The June/July 2023 issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Concerning the Choral Music of William Byrd: An Interview with Peter Phillips of The Tallis Scholars” by Sean Michael Burton. Following is a portion from the article.
William Byrd (c. 1540-1623) is considered one of the greatest musicians of the sixteenth century. Born and raised in Epworth, a village in Lincolnshire, he shared the position of organist and choirmaster as a gentleman of the Chapel Royal with Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). Byrd was an ardent Catholic who lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He “flourished as a composer because of his ability to set astoundingly beautiful music to sacred texts, in Latin and English.”
In the Choral Journal article “The Two Choral Styles of William Byrd,” Richard Hynson writes: Of Byrd’s musical style there are three characteristics which mark his revolutionary approach to musical composition: 1) the breadth and sweep of his melodies, which arch not only in range but in proportion to each phrase of text; 2) the vividness and significance of themes which are constructed of several thematic motives, then used in fragmented form to create freely imitative counterpoint; and 3) the innovative use of harmonic color which gives his music a unique freshness.2
July 4, 2023, celebrates the 400th anniversary of William Byrd’s death. The following interview was conducted electronically in July 2022 with Peter Phillips, founding music director of The Tallis Scholars. Since their founding in 1973, The Tallis Scholars have garnered much praise as a leading performing and recording ensemble of Renaissance choral music, with their prolific and awardwinning catalog of recordings (available through Gimell since 1980), as well as their annual concert schedule of more than eighty performances throughout the globe. Specifically, Peter Phillips has extensive experience performing the music of William Byrd. In this short interview, the conductor speaks on Byrd’s musical elements, performance practice for Renaissance works, and potential challenges.
Read the full article in the June/July 2023 issue of Choral Journal. acda.org/choraljournal