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Sample programmes


Musica Contexta has successfully provided exciting programmes for festival and concert organisers for many years. These have included a secular reconstruction of Palestrina's Song-of-songs cycle, a festive Vespers from 16th-century Spain, and a Radio 3 broadcasted musical Sunday-walk through the churches of Renaissance Rome.



All Souls at the Bavarian Court

A lavishly-endowed musical establishment was one of the status symbols of a great Renaissance house, and it is little wonder that the Bavarian court of Albrecht V and his son Wilhelm V drew praise from around Europe. At its height, around 1569, the court capella in Munich numbered some 60 musicians, and included not just singers, but the entire gamut of Renaissance instrumentalists. Numbers, though, tell only part of the story, because at its head the Bavarian capella boasted the single most-prized musician of the late Renaissance: Orlande Lassus. Amongst the composers whose music Lassus performed in Munich were the Spaniard Morales, the three great Flemish figures of the previous generation, Josquin, Isaac and de Monte. This programme, of music for the Feast of All Souls (on which day the Requiem Mass is sung), offers us a glimpse, as if in cross-section, of the quality and diversity of music in the Munich of Orlande Lassus.

Ludwig Senfl (c1486-1543): Miserere Mei, Deus with antiphon Exsultabunt Domino

Josquin Desprez (c1440-1521): De Profundis with antiphon Si iniquitates

Heinrich Isaac (c1450-1517): Quis dabit pacem populo

Cristobal Morales (c1500-1553): Peccantem me, quotidie

Philippe de Monte (1521-1603): Dixerunt impii


Orlande Lassus (1530-1594): Missa pro defunctis a 5

Constanzo Festa (c1490-1545): Quis dabit oculis nostris




The Secret Byrd

The Secret Byrd’ aims to recreate the circumstances of a particularly dangerous meeting of Catholics in Elizabethan England. Byrd was known to have been present at this illegal gathering at a country house on the Thames. For such a secret meeting, a wealth of detail has come to light. One observer tells us what the private chapel was like, and who was singing and playing. For this concert Musica Context comprises five singers, including one female, and three viols. Other writers give a flavour of the atmosphere at meetings like this; with police surveillance parties at work outside, and an intense fervour to what was taking place inside. One piece in the concert is a unique collaboration whose origin is quite mysterious. Taking a religious text with political overtones for the English Catholics, Flemish composer Philippe de Monte wrote the first half and sent it to Byrd, who effectively completed it.

William Byrd: Ad Dominum cum tribularer

Philippe de Monte: Super flumina

William Byrd: Quomodo cantabimus

Thomas Tomkins: In nomine a 3

William Byrd: Infelix ego


Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi

William Byrd: Cibavit eos (Introit)

Philippe de Monte: Missa Ultimi miei sospiri: Kyrie

Philippe de Monte: Missa Ultimi miei sospiri: Gloria

Chant: Collect

Chant: Epistle

William Byrd: Oculi omnium (Gradual)

Chant: Gospel

Philippe de Monte: Missa Ultimi miei sospiri: Credo

William Byrd: Sacerdotes Domini

Chant: Preface

Philippe de Monte: Missa Ultimi miei sospiri: Sanctus

Chant: Pater noster – Pax Domini

Philippe de Monte: Missa Ultimi miei sospiri: Agnus Dei

William Byrd: Ave verum (Communion)

Chant: Postcommunio - Ite missa est



The Public Byrd

As the two greatest composers of the Elizabethan age, William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons were two of the first men to leave a significant legacy to the tradition of Anglican church music. Their music has never quite left the tradition, but inevitably, the contexts in which it is performed have radically changed. In the case of Gibbons, his Hymns and Songs of the Church are still well-known to Anglican church goers, as congregational hymns. Yet, despite their title, Gibbons did not write these for use in the church but in the home. They were part of a tradition of domestic devotional music which has been entirely lost. The simplicity of the hymns in their original guise is disarming. Only soprano and bass parts were written out, presumably so they could be performed by one singer and, for instance, a bass viol. If a keyboard or lute was available in the home, doubtless the bass parts would have been harmonised. At a polar extreme to this performing context lies the Great Service of William Byrd. Its surviving sources, and the lavish 10-part scoring of the work itself, confirm that this was a work beyond the reach of all but the best-endowed choral institutions. The most obvious such institution (of whom Byrd was a member) was the Chapel Royal. Descriptions of performances by the Chapel commonly mention accompanying instruments - organ, cornetts and sackbuts: it is this lavish scoring, and contrasting contexts, that Musica Contexta seeks to recreate.

William Byrd: Great Service: Venite

Orlando Gibbons: Hymns & Songs of the Church: Song 1

William Byrd: Great Service: Benedictus

Orlando Gibbons: Hymns & Songs of the Church: Song 4

William Byrd: Great Service: Te Deum

Orlando Gibbons: Hymns & Songs of the Church: Song 9

William Byrd: Great Service: Kyrie

William Byrd: Great Service: Creed

Orlando Gibbons:Hymns & Songs of the Church: Song 20

William Byrd: Great Service: Magnificat

Orlando Gibbons: Hymns & Songs of the Church: Song 31

William Byrd: Great Service: Nunc Dimittis














Orlande Lassus

















Philippe de Monte























Orlando Gibbons