William Byrd

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The Valley Concert Society looks forward to welcoming Gesualdo Six to the stage of the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium on Thursday, February 9, at 7:30 p.m.

The six members of the British male vocal consort will present a program entitled English Motets. It features music from various composers of the English Renaissance.

William Byrd is widely recognized as one of the greatest composers of this period, and he holds the most prominent part of the evening’s program. This year happens to be the 400th anniversary of Byrd’s death.

It is remarkable that he was able to produce the music that flowed from his pen. He lived in a context that was rather precarious. He was born in the last years of King Henry VIII, who took England out of the Catholic Church and established the Church of England.

He was a child during the reign of the austere Protestant Edward VI who demanded that the music of the day be simple so as not to detract from the text. He began his musical education during the reign of the Catholic monarch Mary I. Under her, the rich, elaborate music of the Catholic liturgy flourished.

What followed was the long reign of Elizabeth I, a Protestant who nevertheless loved music and patronized composers of complex works. It was during this period that all of the works by Byrd on this program were created.

In 1570 Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth and released English Catholics from allegiance to her, thereby forcing them to face the dilemma of loyalty to their monarch or loyalty to their Church. About that time, Byrd became increasingly involved in Catholicism.

One of the works that Gesualdo Six will sing is Tristitia et Anxietas (Sadness and Anxiety). It reflects the stress that Byrd was living under during this difficult period. Gesualdo Six do a masterful job of weaving the rich textures Byrd’s music into a profound and moving experience.

Tickets for this performance are available online at www.valleyconcertsociety.com at $32 for adults and $20 for students. Call 604-289-3377 for more information.

I look forward to seeing you at the concert.

John Wiebe - President
The Valley Concert Society