Exquisite polyphony by William Byrd and friends, written down in the late 16th century between Oxford and London and sung from partbooks around the table – in town tavern and country house.

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Imagine a dinner party where your host passes round antique leatherbound music manuscripts and says, “You’re singing tenor!” Then around the table one voice after another begins to sing from the ancient Dow Partbooks, bringing to life the most beautiful music from late 16th-century Oxford and London. Each part has to count and listen out for the others, and together they own the communal but invisible pulse – the “tactus”, a Latin word meaning something touched or felt. Whether singing or listening, the experience is one of an unfolding narrative – a communal navigation through a gorgeous harmonic landscape – enabling us to explore the innermost feelings hidden in the music of William Byrd and his friends, who shared this sumptuous polyphony over 400 years ago, no doubt with candles, wine, much laughter and bonhomie!

Program of table music and motets by Byrd & co.:
William Byrd O Lord make Thy servant Elizabeth
William Byrd Ne irasceris
Robert White Lamentations a5
William Byrd Christe qui lux es
Robert Parsons O bone Jesu

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