Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Byrd Celebration

The CMAA is so very pleased to be named as the publisher of the first-ever conference volume for the Byrd Festival this year. It is called A Byrd Celebration, and it features essays by the world top Byrd experts, writing about all aspects of his life and work. The volume will be available for those attending, but for those who are not going to be there, you can still order it in softcover and hardcover versions.

Most notable to my mind is that these essays are not what you would find in musicological journals. They are essays based on lectures given to real-life, flesh-and-blood attendees of The Byrd Festival over ten years. What's important here is that these are the writings of world-class scholars who are speaking to laypeople who are attending simply for the reason that they find Byrd's music beautiful, fascinating, and important. So each essay is designed to reach people with a story that illuminates the life and work of this most fascinating composer of music in Renaissance England.

The contributor list is truly a who's who of Renaissance music scholarship: Richard Marlow (Trinity College, Cambridge), Kerry McCarthy (Duke University), Philip Brett (1937-2002; King's College, Cambridge), Joseph Kerman (University of California, Berkeley), William Peter Mahrt (Stanford University), David Trendell (King's College London), Richard Turbet (University of Aberdeen), and Mark Williams (London).

They frankly deal with the liturgical and music issues of Byrd's life, not merely treating him as some sort of artistic genius but regarding him as inspired with a higher mission than art for art's sake. This, to me, is what makes the volume especially important. Further, all the writers are very much aware of the roots of Byrd's musical spirituality in the Roman Rite and its chant.

I'm rather in awe of the editor Turbet for managing to put all this together. It took years of work, and it was only completed this summer, when the last of the papers finally came in. When he first called the CMAA as the publisher, we all thought he meant for distribution in 2009. No problem. Then Dean Applegate revealed that he wanted it available for this year's festival! Umm, that is rather unrealistic.

Rethinking began. After some serious thought, we decided that it was completely crazy, that it could not happen that a book could be copyedited, indexed, etc. etc. with all the apparatus, plus a beautiful cover, plus printed, in a matter of two months. So we decided not to go ahead and that was that. Everyone felt relief.

After a day's rest, a sense of regret developed. Perhaps the impossible is possible after all. So we decided, with no plan whatsoever, to give it a go. It was back on and there was much celebration all around. It was quite the emotionally ride there. Well, you can imagine the number of hours that were spent in preparing this in this short a time. I still can't quite believe that it is done.

You can see a table of contents here.

I'm certain that this makes an enormous contribution both to the understanding of Byrd and to making his timeless music come to life in our own times. I think you will love this book too.

Here is a nice recording of some of his English music.

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