William Byrd's Mass for 3 voices
  • I found this from the CPDL: http://wso.williams.edu/cpdl/sheet/byrd-m31.pdf
    From the music score, one can tell that it's not a nine-fold Kyrie. I guess Byrd only wrote Kryie elesion---Christe elesion---Kyrie elesion. So when we sing at EF Mass, do we just sing the Kyrie elesion thrice before moving on to the Christe elesion (and do the same thing for Christe)? I'm confused. Please help me out!
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 917
    I have done this mass setting for the EF. For each invocation we employed the venerable practice of alternating chant and polyphony starting with the polyphony. We used the Kyrie from chant Mass VIII, although any Kyrie in the appropriate mode would work.

    So we sang: Kyrie (Byrd) - K (chant) - K (Byrd) - Christe (chant) - C (Byrd) - C (chant); then, for the final set of Kyries, we repeated Byrd's first Kyrie, then sang the chant, finishing with Byrd's final Kyrie. By saving Byrd's final Kyrie setting for last, we avoided "finishing" the piece before the final repetition of the Kyrie.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Thanks for the reply. How do you figure out which Kyrie is in the same/appropriate mode with the Byrd's Kyrie (or any other polyphony)?
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 917
    Some would argue that the mass is in the 6th mode - and there is only one Kyrie in that mode in the Graduale: the alternate Kyrie form Mass XVII. But we found that Kyrie from Mass VIII works well - it begins and ends of the "tonic" or "dominant" of the key of the mass, and everyone was already familiar with it.

    Modal theory aside, in the end, Kyrie VIII just worked the best with the Byrd.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Ok, naive question. Why not, given that this is the EF, sing what is written and by done with it? The celebrant says the Kyrie in any case. Is there a rubric that requires that the choir/schola sing 9-fold? In the OF, I can see it, but why in the EF when what the choir is singing is not the liturgical Kyrie in any case?
  • I think the EF rubrics requires the choir to sing exactly what is written in the text of the Mass. Since it's a 9-fold Kyrie in the text, we have to sing it 9-fold. I could be wrong though.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Does it count that there's 3 people, and thus it's being said 3 times? Or not?
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    So what was Byrd's practice, or is that irrelevant because he was guided by the Sarum rubrics?
  • Chrism
    Posts: 830
    For that matter, why sing a Kyrie at all, or why not change the words of the Proper, or omit words from the Credo?

    At High Mass in the EF, it would seem that there are really two "liturgical Kyries", because it is required twice (priest and choir) by prescriptive liturgical law.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Got it. Again, a naive question.
  • In many Renaissance prints, it is assumed that a Kyrie I will be repeated (or an Osanna in the Sanctus). Looking at this score -- I don't know how close it is to the original -- I wonder why a group couldn't just do the proper repetitions? The Kyrie ends on Eb major (to borrow an anachronistic term), the same harmony that it starts with. The same for the Kyrie. The only trouble you run into is at the final Kyrie, but you could repeat the Kyrie I twice before moving on. This is great music, but it's not Beethoven's 9th, meaning that it's rather simple and could be altered for proper liturgical repetition.
  • We've used it in a 6-fold way, by treating the soprano line as the cantor part, and filling in the other parts on the repeats.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Call me an historicist, but I think an answer to my previous question - what evidence have we for contemporary practice? - might be useful. Jeffrey: might one of your contacts from the Byrd conference be able to help? Or one of the music academics who frequents this forum?
  • Michael O'Connor,

    I thought of doing it that way - simply repeating the polyphony three times each, with the modification for the last time - but it would simply be too repetitious, IMHO. The practice of alternating chant with polyphony is an old one and so we did it that way.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Oh maybe this is in the book!
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    RichE - We're looking into using a Benedictus (Canticle of Zechariah) that uses the alternating form. We'll be doing it for 3 weeks of Morning Prayer in Advent. It should prove interesting. At the moment our thought is to do it straight chant the first week and increasingly add the polyphonic variations the second and third.
  • Sam, Yes, 2 chant iterations followed by the polyphonic version would be the most satisfying, but can you tell which Kyrie chant this is?

