Singing in Secret: Clandestine Catholic Music by William Byrd
The Marian Consort – Rory McCleery
In the turbulent religious climate of Elizabethan England William Byrd wrote — and, more audaciously, published — a huge amount of music for the Catholic rite, for services which he and his fellow Catholics had to celebrate clandestinely, in the private houses and chapels of sympathetic noblemen.
The cloistered intimacy of those occasions is reflected in The Marian Consort’s performances here, and their programme also explores the more coded ways in which Byrd was able to express his faith and his commitment to the recusant cause: settings of texts which had become associated with Jesuit martyrs, or biblical pleas for divine intervention which took on new, heightened meaning in these times of persecution.
Most moving of all is the motet Infelix ego, with Byrd weaving in homages to a still-intact tradition of Continental composers stretching back a century and a half as the text arcs from dejection and misery to repentance and finally hope, made manifest in music of transformative power.
"this is an exquisite release of profound music, superbly sung"
"McCleery’s band of singers offer a sublime homogeneity offset by sharpened individuality among the voices, never to the point of abrasiveness, but just enough to inject a telling fragility into music that once had to be sung while watching one’s back."
"The thing that hits you instantly is the special sound of the group, which is soft-edged and warm... But this warmth doesn’t compromise the clarity of the sound, which is vital in music made of such subtle woven filigree. ★★★★★ "
William Byrd - Miserere mei