The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill opened its season of “Cantatas and Chamber Music” recitals Sunday, Oct. 4, with a program entitled “Voices and Viols: Renaissance Madrigals, Motets and Dances.” Church music director Daniel Spratlan directed a choir that numbered seven at its fullest and a viol consort of four players in a roster of music both sacred and secular.
The afternoon’s principal composer was the Englishman William Byrd, who lived from 1540 to 1623. The span of his life straddled the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I and James I. As such, he lived through Henry’s initial separation from the Church of Rome, Edward’s imposition of Protestantism, Mary’s return to Catholicism, Elizabeth’s creation of the Church of England separated once again from Rome, and James’ unification of the thrones of England and Scotland. Throughout it all, Byrd remained a devout Roman Catholic who was permitted by Elizabeth to compose sacred choral music for his Church’s Latin Rites despite her own Protestantism.