Byrd Masses in February

Hosted by: St Michael's Church and Choir

For the -gesima Sundays, 12th, 19th, 26th Feb, you can hear the choir singing all 3 of William Byrd’s Masses in order. He composed them c.1592-4, while in his 50s and a Roman Catholic, but tolerated by Queen Elizabeth I. The Byrd Mass for 4 voices is probably best known, Byrd 3 more sparse & austere, and Byrd 5 the most complex & developed. A Feast of Polyphony before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, 1st March.

We contrast these Mass settings with more modern Motets; Philip Stopford’s 21st century take on “If ye love me”, Edward Elgar’s 1902 setting of “Ave verum corpus”, and “O Lord thou art my God” by 19th century Exeter composer Kellow Pye.

Sunday 12 February, Septuagesima, Epiphany VI. 10.45am. Mass for 4 voices – Byrd.  If ye love me – Stopford.  Fr Christopher.

Sunday 19 February, Sexagesima, Epiphany VII. 10.45am. Mass for 3 voices – Byrd.  Ave verum corpus – Elgar.  Archdeacon Christopher Futcher.

Sunday 26 February, Quinquagesima, Transfiguration Sunday. 10.45am. Mass for 5 voices – Byrd.  O Lord Thou art my God – Pye.  Celebrant Fr Christopher, Preacher Bill Pattinson.

The words of the rather Victorian Anthem by Exeter born Kellow John Pye remind me of a “Worship Song” lyric – and why not? They are Isaiah 25:1 KJV.

O Lord Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name, for Thou hast done wonderful things, Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. O Lord Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name.

Motet translation -

Ave, verum corpus natum ex Maria Virgine:           Hail the true body, born of the Virgin Mary,

vere passum, immolatum in cruce pro homine:      truly you suffered and were sacrificed on the cross for humanity.

cuius latus perforatum unda fluxit sanguine:         From whose pierced side flowed water and blood.

esto nobis praegustatum, in mortis examine.         Be to us a foretaste in the trial of death.

O clemens, O pie, O dulcis Jesu, Fili Mariae.         O gentle, O loving, O sweet Jesus, Son of Mary.


St Michael and All Angels’ Church, Dinham Road, Mount Dinham, Exeter, EX4 4EB