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Four Byrd singers, a woman, man, woman and man from left to right, are mid sing. They are standing in front of a dark curtain and have different coloured tops on - Red, light blue, turquoise and darker blue from left to right. Byrd is fun! They seem to say. And they’re right!

Byrd 2023 School Outreach

Reasons to Sing: a history, music, & welfare outreach initiative

2023 is the quatercentenary of the death of English composer William Byrd (d. 1623). As one of the country's most beloved and influential composers, and a Catholic working for Elizabeth I, Byrd’s music and history continues to inspire the public, providing audiences with unique insights into the complexities of English politico-religious and cultural history. Bringing together education outreach specialists, performers, teachers, and academics, this education outreach project aims to engage Year 8 state school students with the latest research on Byrd's music and culture. The project was conceived by two scholars of early modern English music history, Dr Katie Bank (University of Birmingham) and Dr Katherine Butler (Northumbria University) and the new curriculum for Year 8 was designed by James Rhodes, a qualified teacher and artistic director of Horizon Voices

In Byrd's print Psalmes, Sonets, & songs (1588), he lists his 'Reasons to Sing', which outlines in early modern terms how singing benefits physical, spiritual, and emotional health. This list of 8 points anchors our learning activities, which allows students to reflect on how recreation and creativity positively impact their own physical and mental health. Our efforts are focused in three areas: Birmingham, Leeds, and the North East (Newcastle and surrounds). The products delivered will include a professional development workshop for teachers, a series of live zoom coaching sessions for students addressing musical and historical learning aims, a virtual learning area for teachers/students, an in-person singing workshop at the school with Horizon Voices, plus a community family concert showcasing student work alongside a short performance by Stile Antico. The project has comissioned a new piece for developing singers to perform alongside professional choir by Kerry Andrew, winner of four British Composer Awards.


Our initiative demonstrates the social and educational relevance of early modern research outside of higher education, providing the resources to support high quality public engagement with industry partners. Year 8 in England engages significantly with Tudor history and is a crucial year for students selecting GCSE options. Our programme will empower students and their teachers to interact with music as a form of history, giving them the skills and confidence to listen to this music in an informed way. Our interdisciplinary programme hits targets for KS3 National Curriculum for History while developing students’ skills in musicianship, musical literacy, and performance. 


Two pilot sessions of our new curriculum commenced in 2022, thanks to generous funding from the University of Birmingham Public Engagement Fund and the Society for Renaissance Studies Public Engagement Grant.  We are thrilled to have been recently granted funding from Arts Council England for scaled up delivery during the Byrd Anniversary Year itself (2023).

Our first sessions are currently running with Jewellery Quarter Academy and St John the Wall in Birmingham. Leeds and Northeast dates forthcoming. 

Logo: Arts Council England. Lottery funded. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England
Choir Performance
  • 3-4 July, time TBC
    Lincoln Cathedral
    3-4 July, time TBC
    Lincoln Cathedral, Cathedral St, Lincoln LN2, UK
    3-4 July, time TBC
    Lincoln Cathedral, Cathedral St, Lincoln LN2, UK
    Lincoln Cathedral is hosting a festival of events on the weekend of 30 June-4 July 2023 and invites the academic community (in its broadest sense) to a symposium that will take place on 3-4 July, in conjunction with Byrd-themed choral services and the dedication of a new memorial to Byrd.


from students and teachers during the 2022 Byrd: Reasons to Sing trial projects

At the beginning I didn’t really know [about Byrd] but now I think his music is cool and upbeat


‘They [students]  loved the inclusivity and how everyone was able to produce music no matter how good they thought they were

School Music Teacher

I learned that songs in the 1500s used the same themes used in today’s music


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