Welcome to the Renaissance Music Group Choir web site. Here, you can find details of our upcoming concerts and how to join us as a singer. New singers are always welcome – for more details click here.
To introduce ourselves: We are a small, friendly choir, specialising in European choral music up to about 1650. We sing two main concerts each year in Liverpool Cathedral Lady Chapel, in March and December. We also provide the music for a small number of church services throughout the year, beginning with a traditional service for us at St Asaph Cathedral each Autumn.
Our next performances:
This Autumn the Renaissance Music Group is looking at England’s own musical past, written after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 when Henry VII became king and through the reign of his more famous son, Henry VIII, whose death in 1547 brought about such massive changes to religious life in this country and to the music that went with it.
We shall be singing parts of John Taverner’s splendid ‘Western Winde’ mass in St Asaphs Cathedral at their Choral Eucharist on Sunday 26th October (11am), and for our Christmas recital (’Mother of God’) (Liverpool Cathedral Lady Chapel, Sunday 7th December 8pm) works by John Sheppard and Thomas Tallis, with a glance at simpler works from earlier times. Exciting stuff.
Taverner in St Asaph
John Taverner (c1495-1645) is one of musical greats of the Tudor age. His music suggests a rugged and determined personality, bent on forcefully driving his ideas forward. We know little or nothing of what he might have achieved before he was chosen by Cardinal Wolsey about 1526 to be musical director of Cardinal College which Wolsey had recently founded in Oxford; most of Taverner’s music comes from the four years he spent there.
The story goes that the college was suspected of entertaining protestant ideas and one evening while Taverner was at the organ during Vespers, the King’s men entered and incarcerated him and other clergy, but the cardinal had him released the next morning, remarking that he was but a ‘mere musician’. Taverner left when Wolsey fell out of favour and returned to his native Lincolnshire – Boston – and a letter survives that he wrote to Thomas Cromwell about removing the rood screen in the church there. But known details of his life in Boston do not mention music.
If all his compositions come from his four years in Oxford, he must have been very busy there, writing over twenty Latin motets, three Magnificat settings and eight settings of the ordinary of the mass - including his Western Wind Mass, based on a pop song of the day, which the RMG are going to sing at St Asaph’s on Sunday 26 October at 11.0 am.
‘Westron wynde when wylle thow blow’ is a beautiful, symmetrical melody in a minor mode and in its yearning and wistful character it effectively conveys the meaning of its text. Taverner didn’t set the Kyrie – they didn’t in those days - so we shall perform this section using the plain melody. But after that Taverner sets out a grand scheme: he embeds the melody nine times in the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei, 36 appearances in all, with a great variety of melodic material swirling around it. All this would have taken a long time, half an hour or more, which may well have been acceptable in a leisurely college in the Oxford of those times but is far too long for today’s worshippers.
If it is to be heard in the context the composer envisaged it has to be cut down somehow. We shall include all the Gloria and a severely pruned Agnus, leaving the rest of the liturgy for swifter dispatch in our performance in St Asaph Cathedral.
As an anthem, we shall sing Taverner’s motet O Christe Jesu (‘O Christ Jesus, good shepherd’), undoubtedly written in Oxford, slightly parochial and in its original with a sycophantic allusion to Henry VIII. The version we shall perform calls the King of Heaven rather then the king of England.
But we would like to have more singers to join and help us perform this splendid music. There is a lot of information about the group on this site, or you can ring Alan Wilson 0151-427 3791 or email Morris Davies at email@example.com. Anyone interested is welcome to come to a rehearsal, (Wednesdays 7.30-10:00, University School of Music, off Oxford Street, from 24th September).
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