    IanW, well... I am a music academic and I offered my suggestion, which is based on historical evidence outside of England. If there are any Byrd scholars on the forum, I'd too like to hear from them.
  • Ok, scratch all this is above. I spoke to the world's foremost Byrd expert, Kerry McCarthy, about this. She said two things: first, there is no question that it was performed precisely as it is written, nothing taken away, nothing added. "Byrd knew how to write repeat signs." It was done this way in 16th century England. There is no question about this.

    Second, there is nothing that requires that the schola repeat the Kyrie phrase twice or three times in polyphony settings. It was common to sing just one phrase and move on. The reason is that this is a repeated text and the demands that it be repeated as in the spoken parts DO NOT apply to polyphony.

    I heard it done in the EF exactly this way this morning.

    So vincewoo, there is your answer. Do it precisely as the music prescribes.
  • Again, just to bump this up top here. Most of what was posted here is just wrong. Let this be a lesson. We should all think and read before pronouncing.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Thanks for this new info. Though I did like the 'idea' of alternating the Byrd Kyrie with chant. But I guess it's not the way to go (now that we've got the facts)?
  • Jeffrey, thanks for sharing Prof McCarthy's comments. He/She? is certainly a well published author on many facets of Byrd. Looking over the posts above, though, I see mostly suggestions, not pronouncements. If this is to be a forum only for experts--and I don't think you intended as much--then we should be informed of this. For my part, I stand by my comment that many Renaissance prints include only one iteration of the Kyrie with the expectation that it will be repeated at the end. In the case of this short Byrd work, I can see a practical reason for the brevity--not drawing too much attention to one's prohibited worship--but I think this topic played out the way it is supposed to. Someone asked a question, some others suggested answers, and then someone (you) went to a reputable source for an informed response. What's wrong with that?
  • I hate to through a spanner into the works, but for a liturgical performance using Byrd's Mass for Three Voices, at least in the EF, one would still be required to fill out the missing Kyries and Christes, which I do whenever my choir sings this Mass, with a Gregorian Kyrie/Christe. Whether or not Byrd wrote it this way is moot for our purposes, though it is an interesting debate. There are many precedents to cite in Renaissance polyphony which support the filling in with Gregorian Chant Kyries/Christes which are missing in the polyphony, off the top of my head I seem to remember both the Anerio and Victoria Requiems, though alternating verses of polyphony and Chant is quite common in many pieces of this repertoire. Not to contradict Prof. McCarthy's undoubted scholarship, but it could be Byrd took it for granted that choir directors would know what to do. In one respect I agree, it is clear that the polyphony of the KYRIE is not to be repeated in this Mass, it would sound ridiculous, however, it was quite common to alternate Chant and polyphony. If this is not the case, Byrd's Mass stands nearly alone in the Renaissane repertoire of only singing two Kyries and a Christe in a liturgical setting. As for the argument of saving time during a period of persecution, then why set the CREDO?
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    OK. That's what I thought. But....hum...it's not what (the other) Jeffrey's scholar Prof. McCarthy was said to say. I'd really like to know since I'm also responsible
    for an EF Mass.
  • Jeffrey Morse, I don't know if that's absolutely true. For example Juan de Esquivel's Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima has only 2 iterations of each section and there's no plainchant source melody (based on a motet by Guerrero). Same for his Missa de BMV. If CPDL were not being finicky tonight, I could probably find more. As long as the priest says it the proper number of times, I think it's legal.

