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 performance:
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.
For our Christmas recital (’Mother of God’) (Liverpool Cathedral Lady Chapel, Sunday 7th December 8pm) we shall be singing works by John Sheppard and Thomas Tallis, with a glance at simpler works from earlier times. Exciting stuff.
Mother of God
Although the whole of the New Testament follows from the life of Christ, it is his mother and not he that is the central figure at the Nativity. She was alluded to in Prophecy: that she should conceive, her immediate response and later her outburst to her cousin, the birth itself with shepherds and Magi, presentation of her child in the Temple, the sword that should pierce her heart, their escape from Herod’s infanticide – all this is told in detail by the writers of the Gospels. They tell a little more about Mary subsequently but in the rest of the New Testament, based upon Christ’s teaching and actions and what followed, she is scarcely mentioned – she was not of any significance to the writers of the Epistles.
However she became an iconic figure for the early Church Fathers, who based their thinking on the syllogism: ‘Jesus is God, Mary was his mother, therefore Mary is Mother of God’. She was Theotókos, God-bearer, Mother of God, and they backed the title by metaphysical argument that would make little impact today. So things stood for nearly a millennium.
But then she became figure of veneration. The four great antiphons, Alma redemptoris Mater, Ave Regina ceolorum, Regina coeli, Salve Regina, and many others came to be written. She was addressed as ‘Kind Mother of the Redeemer, Gate of Heaven through which light shone upon earth, Star of the Sea, Mistress of the Angels, Mother of Mercy, our Life, Sweetness, Hope’, one of ‘renowned and unsurpassed beauty who to nature’s wonderment bore her own Creator and remained ever Virgin’. She was called upon to pity us sinners, pray to God for us and to beseech Christ to be our advocate at the Day of Judgment.
These ideas dominated religious thought for several centuries and led to more evident creativity seen in the many vast cathedrals being built throughout Europe, the paintings and images in them and a great number of musical settings of the antiphons and other texts in her honour that were sung in these newly created spaces. This was particularly evident in this country – look at the Lady Chapels that form part of our cathedrals. The statutes of Eton College, drafted in the mid-fifteenth century, make explicit reference to all three: building, image, antiphon. England belonged in some special way to Mary, who was seen as the country's defender and guardian: ‘We English, being her own Dowry, as we are commonly called, ought to surpass others in the fervour of our praises and devotions’.
The Renaissance Music Group’s Christmas recital acts upon Thomas Arundel’s words of 1400 and places Mary at its centre with carols of times before the Reformation. It includes two large-scale works by Thomas Tallis, one by John Sheppard and a smaller one from that collection of mainly huge-scale works written in Mary’s honour, the Eton Choir Book. Together with its partner group, the Chester Viols, the Group gives its recital in the Lady Chapel of Liverpool Cathedral on the evening of Sunday 7 December 2014. Don’t miss it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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