Chalice Consort presents By the Waters of Babylon in SF and Oakland, CA
Date: October 18, 2009
Location: California, USA
Choir type: Chamber Choirs and Vocal Ensembles
Chalice Consort will open its 2009 season with music by William Byrd (c.1540-1623) in November; directed by our guest director, Davitt Moroney.
Tickets: $20 general admission, $15 seniors, $10 students. $2 discount for advance online purchase. Online ticket sales end at 12PM, on day of concert.
November 6, 2009 - 8 p.m.
Old First Presbyterian Church, 1751 Sacramento St., San Francisco
At the corner of Sacramento St. & Van Ness
Parking: Old First Parking Garage on Sacrament between Polk and Van Ness
November 7, 2008 - 8 p.m.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave, Oakland
At the corner of Montecito Ave & Bay Pl., just off Grant Ave
“By the Waters of Babylon” is a provocative program of choral pieces by the greatest English composer of the late Renaissance, William Byrd (c.1540-1623). Although Byrd continued writing for the Protestant Anglican Church as part of his official court functions as a Gentleman of Queen Elizabeth I's Chapel Royal, he remained a Roman Catholic in private, at a time when this personal choice was becoming increasingly dangerous.
These works illustrate with beautiful and highly passionate music many of the historical issues that were being played out at that time, including religious fanaticism, oppression of minority communities, questions of faith and conscience, and political issues church and state, many of which are being replayed in different ways and from quite different perspectives around the world today, in America, in France and Britain, in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, etc. The crisis of communication between extremist Catholics and Protestants in the sixteenth century was just as strong as the present one between, for example, some extremist Christians and Muslims. Byrd's music reminds us there was a narrow middle way at a time when oppressive tyrannical actions were hidden under the mask of state religion, and private religious beliefs often caused feverish believers to engage in acts of terrorism, and when caught to be tortured and executed.
The pieces in this concert occupy the middle ground between secular and sacred, being mostly non liturgical religious texts set to music primarily for private enjoyment at home. The evening begins with with the only secular piece in the program, placed as an invocation to the power of Music. It is taken from the well-known collection of Psalms, Songs and Sonnets. We then trace Byrd's public conformity and official acceptance of the state religion imposed by Queen ELizabeth; and his private music of political protest, in his motets of lamentation and outrage, which gave voice to an oppressed community who often saw themselves as martyrs for their religion. The program ends with serene pieces from Byrd's private mission of solace in comfort of the berieved and in memory of those who had died.
At the very center of the concert is "Why do I take my paper ink and pen?", a work Byrd published despite its highly dangerous associations; he here composed music to a poem written by Henry Walpole that recorded the persecution and execution of Edmund Campion, a Jesuit priest who was executed in 1581 (supposedly for treason, but in reality for his religious beliefs), a gesture that started a wave of persecution of Catholics in England. In a move reminiscent of the modern Taliban, the Protestant state also ordered the hands of the poem's printer to be chopped off. But a few years later Byrd bravely published this extraordinary musical setting. All of the pieces in this concert are exceptionally powerful, both musically and emotionally. This is a concert not to miss, of music that cannot be forgotten.
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San Francisco, CA