William Byrd Singers

After a couple of cancellations and COVID-19 delays, we were finally able to enjoy a William Byrd Singers concert.

On a very cold evening, with the threat of snow in the air, we popped down to Manchester to listen to their most recent offering To Music, To Singing.

What a fabulous evening. The programme was rather different from our usual music taste and included some recently composed pieces, some Benjamin Britten, Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar, as well as our rather more familiar William Byrd and Henry Purcell.

In addition to the choir there were two violin solos and some wonderful piano music.

The choir sang Hymn to Saint Cecilia, composed by W H Auden and set to music by Britten.

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

There were also poems from Robert Herrick, John Dryden; Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Shelley. All of these were beautifully sung, but my absolute favourite was the Byrds' last piece Envoi by Francis Thompson.  I love Thompson's poetry, and he's almost forgotten today. So, to listen to this piece with music composed by Stephen Wilkinson (the choir's founder) sent shivers down my spine:

Go songs, for ended is our brief, sweet play;
Go, children of swift joy and tardy sorrow:
And some are sung, and that was yesterday,
And some are unsung, and that may be tomorrow.

Go forth; and if it be o'er stony way,
Old joy can lend what newer grief must borrow:
And it was sweet, and that was yesterday,
And sweet is sweet, though purchased with sorrow.

Go, songs, and come not back from your far way:
And if men ask you why ye smile and sorrow,
Tell them ye grieve, for your hearts know Today,
Tell them ye smile, for your eyes know Tomorrow.