The Byrd Ensemble www.byrdensemble.com is a Seattle-based vocal ensemble specializing in the performance of chamber vocal music. Since 2004, the ensemble has performed medieval, renaissance, baroque, and modern music on an international stage. They are Artist-in-Residence at St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Washington State, USA.
The Byrd Ensemble’s artistic director, Markdavin Obenza is also Director and founder of Seattle-based chamber choir, Vox16. He is an active singer and has performed with the Tudor Choir and members of the Tallis Scholars. He is currently the Director of Choral Music at Trinity Parish Church, Seattle, Washington State.
They have made a number of recordings for Scribe Records www.scribemusic.com covering the music of William Byrd, Arvo Pärt, Peter Hallock and English sacred choral music from the Peterhouse Partbooks www.srcf.ucam.org/petcc/w/The_Peterhouse_Partbooks .
Now from Scribe Records www.scribemusic.com comes a new recording by this choir of Music for the Tudors featuring music by John Sheppard, Thomas Tallis and Robert White.
The Byrd Ensemble brings some finely mellifluous vocal sonorities to John Sheppard’s (c. 1515-1559/60) Media Vita as the sopranos rise over the choir. They bring a fine flowing tempo with different sections of the choir flowing through the texture creating a wonderful musical tapestry. They provide a really fine control of tempo and dynamic changes, bringing many lovely touches.
The opening of Thomas Tallis’ (c. 1505-1585) Videte Miraculum is beautifully woven as individual voices enter and combine. They bring an intimate, rather contemplative feel with a gentle tempo. There are some plaintively beautiful higher voices with this choir allowing each individual voice to shine and be heard. In the plainchant in Maec speciosum there are some really special textural moments, an exquisite blend of individual voices.
Female voices glide in at the opening of Thomas Tallis’ Salvator Mundi I before the rest of the choir join to weave a beautifully nuanced flow. This is as fine a performance as you could wish for.
Robert White’s (c. 1538-1574) Christe Qui Lux IV opens with a tenor slowly joined by the other male voices in the plainchant Christe Qui Lux es et dies before the choir brings the glorious textures of this piece. There is such well controlled balance of voices as they flow over each other to lovely effect. The beautifully recurring plainchant is repeated three times throughout before a final Amen.
The glory of Thomas Tallis is fully revealed as this choir bring In Manus Tuas with lovely pacing and fine glowing sonorities.
The choir rise, wonderfully in Thomas Tallis’ Lamentations I slowly adding voices, creating a glorious blend. Again individual voices are allowed to rise and glow revealing the distinct character of each of these fine voices. They find a lovely tempo before a soprano sings a lovely Jerusalem, Jerusalem as the end is reached.
The brief Salve Radix by an anonymous composer rises magnificently at the opening before taking a steady flow through its distinctive harmonies, finely revealed by this choir.
Thomas Tallis concludes this disc with his Gaude Gloriosa dei Mater where this choir provide a lovely weaving of vocal textures. Again it is the clarity of the individual vocal lines that is impressive. They rise up in certain passages quite gloriously and, centrally, there is a particularly fine Gaude Virgo Maria for female voices before a bass adds a fine layer. There are moments when the lower voices weave a lovely texture and, again later they suddenly rise up wonderfully before a sustained, beautifully done Amen.
This is an impressive choir that brings many delights. They are well recorded in the Holy Rosary Church, Seattle, Washington State, USA. The booklet notes take the form of an interesting conversation between Markdavin Obenza, Joshua Haberman and Greg Skidmore. The CD booklet is beautifully produced.