A Byrd in the Library: An Exhibition Celebrating William Byrd

9 October–1 December, 11:00–16:30
Upper Library, Christ Church

2023 sees the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd (c.1540-1623), one of the finest English composers and musicians of the sixteenth/seventeenth century. Byrd is known to have been a recusant, a Catholic during one of the most fraught periods of confessional violence and persecution in England, aspects of which bled into his compositions, enriching them with the traditions of pre-Reformation rite and the weight of contemporary events. His positions within the Chapel Royal, Private Musick, and the possession of a royal patent over all music in the country granted Byrd huge contemporary renown, and, as well as forging a lasting legacy, afforded him a degree of protection from the authorities.

Christ Church is fortunate to possess a number of materials, both in manuscript and print, which contain music composed by Byrd. The jewels of this collection are undoubtedly the manuscript partbooks of John Baldwin (Mus. 979-83) and Robert Dow (Mus. 984-88), which amongst them preserve a large portion of the surviving Tudor repertoire - some of which exists in no further sources. Additionally, the Holbech-Mayhew partbooks (Mus. 489-94) contain the entirety of Byrd's printed choral output (excepting Tallis and Byrd's joint 1575 publication, Cantiones Sacrae), in remarkably good condition.

This exciting exhibition grants a look into some of the treasures of the library's world-renowned music collections, with a focus on those materials which pertain to Byrd. The exhibition, curated by Samuel Teague, will take you through four stages of his life and music: His early life; as a musician in the Elizabethan court; as a recusant Catholic; and his legacy.

Admission to the exhibition is free, but by appointment only. Please email library@chch.ox.ac.uk to make an appointment. The exhibition will run throughout Michaelmas Term 2023 (9 October - 1 December) and appointments can be made within Upper Library staffed hours (Monday - Friday, 10am - 4.30pm).

Byrd 400: A Celebration at Christ Church, Oxford

Click here for details of this one-day event on Tuesday, 7 November 2023

Promotional design featuring a drawing of Byrd