Help the Byrds Bach

by William Byrd Singers in Manchester, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 17th October 2021 we successfully raised £6,100 ( + est. £1406.25 Gift Aid ) with 102 supporters in 28 days

To raise £5000 to fund our 50th anniversary performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Matthäus Passion, at the Stoller Hall, Manchester

by William Byrd Singers in Manchester, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

Rather unexpectedly, the Byrds lost their greatly discounted library storage facilities this year so any additional funds will support the rental of an alternative venue to house their scores, in particular the precious  Stephen Wilkinson collection.

Our Goal

With your help, we plan to raise £5000 in 4 weeks in order to fund our once in a lifetime 50th anniversary performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Matthäus Passion (St Matthew Passion), in the Stoller Hall of Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, on April 2nd 2022. The project is a collaboration led by the William Byrd Singers (‘the Byrds’), along with the 18th Century Sinfonia, world class professional soloists and the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Primary School, Atherton.

After a year of cultural and social isolation, this performance will bring music-lovers together once again. Professional musicians will join amateur choristers and local school-children to celebrate the healing power of classical music, through one of Bach’s most powerful works

Bach’s Matthäus Passion Bach’s great sacred oratorio, the Matthäus Passion, tells the story of Christ’s Passion: the Easter story of His betrayal and crucifixion, and was first performed in Leipzig in 1727. The forces required for a performance are substantial: a double choir, supplemented by an additional treble choral line, a double orchestra, and soloists. After Bach’s death in 1750, the work was neglected for many years until it was revived by Mendelssohn in the nineteenth century.  Even today, performances are major musical events.


Why are we performing Bach’s Matthäus Passion?

The William Byrd Singers, a leading Chamber Choir in the North West, were formed just over fifty years ago (we missed our actual 50th year due to Covid!) under their first conductor, the great Stephen Wilkinson MBE who sadly passed away at the beginning of August this year. (The picture shows Stephen celebrating his own centenary with the Byrds in 2019!)


Of our project, Stephen said:

"I think the St Matthew Passion will prove to be a splendid celebration for the Byrds' 50th Anniversary, and a natural climax to the succession of great Bach works given over the years. For me, Bach has always proved the ultimate challenge and joy, and I am delighted that Keith has chosen this great work to mark our emergence from these dark times when we have all been so sadly deprived of making music together. The Byrds and The 18th Century Sinfonia are joined by a  team of top class soloists under Keith's dynamic direction, and I have every confidence that this will be an evening to remember." Stephen Wilkinson MBE

Under Stephen and his successor and current conductor, Keith Orrell, the Byrds have performed almost 300 concerts in Britain and in Belgium, France, Poland, Finland and Italy, and made several recordings

Over the years, the Byrds have performed almost all of Bach’s major choral works, including the Mass in B minor, the St John Passion, the Magnificat, the six Motets, several Cantatas and the four Lutheran Masses. Some of these, particularly the Motets, have been performed many times, and few seasons have passed without a performance of one of Bach’s works. Where our Bach performances have required orchestral accompaniment, we have been privileged to work with the 18th Century Orchestra, whose instruments and performance practice recreate Bach’s sound world. 

However, we have never had the opportunity to perform Bach’s Matthäus Passion, the work many regard as one of the pinnacles of sacred music, and, indeed, of European culture. The Byrds are therefore seeking to celebrate and commemorate their fiftieth anniversary season by doing just that! 

About the Project Partners

The William Byrd Singers is a chamber choir comprising around 30 singers. Although we are amateur choristers, many of the singers are music teachers or professional musicians in other capacities. Such is the reputation of the Byrds that many of our members journey from out of the region to attend weekly rehearsals (which of course require sustenance in the form of tea and cake!), Here, Rosemary Thomason, our Chairman, explains the importance of tea and cake to the Byrds.

As you might imagine, therefore, the sound we make is  exemplary and we have, for fifty years, established a unique reputation in the North West for innovative and challenging programmes performed to high standards.


In addition to the classic works of the chamber repertoire, the choir has, over the years, commissioned or given first performances of thirty compositions, including works by John McCabe, Alan Bullard, Elizabeth Maconchy and, naturally, Stephen Wilkinson and Keith Orrell. Recent programmes have included major works rarely, if ever, performed in the North West, including Rachmaninov’s the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Hindemith’s Apparebit Repentina Dies, Bax’s Mater Ora Filium and Stravinsky’s Mass.


