William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices is a choral Mass setting composed around 1592 – 93 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Like most masses, it consists of fives sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus & Benedictus, Agnus Dei. It is a noted example of English Renaissance music from the Tudor period.
Like most works of its time, the mass was published in part-books by Thomas East, a noted music printer in Elizabethan England.
Following the religious conflict of the English Reformation, settings of the Catholic Mass were highly sensitive documents. Writing or even only having a copy of such music in one’s possession could result in the arrest of anyone caught with them. It is probably for this reason that Byrd chose not to publish the Masses as a set but individually in single bifolia which were easy to conceal. The Mass was sung at clandestine Mass celebrations in recusant households. These would have included Thorndon Hall and Ingatestone Hall, the two Essex country houses owned by Byrd’s main patron in the later stages of his career, Sir John Petre (later Baron Petre of Writtle) who was a close neighbour of Byrd.
For further reading, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_for_Four_Voices
To enjoy the music in all in grandeur, join us on March 31, 4:00 p.m.