‘The performances are models of discretion and musical taste, every texture clear, every phrase beautifully shaped.’ The Guardian
‘Exquisite...the ensemble sings with eloquence and expressive finesse’ The Sunday Times
Our new recording project Singing in Secret draws on the rich body of music written by William Byrd (c.1540 - 1623), England’s greatest Renaissance composer. Byrd's music is very dear to us, having formed a core part of The Marian Consort's repertoire since the very beginning (and featuring in our first ever concert!).
A devout Catholic living in Protestant Elizabethan England, Byrd lived the life of a recusant, hiding his faith and only practicing it in secret. In his Gradualia publications and settings of the Mass, Byrd provided a comprehensive collection of music for the Catholic liturgy, which in the early seventeenth century could only be conducted in clandestine services held in the private houses of the Catholic nobility.
More than this, many of Byrd’s chosen motet texts, with their themes of desolation and a desire for divine intervention, allude to the plight of Catholics in England during his lifetime: nowhere is this more poignantly the case than in his setting of Miserere mei, which was often the final prayer of Jesuit martyrs on their way to execution. Indeed, in the dedication to the first volume of the Gradualia, Byrd remarks that ‘In the very sentences (as I have learned from experience) there is such hidden and concealed power that to a man thinking about divine things and turning them over attentively and earnestly in his mind, the most appropriate measures come, I know not how, as if by their own free will, and freely offer themselves to his mind if it is neither idle nor inert.’
Now feels like absolutely the right time for us to record this wonderful, powerful and important music: having performed it many times in concert, we know how much our audiences enjoy and are moved by the beauty and emotional power of Byrd's writing, and we want to share this with a wider audience in the way that only a recording allows.
We will be recording with our long-time partners Delphian Records in the magnificent acoustic of Crichton Collegiate Church, the perfect venue for this repertoire: our last album recorded in this incredible space was selected as Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice on release, so we know that this new recording is going to be something special, but it can't happen without your support!
The Marian Consort is a Gramophone Award-nominated vocal ensemble, recognised for its innovative presentation of a broad range of repertoire. Led by founder and director, Rory McCleery, The Marian Consort performs across the UK, Europe and North America, and features regularly on BBC Radio 3.
Praised by The Scotsman for ‘performances that glow with golden purity and soul’, The Marian Consort, singing one person to a part, offers a more intimate, spontaneous, and emotionally direct performance than any other ensemble working with this repertoire: we very much hope you'll support us in making this new recording.