Saturday, July 18, 2009

This Sunday - William Byrd's Credo

For the prelude this Sunday, I will be playing the Credo from William Byrd's mass for three voices. By hearing it on the organ, you'll be spared the Latin, but with careful listening you might still spot some of the key moments of the Creed.

The broadest thing you might notice is the three-part structure of the piece. The articles are fairly delineated, so you can likely hear the transition from Father to Son to Holy Spirit. During the second article, Byrd uses the basic motifs of descending pitches for death and faster, rising pitches for resurrection.

The musical structure is polyphonic, meaning the three voices are fairly independent of each other. They repeat similar musical phrases in a fugue-like way, while coming together in chordal structure for some of the main tenets of faith.

William Byrd's music is generally not well known, except among early music groups. He was an English composer, who lived from the mid 16th century until 1623. His personal faith is either unclear or varied over time - he composed Lutheran hymns in which he warned against the Pope, but he also composed various settings of the Catholic mass. Of course, being an Englishman of the time, he was active in the Anglican church as well. In fact, he spent much of his life as an organist, choirmaster, and composer for various Anglican churches.

Throughout his lifetime, Byrd's music was much esteemed; however, his compositions were largely overlooked from his death until quite recently. Early music scholars and performers helped bring back his music. I hope you enjoy the chance to hear the Credo, one small composition from a great composer and a chance to meditate on the text of Creed as we continue our journey through it this summer.

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