    Good point about the Credo but I'm guessing that he would not even consider not setting the full ordinary.
  • Michael, in my work in Renaissance polyphony at university, it was always generally accepted by scholars that alternatim with Chant was expected to fill out the Kyries in particular,two iterations is actually more common than what Byrd did in this 3 Pt. Mass. An interesting possibility though remote, would be the presence of organ alternatim here, though the first recorded organ alternatim was a Te Deum at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, only 50 years or so before Byrd's time. Though some of the organ work of Tallis is based on Chant tunes and was probably used as alternatim, though this only fully flowered with Couperin and his Messes des Paroisse and Messes des Couvents etc., a century later. The Chant as the alternatim seems much clearer in this case though. Perhaps Dr Mahrt might share some of his scholarship on the Sarum Use in this regard?
  • Well, I just heard the Byrd Mass for 3 at the Byrd festival at a Pontifical High Mass at the Byrd Festival conducted by McCarthy, and, truly, it did not sound ridiculous. Prof. McCarthy was 100% sure about the performance practice in Byrd England and about the general principles. You are right, of course, that there is nothing wrong with offering opinions and things.
  • Jeffrey, I meant repeating each iteration three times would sound ridiculous. I am sure that McCarthy is correct that Byrd would have put in repeat marks if he had meant that, but Prof. McCarthy is at odds with musicologists about chant alternatim with the polypohony, especially as this was common practice in both England and on the Continent.
  • Ok, I'll write her again.
  • It is fascinating Jeffrey.... Perhaps we could get her to expand a bit on her research about this in particular for SACRED MUSIC, there are many who would be interested. Too, it would be interesting to learn what prevailing liturgical practice was at the time and if Byrd was merely following his own ideas or those of the prevailing tradition. For my choir, it is a moot point however, as the FSSP clergy have made it clear that rubrics of the EF require the 9 fold Kyrie sung as well spoken by the celebrant. The edited Byrd Masses I have also add that for liturgical performance, chant Kyries must be added and were in Byrd's time, but they could easily be wrong.
  • When you sing chant, it needs to be 9 fold but not on polyphonic settings.
  • Jeffrey Morse, It might be helpful to provide some sources for your claim. I spend most of my research time with Office polyphony so my knowledge on Renaissance performance practice during the Kyrie of the Mass is a bit rusty. I know that I would greatly enjoy reading some scholarship on this to get me up to speed. Do you have any citations that you could offer? For my part, I'll do a little bit of digging. I know that Prof McCarthy has written extensively on Byrd's music in context so I'll start reading there. J. Tucker is right that we should be prepared to back up claims with solid research. He has done his part. We should do ours as well. Knowledge is the goal for me. I don't mind being wrong.
  • Sorry about being so zingy up there. I think I was tired and rushing. Obviously this is an important issue and there are many points of view. Tolerance goes a long way--preaching to myself here.

    Ok, here is a typically humble response from Prof. McCarthy:

    Maybe I'm completely wrong about this. All I can say is that there's no actual evidence the 3-part Kyrie was sung alternatim.
    We can't argue from (continental) Italian or (obsolete) Sarum-rite practice, since those were both basically foreign to what was going on in English recusant circles.

    Is he advising (chant small letters, polyphony big) something like


    I might call it a touch of excessive rubricism/legalism to ignore what Byrd put down on paper in favor of some idea of greater liturgical propriety - but (big disclaimer) I'm just a musicologist, not a liturgist, and I tend to take my 16th-century brethren at their words.
  • WGS
    Posts: 275
    Pardon me if this has been covered, but in the Chester Music edition - edited and arranged for modern use by Henry Washington at The Oratory, London in February, 1961 ...

    The last paragraph of his Preface is:

    "The token threefold Kyrie of the present Mass for Three Voices poses a problem for liturgical performance. Barclay Squire extended the original music by a double repetition. An effective way of using the music three times is as follows:
    (a) Three Kyries;
    (b) Three Christes, starting with the Cantus part alone, adding the Tenor at the second Christe and the Bassus at the third Christe;
    (c) Three Kyries.

