Two of the most significant composers in the history of English music, separated by centuries, coexist seamlessly with one another in this special concert. The deeply faithful William Byrd lived in a delicate balance as a practicing Roman Catholic and member of the Chapel Royal in Elizabethan society. In 1607 he published his second volume of Gradualia, a collection of music for the Catholic liturgical year. This music was meant to be sung in private devotion at a time when doing so could result in fines, imprisonment or even death. Thus this concert marks a rare occasion to hear Byrd's music for the feast of Pentecost performed live.
By contrast, Ralph Vaughan Williams famously proclaimed his atheistic leanings as a youth, ultimately drawing closer to agnosticism as he aged. His experience in the First World War prompted a shift in his spiritual life and inspired some of his most significant works for voice including the Mass in G Minor. 2022 marks the 150th anniversary of Vaughan William's birth as well as the centenary of the Mass's premiere. This key work is considered the first Mass written in a 'distinctly English voice' since Byrd.
Despite the differences in faith between the two men, Vaughan Williams famously stated: There is no reason why an atheist could not write a good mass.