Keith Orrell, our Musical Director since Stephen Wilkinson’s retirement in 2009, is an established and highly experienced choral conductor and was formerly chorus master of the Hallé Choir.1621875103_william_byrd_-_9_mar_19-7.jpg

We are delighted to be working on this project with a number of internationally acclaimed professional soloists including: Elin Manahan Thomas, best known for her baroque works but also performed at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018; Peter HarveyNicholas MulroyNick PritchardTim Morgan and Damien O’Keefe

We are also thrilled to be supported by the 18th Century Sinfonia. 


Founded in 2001 18th Century Sinfonia (along with the 18th Century Concert Orchestra) is the only regularly playing, professional period instrument orchestra in the North West. The Sinfonia has enjoyed collaborating over the years with Keith Orrell and the wonderful Byrd Singers and is looking forward very much to joining with them to present an authentic performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion. 

In addition, our performance will be enriched by the addition of junior voices from the Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Atherton, a school renowned in Wigan for its excellent and authentic singing (the picture is taken from the school's Facebook page and does not necessarily include the actual children who will be taking part in the performance). 


This is an exciting opportunity for the children to sing a great work in a wonderful setting, as Helen, one of the William Byrd Singers explains. 

Why do we need your help?

Our performance of Bach’s Matthäus Passion is a celebration of our fifty years and of our love of Bach’s inspiring music. But our performance to professional standards, with a professional orchestra of period instruments, soloists and a youth choir, will involve lengthy and expensive preparation over several months with rehearsals in Wigan, Manchester and elsewhere. We have also secured a world class venue in the Stoller Hall.


                                           The Stoller Hall, Manchester

Ticket sales for the event in April 2022, even with a capacity audience (which is not at all guaranteed in these times of socially-distanced performances), will not cover the costs of the event itself, let alone costs associated with the rehearsal period, which are only partially covered by members’ subscriptions.  Fundraising is therefore essential for the event to go ahead. Your donation will help to fund fees for our conductor, the orchestra and soloists, and relevant rehearsal costs. 

As a charity, the Byrds can supplement many donations through the Gift Aid scheme.

We feel proud to not only have such wonderful professionals on board but to know we are providing an opportunity for these singers to return to the stage after lockdown; a period of social and cultural isolation which has had a devastating effect on professionals from the performing arts. Your donation will therefore not only help us realise our vision of performing Matthäus Passion but will support a large number of professional artists as they start performing once again.

Should our concert need to be postponed for a second time we will use your donations to pay for any upfront costs incurred and keep the remainder safely to one side for when we can finally perform the passion.

Rewards of thanks

A few of the Byrds would like to thank you...

One of our basses, Alan, was so enthusiastic about the project he has chosen to put it to . We felt he deserved a slot all of his own for his efforts!

We greatly appreciate any donation no matter how small, and ALL contributors will be mentioned in our special souvenir programme.

However we also have a wide range of rewards up for grabs including the usual Byrds merchandise (shown below) as well as some more unusual Singers' Specials such as photography, portraits, hand painted silks and even a website development package, to name just a few.  


                                    50th anniversary mugs in bone china.


All our rewards have now been uploaded to the rewards page. Due to word limitation on the rewards page we have provided a few further details below for a number of the rewards.


These will be produced by soprano, Leslie, and here is a copy of her work



This will be delivered by soprano, Agnes, and here is a collection of her work.



A fully professional workplace noise exposure survey consisting of one man-day on site, during which employees’ exposure to noise will be assessed in line with HSE requirements under the Noise at Work Regulations. A complete report containing data, charts and recommendations for improved control will be provided within 3 weeks of the survey. The work will be undertaken by tenor, Brian, a highly qualified and experienced Charted Occupational Hygienist. Such a service would normally cost at least £700 (excl. VAT). This is a fantastic opportunity to save money, fulfill your business’s legal obligations, protect your workforce, and contribute to the William Byrds Singers all at the same time! (Note this offer is limited to sites within 40 miles of North Manchester. If desired, a dust exposure survey could be substituted for a noise survey. Note that the scope of the work cannot exceed what may be judged as reasonable in the stated time-frame).


