Singing in Secret
Time & Date:
7.30pm, Saturday 23 May 2020
Priory Church of St George, Church Street, Dunster, TA24 6SH
The Marian Consort | Rory McCleery, Director
£20 / £15 / £10
Two hours (including interval)
Tonight’s programme draws on the rich and varied body of music written by William Byrd, England’s greatest Renaissance composer. A devout Catholic in Elizabeth I’s Protestant England, Byrd lived the life of a recusant, under constant scrutiny and state surveillance. In his Gradualia publications and settings of the Mass he provided a comprehensive compendium of music for the Catholic mass, which in the early seventeenth century was still being celebrated secretly in the private houses of the nobility. Attendance at these services was frought with danger, with penalties if discovered ranging from hefty fines to death by hanging, drawing and quartering – the latter the fate of many of the Jesuit priests trained in Rome who were smuggled into England to lead these acts of worship.
Many of Byrd’s chosen motet texts, with their themes of desolation and a desire for divine intervention, have been seen to allude to the plight of Catholics in England during his lifetime. Interspersed with Byrd’s music are motets by his contemporaries Tallis, Parsons and de Monte, who either shared his Recusant sensibilities or whose motet texts have been read in this light.
The Marian Consort
The Marian Consort is a Gramophone Award-nominated vocal ensemble, recognised for its innovative presentation of a broad range of repertoire. Led by founder and director, Rory McCleery, The Marian Consort performs across the UK, Europe and North America, and features regularly on BBC Radio 3.
Praised by The Scotsman for ‘performances that glow with golden purity and soul’, the group is composed of the very best singers performing one to a part, allowing clarity of texture and subtlety of interpretation that illuminates the music for performer and audience alike.
The Marian Consort’s repertoire encompasses music from the fifteenth century to the present day, with a particular focus on exploring lesser-known works. TMC is committed to creating new music, and has commissioned leading British composers including Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gabriel Jackson, Cecilia McDowall, and Matthew Martin.
The Marian Consort is a pioneer of projects which move beyond the confines of the traditional concert, bringing music of the past to today’s audiences. TMC has toured Breaking the Rules by musician and playwright Clare Norburn, a concert drama exploring the life and crimes of Carlo Gesualdo, to LSO St Lukes, Lichfield, Buxton, Cheltenham, Bath and Lammermuir Festivals, garnering five-star reviews.
The Marian Consort collaborates with ensembles including the Carducci Quartet, Berkeley Ensemble, Rose Consort of Viols, Illryia Consort, and the Choir of Merton College, Oxford, in repertoire ranging from Byrd to Monteverdi and Arvo Pärt to Michael Berkeley. TMC has released ten recordings on Delphian Records to critical acclaim, praised for ‘precision and pellucid textures’ (The Times) and for ‘drawing the listener in by quiet persuasion and musical intelligence of the highest order’ (The Guardian).
Recent performance highlights include concerts in the Bascule Chamber underneath London’s Tower Bridge; a debut performance in Estonia at the 24th Kuressaare Chamber Music Days; a Wigmore Hall recital presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3; a residency at the Cambridge Early Music Festival; a concert at the Misteria Paschalia Festival, broadcast on Polish National Radio; and a UK tour to celebrate the group’s tenth anniversary. The Marian Consort made its debut tour of the US and Canada in October 2018, and will tour Japan in spring 2020.