MUSIC NEWBORN - Oliver Hirsh


organ programs with English music


Towards the end of the 1500's, a number of English composers were writing music which still strikes us as inventive and exceptionally beautiful. Some, among them the greatly esteemed William Byrd, as Thomas Tallis and William Blitheman before him, served Queen Elizabeth in the Chapell Royal. In his book The Consort and Keyboard Music of William Byrd, Oliver Neighbour asserts: "No composer…working without the guidance of a sung text, had hitherto encompassed so wide a range of character…"

There were pieces with sacred themes, dances such as pavan and galliard, and ingenious sets of variations on popular songs. And not least, there was the fantasy, which could stretch from the most demanding polyphony to downright playfulness. Also Byrd's pupil, Thomas Tomkins, cultivated the same instrumental forms way into the middle 1600's.

the old boys

On the chamber organ, just recently installed in the manor house, a retired organist dreams of his wild youth, when musical daring (close calls!) was the order of the day, and capricious royal decrees had not yet thrown fertile liturgical fields into confusion.

John Redford and Philip ap Rhys are but two names from the remarkable generation that flourished in the mid-1500's. Programs with their works can benefit by the participation of a handful of singers, to provide the contrast of alternating verses.


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