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William Byrd Suite

trans. Gordon Jacob

William Byrd (1542-1623) was known for his polyphonic choral and keyboard music, both sacred and secular.

William Byrd Suite was composed in 1923 to honor the 300th anniversary of Byrd’s death. William Byrd excelled at writing secular and sacred polyphonic choral and keyboard music in the 16th and 17th centuries. Gordon Jacob originally scored this work for orchestra, then for massed military bands at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley Stadium in 1924. All of the movements have the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book as their source. The virginal is a small relative of the harpsichord in many timbral and mechanical aspects. Jacob chose six pieces to honor Byrd:

The Earle of Oxford’s Marche was Byrd’s initial movement to The Battell, a 16th Century work depicting the participants and events of a battle. The music flows to a steady, stately beat adding dignity to the event. Characteristic of this and all of the movements is the harmonic chord conclusion.

Pavana has the slow duple rhythm of the stately court dance.

Jhon Come Kisse Me Now has a flirtatious vitality often found in English madrigals. It possesses seven variations of an eight-bar tune.

The Mayden’s Song begins simply in the brass, then develops in content with counterpoint and embellished figures while retaining the style of the original.

Wolsey’s Wilde Instrumental texture provides variation to the simple melody.

The Bells A simple rising two-note figure provides the background. Variations of a simple rhythmic figure of the bells, all keyed in B-flat, unfold as the music develops interest and momentum.

Gordon Jacob (1895-1984) was born in London. He studied at Dulwich College and the Royal College of Music. He taught counterpoint, orchestration, and composition. His works include a ballet, concert overture, symphonies, concertos for wind and string instruments, many pedagogic works for piano and for chorus, and a variety of chamber works, songs, and film music.

Last updated on October 23, 2023 by Palatine Concert Band