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Hyrd Like Byrd?: St Telio Organ

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

How close can we get to knowing what Byrd's Second Service might have sounded like in his day?

One starting point for such an inquiry might be to look at the acoustic environment in which such a piece was conceived, as explored by Professor Magnus Williamson in his paper "The Acoustic Environment of Byrd Second: Lincoln Minster in the 1560s". Professor Williamson will be speaking on this topic in the academic symposium included in Lincoln Cathedral's Byrd 400 Celebrations. As an organist recording with Caius Cambridge, Professor Williamson is no stranger to this unique instrument.

Getting a fuller picture of Byrd's acoustic world at a particular moment in time is not only understanding the space for which his music was written, but also the instruments that might have inhabited the space. The St Teilo Organ is a modern reproduction of a Tudor organ of the type that would have been familiar to Byrd during his time as Master of the Choristers at Lincoln Cathedral.

For the most dedicated organ geeks, the organ's dimensions and specs can be found here.

Tudor-style organ with painted biblical imagery in Lincoln Cathedral
📸 Tom Wilson, Lincoln Cathedral

The organ was built 2001 by organ builders Goetze and Gwynn using traditional materials and techniques and is based on an original Tudor soundboard found at Wetheringsett in Suffolk in 1977. It was originally created as a part of a research project hosted by Bangor University. The oak case is covered in lavish decoration, including paintings of the Annunciation and Adoration of the Shepherds. The organ is entirely mechanical, with power provided by a set of manually operated bellows.

The interior of Lincoln Cathedral, photographed by Tom Wilson
📸 Tom Wilson, Lincoln Cathedral


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