English Renaissance composer William Byrd was born in London at some time between 1539 and 1543, and there is little information about his early years. His two brothers, both choristers at St Paul's, became London merchants, and he also had four sisters. It's likely that William Byrd studied with Thomas Tallis at the Chapel Royal.
From 1563 until 1572 he was organist and master of the choristers at Lincoln Cathedral, where he got into trouble, at least once, possibly for organ playing or choral polyphony that was too elaborate for Lincoln's puritanical tastes.
When Robert Parsons died in 1572, Byrd became Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, where he played the organ and had access to contacts at Court. From this time, Byrd became increasingly involved with Catholicism, which affected the rest of his life considerably, although he still wrote Anglican church music.
By the time William Byrd died (in Stondon Massey, Essex on 4 July 1623) he had produced about 470 compositions, and had become a rich man, in spite of having to pay many fines for staying loyal to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. His death was marked by the Chapel Royal as the passing of 'a Father of Musick'.
CD Spotlight. Opposite Religious Poles - Secret Catholic music by William Byrd impresses Gerald Fenech. 'Absolute joy from beginning to end.'
CD Spotlight. A Tradition Still Alive - Gerald Fenech listens to Advent carols from King's College London. 'A hugely beautiful issue, full of inspiring singing and emotional joy, performed with fine control, impressive depth of tone and a dynamic range that commands one's admiration from start to finish.'
Ensemble. A Serious Miscalculation - Music for choir and saxophone, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Immaculately Crazy - Red Priest's 'Baroque Bohemians' impresses Alice McVeigh. '... extreme alternations of mood, from manic charges to bucolic brusqueness, with serious offbeat percussive work ... and general anarchy ...'
CD Spotlight. A Moving Tribute - A recording dedicated to David Trendell, heard by Gerald Fenech. '... intelligence and deep musicality ...'
CD Spotlight. Immensely Responsive - The Choir of Merton College, Oxford, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... beautifully moulded lines ...'
CD Spotlight. Polyphonic Masterpieces - Music from the Baldwin Partbooks, recommended by Gerald Fenech. 'The Marian Consort's delivery is clean, unembellished and wholly uplifting ...'
CD Spotlight. Vibrant Testimony - Music inspired by the Virgin Mary, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... overflowing with a translucent beauty ...'
A Luminous Experience - The Derwent Singers perform music by Fauré, Tallis, Byrd, Gabrieli, Eric Whitacre and John Rutter, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Extraordinarily Beautiful - Joseph Summer's Shakespeare Concerts Series, heard by Howard Smith. '... immediately expressive.'
CD Spotlight. Angelic Sounds - Jacobean choral music, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... distinctive character and colour ...'
Ensemble. Added Vibrancy - Mike Wheeler listens to a classy concert from the Sitwell Singers
Ensemble. Perennial Themes - A winter programme from Passamezzo, heard by Emma Tristram
CD Spotlight. Highly Recommended - Music for Advent intrigues Gerald Fenech. '... one of the discs of the year as far as choral music is concerned ...'
CD Spotlight. Cloven Hoofs? - English trios, heard by Robert Anderson. '... Trio Setttecento has adapted skilfully towards whatever idiom was required throughout the disc.'
Ensemble. New Light - Mozart's Requiem from the Sitwell Singers impresses Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Compelling Settings - Lassus, Gesualdo, Purcell, Byrd, J S Bach, Bruckner, Brahms and Tucapský from the Sitwell Singers, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Idiomatic Performances - Music for viols, heard by Robert Anderson. '... sensitively blended and tonally warm.'
CD Spotlight. Entirely Captivating - The Nativity story told through music, recommended by Howard Smith. '... a balanced and fulfilling listening experience.'
CD Spotlight. Beautifully Presented - Christmas vocal pieces, heard by Patric Standford. '... lively readings ...'
Ensemble. Substantial and Astonishing - Robert Hugill listens to sixteenth century Christmas music sung by the Chapelle du Roi
CD Spotlight. Mice in the Manger - A selection of Christmas music, enjoyed by George Balcombe. '... an amazing collection.'
CD Spotlight. Wonderful Music - The Cardinall's Musick sings William Byrd, recommended by Robert Hugill. '... the scholarship in the set is impressive ...'
Ensemble. A Near-perfect Occasion - Alice McVeigh braves the snow to listen to Fretwork at London's Wigmore Hall
CD Spotlight. Get Up and Dance - Elizabethan street songs, heard by Maria Nockin. '... plain good listening ...'
Ensemble. A Brilliant Idea - A Bernard Stevens celebration at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Deeply Thoughtful - Byrd, Vaughan Williams, Parry and Elgar from the Sitwell Singers, heard by Mike Wheeler
Record Box. Glorious Textures - Sacred vocal music by Robert Parsons, reviewed by Patric Standford
Ensemble. Real Inspiration - Verse anthems from FifteenB, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett
Ensemble. Especially Dramatic - Premières by Sheriff and McCabe, reviewed by Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. Admirably involving - Tau Wey at the 2004 Regent Hall Summer Festival, reviewed by Malcolm Miller
What sound? - Robert Hugill asks some questions about the music of William Byrd
Ensemble. Stylistically convincing - Malcolm Miller listens to Trio Lignum
CD Spotlight. The firmament on high - Music by Thomas Tomkins, enjoyed by Robert Anderson. '... an unqualified delight ...'
Ensemble. Accendo - Music from the time of Claudio Monteverdi at a concert in Cardiff Castle, Wales, reviewed by Rex Harley
Provocative thoughts, from Patric Standford - neglected genius
Ensemble - Whistle stop tour. Malcolm Miller appreciates The Camden Choir's Renaissance Music