The English Renaissance composer William Byrd is considered amongst the greatest composers of the Renaissance and is regarded as one of the major influencers on the development of western polyphonic music. This year marks the 400th anniversary of his death in July 1623 was remembered in a service of evensong in the Chapel on 12 September. During the sermon the College Chaplain, Revd Antony Weiss, gave a Biblical survey of the importance of music before a fascinating account of the life and musical influence of Byrd on the Catholic Church, the Church of England and his protection by, and patronage from the (Protestant) Queen Elizabeth I, linking it all to the wonderful musical tradition of the Anglican Church today.
The College Choir sang Psalm 122 Laetatus Sum arranged by David Drury based on Byrd’s setting. Similarly the Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis as well as the Preces and Responses were all from Byrd’s Service. The accompaniment was reconstructed for viols by David Skinner. Guests of the College were the critically acclaimed chamber group Josie and the Emeralds, Australia’s finest viol players, who accompanied the choir for all of the works by Byrd. They also played Byrd’s In Nomine à4 as the postlude. The organ accompaniment as usual was provided by the College Organist and Composer-in-Residence, David Drury.
The College Choir and musicians continue to delight congregations at our weekly services of Evensong at 5.15pm every Tuesday during Semester. Many visitors now attend and all are welcome to join us – the main gate at 9 City Road is open from 5 pm for all those interested in joining the service, and often are able to stay for dinner in the Hall with the undergraduate members and staff of the College. The Chapel Choir sings a wide range of musical styles especially from the English cathedral choir repertoire as well as contemporary works, including those written by music students associated with St Paul’s.
The Choir is directed by Jack Stephens, Director of Music at the College. Jack, David, Antony and the choir are preparing the itinerary for the Choir Tour to UK and France in December 2024 and January 2025 and we are looking for support from the wider Paul’s community to help supplement the costs of this trip through a donation to the College’s Music Fund [click here]. This trip will be significant for its ‘international showcasing’ of the quality of the musicianship of St Paul’s.