Summer Festival at St. Bart's Continues with Byrd's MASS FOR FIVE VOICES Today
The 19th annual Summer Festival continues today, August 18 at 11 a.m. with a performance of William Byrd's MASS FOR FIVE VOICES.
The music of William Byrd (1543-1623) represents the pinnacle of polyphonic composition in the English Renaissance. Although a Catholic, Byrd was the Gentleman of the Chapel Royal (Director of Music) during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a Protestant. As such, he composed Anglican sacred works for the services of Matins, Communion and Evensong held in the chapel on Sundays and Feast Days.
By 1570, Byrd became more intimately involved with Catholicism, while still in the employ of the Protestant monarch. He attended Catholic masses at the estate of his patron, Sir John Petre. This was dangerously risky, since attendance at such gatherings was considered sedition and punishable by execution. It was for these clandestine gatherings that Byrd embarked on an ambitious program to provide a cycle of liturgical music intended for the principal feasts of the Catholic Church calendar. The first stage in this undertaking was a series of three unaccompanied Latin masses for 3, 4 and 5 voices published between 1592 and 1595.
In contrast to his festive Anglican works for the Chapel Royal, these masses are deeply impassioned with a inner sense of yearning and devotion, perhaps influenced by the precarious circumstances for which these masses were composed.
St. Bartholomew's Choir will be conducted by William K. Trafka.
The Summer Festival of Sacred Music takes place each Sunday morning at 11 a.m. at St. Bartholomew's Church during the summer months. At a time when most churches reduce their musical offerings, St. Bartholomew's Church provides outstanding sacred music sung by St. Bartholomew's Choir and Boy and Girl Choristers, two of New York City's most renowned choirs. Works include an array of mass settings from the 15th century to the present embracing a diversity of cultures from around the world. The music is sung as part of the 11 a.m. service, the liturgical context for which it was composed. All Summer Festival events are free and open to the public.
The Summer Festival of Sacred Music takes place at St. Bart's, located at the corner of Park Avenue and 51st Street. Subway: 6 to 51st Street. For more information, call (212) 378-0222 or click here for the complete schedule.