Here is the painting of Bach which is one of the singers' specials painted by Leslie Robinson



This project offers rewards in return for your donation

£120 or more

1 of 1 claimed


Acrylic on paper approximately 30cm x 35cm painted by Leslie Robinson especially for the Crowdfunder and to celebrate our success. The painting will be framed and the price includes UK postage. See the project page for a view of the painting.

£10 or more


Highlights from The St John Passion by J S Bach, recorded in concert at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester on 18th March 2001. The William Byrd Singers and Capriccio, directed by Stephen Wilkinson. Select MP3 or CD

£10 or more

1 of 6 claimed

PIANO LESSON ** a singer's special **

Half-hour piano lesson with qualified music teacher. Will take any standard of student, adult or child. Must be able to attend tutor's home in Handforth, Cheshire. Mutually convenient date to be arranged. If you would prefer a one hour lesson please pledge twice. Lessons normally cost £26/hour so this is an excellent opportunity to have a trial lesson and kick start that long standing ambition,

£20 or more

2 of 10 claimed


Come and experience a professional rehearsal with the Byrds at Christ Church, West Didsbury on Sunday 27th March. NB: This is a piano-based rehearsal so will not include orchestra or other partner performers. This will appeal to anyone who can’t make the performance on the 2nd and/or those anxious about attending a public event.

£25 or more

2 of 30 claimed


A stylish William Byrd Singers 50th anniversary souvenir bone china mug signed by Byrds Musical Director, Keith Orrell.

£25 or more

2 of 30 claimed


A copy of ‘Sing Joyfully’, a fascinating 39 – page history of the first 50 years of the William Byrd Singers by Mark Flinn who has been with the choir for 25 years. Signed by the author.

£50 or more

2 of 100 claimed


Here’s one that will make you smile. The choir will sing Happy Birthday to a named person and email the recording to you.

£50 or more

3 of 10 claimed

PASTEL PORTRAIT **singer's special**

Send a photo of your family member or pet and have it rendered in soft pastel or charcoal by choir member Leslie Robinson. The portrait will be on A4, mounted and backed but not framed. This would normally cost £80. We will contact you for a good quality photo for best likeness. See the end of our Crowdfunder page for examples of Leslie's work.

£75 or more

0 of 10 claimed


Become a ‘supporter’ of the Byrds for the year. In return you will receive a William Byrd Singers 50th anniversary souvenir bone china mug, newsletter, name (or company link) on our website and two free tickets to one of our Didsbury performances

£100 or more

0 of 1 claimed


Mini photographic session with one of the William Byrd Singers who also holds photographic qualifications. The session is for up to 3 people with 5 fully retouched images. The shoot will be undertaken at the member’s home which is in the Manchester area.

£125 or more

0 of 20 claimed


Receive 2 free tickets to a Didsbury concert during the year, a bone china Byrds anniversary mug, a copy of “Sing Joyfully” a history of the first 50 years of the William Byrd Singers by Mark Flinn and an invitation to watch a Sunday afternoon rehearsal. Here you will have tea and cake with the choir and observe how we develop our skill and technique. We will also list your name on on our website and send you a regular free newsletter.

£150 or more

0 of 1 claimed


After short conducting lesson from Keith Orrell, pledgers will be invited along to a Sunday afternoon rehearsal in Didsbury to experience what it feels like to conduct the choir. We will make you feel most welcome with tea, cake and a chat. Mutually convenient dates for both lesson and rehearsal will be arranged. The lesson will take place at a venue to be agreed between Keith and pledger.

£500 or more

0 of 3 claimed


Your name and logo on our website with hyperlink to your company & space for an A5 advert in our concert programmes for one year. A bone china Byrds anniversary mug, and a copy of “Sing Joyfully” a history of the first 50 years of the William Byrd Singers by Mark Flinn. A pair of VIP tickets to 2 Didsbury concerts with reserved seats, a complimentary drink & a programme. An invitation to watch a Sunday Didsbury rehearsal with tea and cake.

