BBC FOUR is repeating the series 'Sacred Music' this week. Programme 3, 'Tallis, Byrd and The Tudors' is on Christmas Eve, 24 December, at 7.00pm.
Harry Christophers, director of The Sixteen who appears in the programme, told the 'Early Music Show' (BBC Radio 3, 6.4.08) how very much he enjoyed performing Byrd's intimate music at Ingatestone Hall.
William Byrd (1543 - 1623) made no bones about the fact that he was a Catholic, and had powerful friends to protect them. His family and close friends were often in trouble and even imprisoned for recusancy. He became a close friend of the Petre family at Ingatestone and, while living at Stondon Massey, embarked on the Gradualia and Masses. This music was to be sung in private Catholic chapels such as that of the Petre family.
He devoted himself to projects during the last 30 years of his life while in Essex. There are two Byrds – the private one in retreat in Essex and a more European one, linked with De Monte across in Vienna. De Monte sends ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ Byrd replies in opening text ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land’, a poignant response.
The composer's body was laid to rest in Stondon Massey churchyard in July 1623. Local people re-enacted his secret burial in the closing scenes of the programme.
An unmissable programme!