a cappella SSATTB choir
A reflection on the Byrd 5-part mass. For Suzi Digby and the singers of Ora.
Instrumentation a cappella SSATTB choir
First Performance 9 & 10 February 2016, Tower of London; Ora under Suzi Digby
Commissioned by Suzi Digby
Recording Upheld by Stillness Release Date: 12 February 2016
1.10.16 Kings Place, London; Equator Festival: Women of the World, Invicta Upper Voices & Invicta Voices
6.07.16 Cutty Sark, Royal Museums Greenwich, London; The London Oriana Choir, Dominic Peckham (conductor)
The beauty and tranquility of the Agnus Dei in Byrd’s five part mass is most striking. The sensual language feels almost as if one is listening in on a private conversation. Its strength lies in its simplicity and in the incredible clarity it maintains through the gradual unfolding to the magnificent climax of the piece.
A fragment of Byrd’s theme was taken as the starting point for Bray’s Agnus Dei. Harmonically, the piece is built on tone clusters, which were constructed from a germ of the harmonic language of the Byrd. His structure also influenced Bray; he first uses three voices; then four; and finally all five. Bray opts for three clear sections- soprano’s and alto’s, tenor’s and bass’s (with the addition of soprano 1), before the whole ensemble is finally heard together for the third climactic section.
ORA’s first album Upheld by Stillness – Renaissance Gems and their Reflections Volume 1 will be released in February 2016. The album is based around the works of Byrd including his great masterpiece the Mass for Five Voices as well as six newly commissioned works, including Bray’s Agnus Dei.