    Another solution would be to sing Byrd's setting once only in lieu of the last three Kyries of a Plainsong melody. The Kyries of Masses XV, XVI and XVII in the Vatican Kyriale, though modally diverse, lend themselves to this treatment."
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,365
    I think the answer comes in reflection of the audience and situation that Byrd was writing for. The recusant mass was technically illegal, and since the Roman church was not accepted in England at that time, and there was no enforcing body such as a bishop or local ordinary or local liturgical law to adhere to. Byrd was not concerned with conforming his mass to the Liturgical rubrics of the continent - becuase he composed for the Liturgy in his local cultural situation. So the practices of the continental compsers really don't have application the the unique English situation. It is clear that in the original performance, the sections were not repeated to make a nine-fold structure. Whether we would do so today is a seperate question depending on what one's interpretaion of the EF rubrics (such as the several opinions above)
    However, fiddling with Byrd's orginal plan seews unwise to me, as it changes the proportions of the music and was not what Byrd originially envisioned. The conflict is between the liturgical environment of his time and ours today.
    Also, it just seems to me, that we would have other evidence of English Catholic masses contemprary with Byrd that would have some indication of using chant inbetween the scetions - and I don't think that is the case, my two cents.
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 352
    This is an interesting topic. I think we really need to understand more about the liturgical practices in recusant Catholic chapels to understand why Byrd set things in the way that he did. I am as yet unconvinced that the threefold Kyrie did not happen. We see no similar 'cuttings-out' in other sections of the same Mass (e.g. the Agnus Dei) where these sorts of prunings could have reduced the length of the Mass. I don't think the Kyrie would have lengthened the Mass any more than the Agnus Dei, since both accompanied some sort of liturgical 'action', rather everything stopping dead for the singing. In fact, if any movement should have been shortened, it should have been the Credo!

    As for current use in the EF: Yes, the Kyrie must still be sung three times, so some editing is required. The idea that the Kyrie need not be sung three times because it is recited by the celebrant is fundamentally flawed: the recitation of sung texts, really, is a result of the development of Low Mass and its convergence with Sung Mass rubrics. That is, before the development of Low Mass, there was no historical precedent for a priest reciting the same texts that a choir had just sung, as far as I know.
  • Byrd would have been following Roman rubrics, not Sarum rubrics.
    If he had been following Sarum practice he would not have provided a polyphonic Kyrie at all.
    The Sarum high mass used elaborately troped Kyrie settings sung to chant.
    Pre-Reformation English masses--Fayrfax, Taverner, Ludford, Tye, etc.--don't have integral Kyries.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I just want to add that historical practice (whether or not we can even reconstruct it) does not always justify current liturgical practice.

    The reason I say this is because in France they used to sometimes literally play the organ instead of singing certain words (as if playing a melody substituted for pronouncing the Sacred text), and I believe this has since been specifically forbidden (although they kept doing it anyway in France for a long time).
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 352
    Yes, Jeff, agreed... But don't forget the law of custom: even a custom contra legem can have the force of law, if practiced for long enough. I think that's part of the reason why Redemptionis Sacramentum had to be issued when it was - The Legislator had to make it clear that these customs that were developing contrary to law were not to obtain the force of law because they were being actively opposed by the Legislator.

    Daniel - Even if we know that recusant Chapels were using the Roman Rite, we don't know too much about any variants in 'usage' that may have developed. I think this is an area that is worthy of much more research because it has the potential to impact on liturgical music. There are still lots of questions we need to be asking, including: Were all of Byrd's Masses intended for use in recusant chapels or were some for the continental market? What chant was used in recusant chapels? What were the liturgical practices of recusant chapels? What evidence is there? etc.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,819
    One should NEVER assume composers always write every jot and tittle necessary to a score, liturgical or not. Sometimes running out of manuscript paper forces a shorthand edition!
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    The one thing I learned in Graduate school for Musicology was that if a Musicologist tells you with "absolute certainty" how something was performed, you can be sure that musicologist is in error!


    By the way, believe it or not, I once heard a lecture from a historical musicologist Renaissance scholar (and I use the term loosely) who offhandedly said that the great Roman masters (Palestrina, Lassus, Marenzio, etc.) who all sang in the Papal chapel "probably weren't very good singers and probably couldn't really even sing in tune." End of story.
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 352
    Agreed again, Jeff. Which is precisely why I think we need more research. While we may never know how a piece was performed with "absolute certainty", we should be able to make informed decisions about how we will perform it, using historical evidence. Did Byrd really write one Kyrie and mean to sing just one? Was there some other custom? I don't know. I just don't feel that I am in possession of enough of the facts to make a decision either way. One expert says this, another expert says that. Frankly, I'd rather all the experts put their cards on the table and let me make up my own mind!!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,819
    All experts make an educated guess. Some get luckier than others at pronouncing the facts.

