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P a s t   W o r k s h o p s

The (Un)Caged Byrd: A Composer and his Conscience
A talk by musicologist Dr Kerry McCarthy, live on Zoom

Wednesday 11th October 2023

7pm for about 90 minutes

Live on Zoom, hosted by the Renaissance Singers and introduced by David Allinson

As the Renaissance Singers prepare to perform the new play Master Byrd at Ingatestone Hall, we are delighted to present a live talk by one of the foremost experts on the composer’s life and music, Dr Kerry McCarthy. 


2023 has been Byrd’s year. A glorious stream of performances, conferences, broadcasts and articles about the composer has reaffirmed his status as one of the greatest musicians England has ever produced.

For this contribution to his 400th anniversary celebrations, Dr McCarthy will shine a light upon Byrd’s inner life: was he truly an ‘internal exile’, tortured by fidelity to his religious convictions? Or is this a modern projection, a romanticisation of a composer who enjoyed much creative freedom and achieved the highest professional recognition? 


While life as a prominent recusant brought peril, complication and compromise, Byrd was a pragmatist, a ‘political player’.


Dr McCarthy will look at the composer’s relationship with three important musically-inclined Catholic families — the Brownes, the Pagets and the Petres — each of which had quite different ways of practising their faith and dealing with the pressure to conform. In turn, something of Byrd’s inner life will be revealed. 


As we look beyond this 400th anniversary, Dr McCarthy will examine the extent to which Byrd’s contemporaries, and musicians in the generations immediately following, valued and understood his music, drawing upon it for inspiration. What did Byrd have to say to them? What does he continue to say to us?



£8 full price

Unable to watch live?

Buy a regular ticket and receive a link a few days later to watch the recording at your leisure. All those with a ticket will receive this link so they can watch the talk again.

If you’re able to be with us at Ingatestone Hall on 21 October, this talk will be an ideal primer. But if you are unable to see our performances of Master Byrd, this should be a fascinating freestanding talk about Byrd’s wonderful music and extraordinary life. 

The Sound of (Sixteenth-Century) Music (UPPER VOICES ONLY)

A live workshop with Laurie Stras

Monday 3rd July 2023

7:00 - 9:30pm

St Stephen's, Rochester Row, London SW1P 1LE

£14 full price, £12 concessions

Long before Maria von Trapp or Sister Act, the nuns of Renaissance Italy were making music to the same standard as the Sistine Chapel choir – far from being silent places, convents were alive with the sound of complex polyphony. Women from almost every family were destined for the veil, so it shouldn’t really be a surprise to find the daughters of Lucrezia Borgia and Galileo Galilei among the ranks of Italy’s musical nuns.


No wimples necessary, but all upper voices welcome to enjoy an evening singing “equal-voice” polyphony, with all its strange dissonance and surprising textures – not at all like the standard choral fare. Come for the poly-chant (chant-ophony?) of the ancient Salve sponsa Dei from the Florentine convent of San Matteo in Arcetri, where Suor Maria Celeste Galilei was choir mistress, stay for the astonishing harmonic language of Suor Leonora d’Este’s Angustiae mihi sunt. We’ll sneak in some chant and canons while we are at it!


Professor Laurie Stras is a leading advocate for women’s voices and upper-voice polyphony as part of the Renaissance soundscape. She co-directed Musica Secreta with Deborah Roberts for twenty years, as the Band Boffin; she continues to lead the group’s research activities and musical programming, with Claire Williams taking the ensemble directorship lead. Laurie is Professor Emerita of Music at the University of Southampton, and in 2023-2024 she holds a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship to complete her book on the Biffoli-Sostegni manuscript, a choirbook containing liturgical polyphony from San Matteo.


Please note that counter-tenors are welcome to attend this workshop.

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English Madrigals

A live workshop with Greg Skidmore

Monday 24th April 2023

7:00 - 9:30pm

St Stephen's, Rochester Row, London SW1P 1LE

£14 full price, £12 concessions

In this Byrd year, for a bit of a change, come and spend an evening singing English music mainly NOT by Byrd. This workshop will focus on the rich English madrigal repertoire, focusing on John Wilbye, but also including Orlando Gibbons, John Ward, Thomas Tomkins, Thomas Weelkes (who also died 400 years ago this year), and more.

Wilbye's famous Draw on sweet night will certainly make an appearance, as will perhaps lesser-known wonders such as Come, sable night, by John Ward or Weelkes' lament for Thomas Morley, Death hath deprived me of my dearest friend.  While we will certainly wallow in English melancholy, it won't all be doom and gloom and you will definitely have a chance to get your fa la la on! Some Byrd may also sneak in by the back door...

Born in Canada, Greg Skidmore arrived in England as an undergraduate at Royal Holloway College, University of London. After graduating with First Class Honours in Music, his postgraduate Choral Scholarship at Wells Cathedral led him to Lay Clerkships at Gloucester Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. He now lives in London and pursues a varied career as a consort, choral, and solo oratorio singer alongside his growing commitments as a conductor and workshop leader.  


While at Christ Church in Oxford, he began a course of doctoral research in Musicology at the University of Oxford and started his own men’s voices consort, I Dedicati. More recently he was appointed Musical Director of The Lacock Scholars and has performed throughout the UK with them, including ongoing engagements at Westminster Abbey. In August 2021, he was appointed Musical Director of Brighton Consort and in 2023 is presenting a full year of concerts honouring the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd.  


Greg is increasingly engaged in Canada as a guest conductor, clinician, and record producer, founding The Canadian Renaissance Music Summer Schools in 2018. 2023 sees an expansion of his work in Canada with the organisation, with two courses running this summer. 

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