Performing Tudor music from Christ Church scores

To celebrate the opening of the Tudor Partbooks exhibition, on 12 May 2016, the Library invited Dr John Milsom, leading Tudor music scholar, to speak about the treasures housed in the Music Collection. The evening concluded with a concert by Magnificat, featuring pieces from the Christ Church collection.

Magnificat is one of the world’s premier vocal ensembles, internationally acclaimed for its sophisticated, historically-informed performance of Renaissance choral masterpieces, arranged and conduced by Magnificat's founder, Philip Cave. The performance showcased the music and the music-books used by singers in the age of Queen Elizabeth I, with special emphasis placed on partbooks – matching sets of volumes in which each singer views only her or his own voice-part.

The film captures two pieces by William Byrd (c.1540-1623), 'Come to me grief' and 'Laetentur caeli' from Mus 984-988, one of the very few complete sets of five partbooks containing motets, anthems, consort music and consort songs, copied principally by Robert Dow (1553-88). This set is one of the most important surviving music manuscripts from Elizabethan England, and a major source of works by William Byrd. It is also famous for Dow's exquisite penmanship, executed in black ink over staves previously printed in red. The entire contents of this set of Tudor partbooks has been digitized and is available for consultation. To see it, please click here.

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We captured a sample of these performances on video which is now available online at https://player.vimeo.com/video/176637996. Film credits: Magnificat Directed by Philip Cave. Amy Haworth (soprano), Caroline Trevor (alto), Benedict Hymas (tenor), William Dawes (baritone), Giles Underwood (bass). Tudor Partbooks exhibition curated by John Milsom and Cristina Neagu. Sound James Tomalin. Camera Mike Tomlinson. An Orlando Media, Oxford Digital Media Production. Special thanks to Dr John Milsom, Philip Cave and Magnificat for bringing the music to life and Orlando Media and Oxford Digital Media for making the video.