon Massey in Essex where Simon visits the parish church of St Peter & St Paul, Ingatestone Hall and Harlington in Middlesex which features the parish church of St Peter.

The series will be broadcast on Friday evenings from Friday March 21 for four weeks on BBC FOUR. The accompanying concert will broadcast on BBC FOUR on Easter Day, Sunday March 23.

Programme Three, featuring Stondon, will be broadcast on Friday 4 April. This edition centres on London, where two great Catholic musicians of the 16th century composed for a very Protestant monarch, Elizabeth I. Against a background of religious upheaval and political change, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd served as gentleman of the Chapel Royal, the musical powerhouse of the monarchy, and their music was fundamental to the development of the English choral tradition, regarded today as the finest in the world. Despite their own deeply held Catholic beliefs, they composed some of their finest music for the Anglican church. The singers of “The Sixteen” illuminate through rehearsal and conversation not only the music itself but the sheer clarity of sound with which the tradition is associated.

Locally, of course, more about William Byrd can be heard at the ‘Through Changing Scenes’ event, to be held at the church on Saturday 19 April. Tickets are available now.

A booklet will also go on sale in aid of Church Funds, entitled 'William Byrd: Some Notes".

Meanwhile, across the Internet and in magazines, the name 'Stondon Massey' is appearing in connection with the TV Series.

For enquiries about the church, its events etc, click on 'Aask Andrew' under 'Labels' (left hand sie) and add a comment or use the Comments field below. Both will reach my E mail box.

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