For Byrd The Feast of All Saints which falls on November 1st was a day of considerable religious importance. The feast celebrates all those who have died and gone to Heaven – in other words have achieved sainthood, but who do not have a special feast day in their honour. Byrd produced a set of propers for All Saints which he published in the Gradualia of 1605 and, as you might expect for music produced for such a celebratory occasion they’re some of the most joyful and luminous pieces of music he ever wrote (I particularly enjoy the handling of the two equal soprano parts). But it’s not only the music which is interesting Timete Dominum – Venite ad me (Fear the Lord – Come to me) takes its text from the tenth and eleventh verses of Psalm 33 in the Vulgate with one minor alteration and the twenty-eight verse of Matthew 11. This combination of verses from the Old Testament and the New is very common throughout Byrd’s Gradualia such as Haec Dies/Pascha Nostrum, Oculi Omnium/Caro mea, and of course the subject of today’s post Timete Dominum/Venite ad me. The idea is to create a mini-exegesis in which the text from the New Testament amplifies that of The Old Testament thus emphasising to the faithful the Catholic doctrine of the continuity – the seamlessness, of God’s plan for the redemption of his people. For Byrd’s fellow Catholics struggling to survive in an increasingly protestant and hostile state that sense of continuity and the promise that all those who were burdened would be refreshed must have been particularly welcome. Enjoy :-).
William Byrd (±1539-1623): Timete Dominum – Venite ad me Gradual and Alleluia for The Feast of All Saints
Timete Dominum, omnes Sancti eius:
Inquirentes autem Dominum
Venite ad me, omnes qui laboratis, et onerati estis:
Gradual & Alleluia at Mass on The Feast of All Saints; Psalm 33 (34): 10-11; Matthew 11: 28
Fear the Lord, all you Saints of his:
Those who seek out the Lord
Come to me, all you who labour, and are burdened:
Performers: The Cardinall’s Musick conducted by Andrew Carwood. Superius: Carys Lane,
Medius: Rebecca Outram, Contratenor: Patrick Craig, Tenor: William Balkwill, Bassus: Robert Macdonald.