Donna nobis pacem (grant us peace)

Last night in a time of reflection and silent prayer I listened to Mass for four voices by William Byrd (1543-1623). Byrd’s work consists of 5 parts- Kyrie; Gloria; Credo; Danctus- Benedictus and Agnus Dei. The music is incredibly beautiful and I was compelled to look more carefully into the sleeve notes by Philip Brett and understood something more of the historical significance of the work itself. Byrd was a Catholic all his life and the music was designed for clandestine services held at the home of Sir John Petre and reflects a new mood of resignation and contemplation from Byrd who served at the court of Queen Elizabeth I as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal commissioned to produce music for the reformed Anglican rite. Byrd wrote that he found “such hidden and deeply concealed power to a man thinking about divine things and turning them over carefully and earnestly in his mind.” The masses stand as the turning point of Byrd’s career and he arranged to have them published at a time when anti-Catholic feeling was running higher than ever. It must have been a very risky things to do. Brett writes; ” At the very end  Byrd’s prayer for peace is troubled by chain after chain of poignant dissonances..(we realise) God’s peace was not a thing the persecuted English Catholic minority could take for granted, and in striking this painful note Byrd makes it clear that he has not altogether worked through the predicament so wonderfully expressed in his anguished middle-moets. It is a glorious moment in which a purely human, contemporary feeling gives new meaning to the age-old words of the liturgy.” Share something of the beauty of this music in the short clip below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f-qQqpL2pA&feature=related

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Filed under Christianity, history, music, music history, religion

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