£500 or more

0 of 1 claimed


A truly unique prize. Professional workplace noise exposure survey consisting of one man-day on site, during which employees’ exposure to noise will be assessed in line with HSE requirements. A complete report containing data, charts and recommendations for improved control will be provided within 3 weeks of the survey. Would normally cost £700 exc VAT Limited to sites within 40 miles of North Manchester. More details in project page.

£2,500 or more

0 of 1 claimed


Enjoy all the benefits that come with being a Silver Patron, but in addition you will be treated to a private concert for you, your friends, family and/or clients by members of the William Byrd Singers at a mutually convenient time. This would be a fantastic opportunity to book one of the North West’s leading choirs for a loved one’s wedding for example.

£10 or more

3 of 3 claimed


Kindly donated by the 18th Century Orchestra, our partners for the St Matthew Passion performance, Passacailles & Concertos for diverse instruments includes pieces by Handel, Telemann, Lully and many more. This is a wonderful CD which normally retails at £12. A picture of the back of the CD can be found at the end of our crowdfunder project page, or on the orchestra's webpage

£10 or more

1 of 1 claimed


Lovely signed photo of Damian O'Keeffe, professional baritone, who will be singing the St Matthew Passion with us on the 2nd of April

£20 or more

2 of 2 claimed


The recording is an exploration of Welsh song of the 20th and 21st Centuries, featuring unique performances by a range of prominent Welsh artists including Elin Manahan Thomas. Elin will be performing with the Byrds in the St Matthew Passion. She has kindly donated 2 signed copies of this wonderful CD which is reviewed by Classical here:

£20 or more

3 of 3 claimed


Kindly donated and signed by our professional partner for St Matthew Passion, Peter Harvey. Bach Cantatas: Recreation for the Soul presents ‘One Voice to a Part' versions of Bach cantatas BWVs 140, 78 and 150, with Peter Harvey, Elin Manahan Thomas, Daniel Taylor and James Gilchrist. For more details visit:

£30 or more

1 of 1 claimed

HAND-PAINTED SILK SCARF **a singer's special**

Create by one of the Willliam Byrd Singers, a 90cm x 90cm scarf that will be painted in a choice of colour tones. A fabulous Christmas present.

£50 or more

1 of 1 claimed


Your chance to own a truly unique gift. This will be the score that Time Morgan will use on the 2nd of April when he performs the St Matthew Passion with the Byrds. Wow!

£60 or more

1 of 1 claimed

PHOTOGRAPHY LESSON ** a singer's special**

Delivered by one of the William Byrd Singers, this is a basic lesson in natural light portrait photography. You will learn about posing, composition, light modifiers, how to evaluate light, accessories and, if time, post production.

£60 or more

1 of 1 claimed

JS BACH/BYRD INDULGENCE PACK **singer's special**

A delightful collection for music enthusiasts 1. CD of Bach’s St Matthew Passion: John Eliot Gardiner 2. Copy of John Eliot Gardiner biography of Bach “Music in the Castle of Heaven: A Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach 3. Copy of Barenreiter edition of the St Matthew Passion score signed by Keith Orrell 4) CD of “Love is come again” with Monteverdi choir, directed by John Eliot Gardiner.

£140 or more

1 of 1 claimed

2 NIGHT STAY IN HISTORIC YORK **singer's special**

Stay in the centre of York at a bargain price! A weekend stay at this fabulous apartment just outside Monkgate Bar, would normally retail at £158. Guests will find everything that this world heritage city has to offer all within a short walk of Minster’s Reach apartments. [] The offer is for a 2 nights at a date mutually convenient to pledger and owner.

£300 or more

1 of 1 claimed

CHARITY GOVERNANCE ZOOM *singer's special*

2-hour Zoom seminar which will cover charity governance and trustee roles & responsibilities for up to 10 participants. This would normally cost around £500. Delivered Llŷr Williams LLB LLM, Solicitor, Director and Head of Commercial, Charity & Ecclesiastical Law at Swayne Johnson Solicitors, whose company profile can be found here:

£1,000 or more

1 of 1 claimed

WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT *singer's special"

The creation of a portfolio or brochure website to the donor's specifications by one of the William Byrd singers who is a professional web designer. This package would normally retail at £1600 so the rewards represents a great bargain. Full details of the process is described at the end of our Crowdfunder Project story page.

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