‘Dangerous’ music from Canberra Choral Society

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CANBERRA Choral Society is celebrating the beauty of English choral music in a demanding concert at Ainslie Arts Centre this weekend.

Tobias Cole. Photographer Hou Leong
Tobias Cole. Photographer Hou Leong

The exquisite “Mass for Five Voices” by William Byrd, they’re saying, transcended the tumultuous times in which it was written.  Byrd, who many other artists (possibly including Shakespeare) in the reign of Elizabeth 1, was a Roman Catholic, but kept it quiet.   Even the structure of the Mass a composer chose to set to music was dangerous, but it is believed that Byrd stretched the limits of the allowable in the work to be performed.

Unusually, CCS will intersperse Byrd’s mass with Benjamin Britten’s “Missa Brevis”, written over 350 years and tagged by  Britten the ‘Mass in shorts’  – it  leaves out the Credo,

The concert will also feature secular music from Byrd’s contemporaries and successors including Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell, and flashes forward to “greats” of the 19th and 20th centuries like Parry, Elgar, Stanford, Vaughan Williams and Holst.

Artistic director Tobias Cole has taken on the challenge of reconfiguring J. S. Murdoch’s   CENTRAL Hall to reflect the stalls of one of England’s great cathedrals and featuring ‘competing’ choirs singing the two masses from opposite ends of the hall.

“In this concert we’re planning to take our audience from Tudor England to 1950’s London,” Cole says.

As usual, he’ll have the audiences joining in.

 “From Byrd to Britten: 400 years of English Choral Music,” presented by the Canberra Choral Society, Ainslie Arts Centre, 7.30pm Saturday, April 2 and 3pm Sunday April 3, bookings to bit.ly

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