The Cardinall’s Musick
The Cardinall’s Musick, 2012 Canterbury Festival, Canterbury Cathedral, 20 October 2012.
Director Andrew Carwood’s opening words reminded us of the circumstances in which Byrd’s Mass for five voices would have been sung: not, for sure, a great cathedral! It was easy to conjure images of fearful groups of recusants putting heart and soul into this music, especially when it was sung with Byrd’s Proper for All Saints.
Fearful yet brave: the persecuted Catholic communities and Byrd’s music, dredging up a faithful Gaudeamus omnes in Domino when the omnes were not very many at all. Part singing demanded a very different commitment to plainsong settings, yet it was achieved then and preserved for our edification today. The choirs who first sang these pieces would have known and trusted each other and it was clear that the Cardinall’s Musick have confidence in their colleagues and in Mr Carwood, and so allow Byrd to sing through.
And yet this was a concert appropriate to its setting, a church where the great occasion can be succeeded by moments of prayer shared by a handful where the pilgrim may pray in solitude. In this house of faith the intimate nature of the unaccompanied music reached the depths of the heart like a two edged sword.
We heard the poignancy of the Lord’s invitation to ‘come to me, all who labour’ in the Alleluia verse, while moments of unison singing, as in the Creed’s ‘Et unam Sanctam Catholicam’ reminded us that this was by no means just the ‘warm bath of sound’ that Tudor music has been called. At the Communion came another note of communal solidarity and defiance, ‘beati qui persecutionem patiuntur’: blessed are those who suffer persecution, for the kingdom is theirs. Indeed the choir invited the listener to stake a claim to heaven in this music of great beauty.
More sacred music followed the interval, with the final piece, Byrd’s setting of Savanarola’s Infelix Ego, sending us out ever more torn between heavenly beauty and human injustice. Byrd inspires confidence that the Lord will have mercy, according to his great mercy; ultimately all will be well.
The Cardinall’s Musick are touring with this programme. Catch them if they come near you.
For more information see: http://www.cardinallsmusick.com/