William Byrd – 400th Anniversary

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd, Westminster Cathedral Choir will perform the entirety of his Gradualia - settings of music for Mass - during choral services at Westminster Cathedral.

*** UPDATE *** Our service schedule has changed due to the Coronation of King Charles III on 6th May. The music scheduled for Saturday 6th May will now be sung on Saturday 13th May at 10.30am, and the music scheduled for Tuesday 30th May will now be sung on Sunday 28th May at 12 noon. Online copies of the brochure now reflect these changes.

William Byrd (c.1540 – 4th July 1623) was an English composer of the late Renaissance period, and considered to be one of the finest and most significant composers of his time and of his nation. He was a Catholic during the religious turbulence of the late 1500s when Catholicism was forbidden and many prominent Catholics were martyred for their beliefs.

The two collections of settings of the Mass Proper that make up the Gradualia were written for clandestine use by English Catholics. It would have been performed privately during Masses across the country, and so it is highly symbolic that they will be performed as part of the same services for which they were composed, in the very public setting of Westminster Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic community of England and Wales, in the 400th year of William Byrd’s death.

The music was intended to help Catholics mark the different seasons of the Church’s calendar, and all 109 pieces will be performed at the appropriate time of the year. The celebration begins on Sunday 18th December 2022 and will run until Monday 25th December 2023.

Full programme information about the celebration of the music of William Byrd can be viewed here or downloaded below.

Solemn Memorial Mass for William Byrd

Tuesday 4th July 2023 – 5.30pm

A highlight of our celebration will be a unique Memorial Mass for William Byrd on the exact date of his death 400 years before. Including his landmark Mass for five voices; the impassioned Miserere mei Deus; and the exquisitely simple Ave verum corpus. Sung by Westminster Cathedral Choir directed by Simon Johnson.

Free to attend.