Perform Byrd

If you've caught the Byrd-bug and want to have a go at performing Byrd yourself or with your choir / ensemble here are some suggestions for scores to get your started. No need to have  your own pair of virginals, be a period instrument band or have sung early music before - there's arrangements a-plenty to get you playing or singing.

1. Printed Collected Editions and Major Online Collections
 

While the Byrd Edition and Musica Britannica's 2 volumes of Byrd's keyboard music provide the collected editions of all of Byrd works, there are also many others readily available for performers looking to dip into Byrd's music, perhaps for the first time. All individual pieces from the Byrd Edition are also available as digital downloads​.

For those looking to try out Byrd's music, many scores are readily available online. For freely available editions of Byrd's choral music, check out the Choral Domain Public Library.  For Byrd's instrumental music, IMSLP is a source of freely available editions, though some care is needed to determine which can be legally used.

 

The quality and legality of online editions can vary, so if you're less familiar with music of this period you may prefer the reliability and security of the many printed editions that are also available. Here are some other suggestions for performing editions beyond the Byrd Edition and Musica Britannica:

2. Byrd's Choral Music

Some choirs and singers may already have Byrd's work on their shelves as part of larger collections of Tudor / Renaissance music. If you have a copy of The Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems, you'll find editions of Byrd's Ave verum, Haec dies, Justorum animae, Laetentur coeli, Miserere mei, O quam gloriosum, Sing Joyfully, Teach me O Lord, and This Day Christ was Born. Similarly, Tudor Anthems: Fifty Motets and Anthems contains Byrd's Laudibus In SanctisNe Irascaris Domine/Civitas Sancti Tui (which also survives with the English text O Lord, Turn Away Thy Wrath/Bow Thine Ear) and Siderum Rector, while OUP's English Church Music volumes also includes a slection of Byrd's anthem, motets, canticles and responses. Sally Dunkley's edition of Four Motets for All Saints is brings together the 5-voice motets Gaudeamus omnes, Timete Dominum, Justorum animae, and Beati mundo corde in a performance-ready edition.

For Byrd's secular vocal music includes only a few madrigal, but far more consort songs. Consort songs were written for solo voice accompanied by a consort of viols - not a common ensemble today! Thankfully Byrd recognised that many of his original consumer might also have wanted to sing these as all-vocal works and so he published many of them such they could be sung with voices alone as part-songs. 

 

This Sweet and Merry Month of May and Lullaby, My Sweet Little Baby can be found in The Oxford Book of English Madrigals.  Individual songs from the Byrd edition are also available as digital downloads​.

3. Keyboard Music

Don't be put off by not having a pair of virginals or spinet -  Byrd never specified! Byrd wrote his music for patrons and pupils to enjoy on whatever instrument they had available at home, so we doubt he'd mind them being played on a piano!

Byrd's keyboard music includes music in a dance style (pavans, galiiards, jigs),  variations on popular tunes of the day, and freely composed fantasias.

Allan Brown has edited a selection of eight pieces from My Ladye Nevell's Book while Stainer and Bell have produced some short collections with some of  Byrd's keyboard variations and another of (mainly) dances. The Dover edition of the music from the Fitzwilliam Book includes music by William  Byrd as does this edition of Parthenia (the first ever printed collection of keyboard music in England). Final Barenreiter also have a collection that includes a selection of Byrd's Organ and Keyboard works including preludes, fantasias, voluntaries and contrapuntal settings of the scale (ut re mi fa so la)/

4. Consort Music

Byrd's consort music includes freely composed fantasias, variations on popular tunes or chord sequences (grounds)

 

Although we tend to think of Byrd's consort music as being played on Viols, in fact Byrd didn't specify the ensemble. While viols were probably most commonly used - especially in domestic contexts - they could equally be be performed by recorders, flutes, shawms and sackbuts. Some arrangements specially for recorder ensemble are published by Schott Music (for 4 recorders or 5 recorders).

5. Instrumental Arrangements

If you're not a recorder ensemble or viol consort, don't despair! Byrd wrote for the ensembles of his day, but even at the times it was common for pieces to be arranged for different instrument or for music points to suggest numerous different ways of performing their contents depending on the instruments /voices one had to hand. So we don't think Byrd would have minded us adapting his music today either, even if he might not have been able to imagine some of our instruments and ensembles. So we encourage you to have a go at playing some byrd, no matter what you play!

There are some arrangements of Byrd's music for other ensembles. These include an arrangement of Byrd's The Battell, for wind band or brass ensemble by Elgar Howarth and Gordon Jacob's William Byrd Suite for Consort Band.  The Wind Repertory Project has some further suggestion.

There are all sorts of arrangements of Byrd for clarinet quartetbrass quartetguitar, school orchestra ... and for a wide range of abilities. So if you're looking for arrangements for a particularly ensemble do search online and see what you can find.  Let us know any arrangements you particularly like by posting your recommendations to us Twitter/Instagram @ByrdCentral and we'll add them here.