Festival commemorates the 400th anniversary of the Renaissance composer’s death

Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, under the auspices of the 2022-23 Evelyn Dunbar Memorial Early Music Festival, will present five events celebrating the music of William Byrd Oct. 27 - 30.

Events will take place at Galvin Recital Hall, Vail Chapel and Alice Millar Chapel on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. 

Widely considered one of the greatest Renaissance composers, Byrd had a profound impact on composition in his native England as well as in continental Europe. His sacred and secular polyphony — the simultaneous combination of tones and melodies — along with keyboard works and consort music, continue to inspire generations of performers and composers alike.

Kerry McCarthy, a scholar of Byrd’s work, will discuss Byrd’s compositions and Bienen faculty, students and special guests will offer performances of his music. 

The schedule of events is as follows:

Presentation by Kerry McCarthy

Thursday, Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m.
Vail Chapel,1870 Sheridan Road

Musician, musicologist and author Kerry McCarthy discusses composer Byrd and English singers of his time. McCarthy’s 2013 Byrd biography, published by Oxford University Press, received the 2014 ASCAP Nicolas Slonimsky Award for composer biography. Tickets are not required for this event.

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Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble

Friday, Oct. 28, 8 p.m. concert; 6:45 p.m. pre-concert talk by Kerry McCarthy
Galvin Recital Hall, 70 Arts Circle Drive

The ensemble explores the composer’s secular side through a sampling of his gracefully plaintive, melancholy “Songs of Sundrie Natures and Songs of Sadness and Pietie.” The intimate sounds of the virginal, a keyboard instrument of the harpsichord family, evoke the turn of the 17th century — a time of sophisticated courtly chamber music, political intrigue and musical evolution. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students with valid ID.

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Open Dress Rehearsal

Saturday, Oct. 29, 2:15 p.m.
Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road

A preview of the Oct. 30 “Music for Voices and Viols” program. Tickets are not required for this event.

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Mini-Recital: William Byrd’s Virginal Music

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2:15 p.m.
Vail Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston

A recital highlighting the virginal — a keyboard instrument from the harpsichord family that was popular during the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods — featuring Stephen Alltop and Bienen student performers. Tickets are not required for this event.

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Music for Voices and Viols by William Byrd

Sunday, Oct. 30, 3:00 p.m.
Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road

A concert of music by Byrd for solo voices, choir and viols, including the “Mass for Five Voices,” “Christ Rising Again,” “Ave verum corpus” and “Miserere mei, Deus” as well as selected works for viol consort. Tickets are not required for this event.

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  • Dunbar Festival
  • Stephen Alltop