William Byrd - Consort Music and Songs

My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find,
As far exceeds all earthly bliss
That God and Nature hath assigned.

William Byrd: Though Amaryllis dance in greene

William Byrd: Galliard

Willia Byrd

Vandergucht (Michael van der Gucht ??), Gemeinfrei, Link

During his lifetime, William Byrd (approx. 1540-1623) was already highly revered by his colleagues and referred to as Britannicae Musicae Parens – the father of English music. He worked in the royal court for over 60 years and his rich creative legacy is still considered to be the pinnacle of Renaissance music, in particular his magnificent choral music. Even if every note of his choral works were to be lost, he would still be recognised as a first-class composer on the strength of his chamber music alone. William Byrd’s consort music is among the most exciting works of the English Renaissance. Its biting satire comments on the society of time, yet the music also conveys deeply religious reflections on the transience of life, juxtaposing elaborate polyphonic structures with joyful, dance-like folk song variations.


At the centre of this programme, Byrd’s consort songs exhibit a perfect symbiosis between voice and instruments, striking an unsurpassed balance between musical density and transparency of sound. While the lyrics are infused with a deep sense of religious belief, they also openly criticise society’s moral weaknesses, dealing out satirical lashings filled with sharp-witted British humour. Byrd’s songs depict the full range of human emotions, from heartfelt grief at the death of a friend in the popular tombeau "Ye sacred Muses" to the merriness of the high-spirited shepherd’s song "Though Amaryllis dance in green".