    As per the Kyrie, there are some simple questions you can ask yourself to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

    1. Are you trying to produce a historically accurate recount of a liturgy as in the day of the composer in question?

    If yes, why? If no, go to number two.

    2. What do the rubrics presently require of the Kyrie?

    3. How do the rubrics today mesh with the composition in question?

    4. What is the acceptable solution?

    A personal note about litugical music composition.

    Liturgical composition is different from all other music composition because the music is not the end in itself. Because it is married to the liturgical text and action it must ALWAYS be subject to the proper liturgical expression of the present moment. The liturgy is not a fixed art. It is constantly moving toward a more perfect state (with glitches and hiccups along the way). That is the messiness and the beauty of our humanity. The church understands and makes allowances for these deviations (sometimes to an extreme as we are well aware!) There then evolves a body of liturgical music that reflects the growth of the liturgy. From time to time, I love to look at photographs of my children when they were young. I find in them their innocence, their simplicity, and their naivety. But that child has moved on to become something completely different in the present-sometimes for better, sometimes not. I find it is much the same with the liturgy. We will never "arrive" until the liturgy of heaven.

    "videmus nunc per speculum in enigmate tunc autem facie ad faciem nunc cognosco ex parte tunc autem cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum"
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 352
    Hi Francis,

    1. I think if one is using the Byrd Kyrie liturgically, then one's first obedience must be to the rubrics. If therefore, an historically accurate recount of the liturgy in Byrd's day is at odds with 1962 rubrics, the 1962 rubrics "win", so to speak.
    2. The '62 rubrics require three Kyries, three Christes and three Kyries.
    3. Byrd has only one of each.
    4. You, as a composer, may have a few more acceptable solutions than I. My suggestions are:
    a) Alternate chant and polyphony
    b) Massive re-edit of the original Kyrie [disclaimer: this is not an historically informed editing!!], in any one of the following formats:
    i) Take the Kyrie-Christe-Kyrie set, and use thrice, editing to make a set of Kyries, Christes and then Kyries again, or
    ii) For Kyrie I, use the original format the first time, swap alto and tenor parts the second time, return to original format the third time. Do something similar for the Christe. For Kyrie II, use the middle set from Kyrie I, except using Kyrie II for the third and final invocation.
    c) The musical structure of the Kyrie reminds me of "responses" from the protestant services a little. Maybe there's a solution to this problem that could be found by studying the relationship between versicle and response in the protestant services of the period, but with adaptation to a three-part repetition structure.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    the great Roman masters (Palestrina, Lassus, Marenzio, etc.) who all sang in the Papal chapel "probably weren't very good singers and probably couldn't really even sing in tune"

    Wrong at least on Lasso's account. We know he was hired away as a boy from his parish church in Hainaut precisely because of his vocal skills, and we also know that when he led the chapel at Albrecht V's in Bavaria, he and his envoys would raid parishes of singers pretty regularly. His own music made considerable demands, on many levels.

    The only conclusion you can derive from the evidence is that vocal skills at Lasso's level must have been high, in demand, and valued. I imagine the same holds for Palestrina and Marenzio.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,819

    The link doesn't seem to be working. Can you email me the score (or send me to the proper link on CPDL)? I have not seen it yet and want to be sure to see the correct score. (There are many acceptable solutions to the problem - it is fascinating to see the beauty in each one that is presented.)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,819
    I did find this one and am assuming it is the correct version.


    Now here is a 'creative solution' (massive editing without changing the notes on the page except 2!) which is highly out of the "Ordinary", but completely within it at the same time (pun intended). After examining the musical theoretical structure, it would seem to be quite artistic to utilize the piece in this fashion. It straddles a homophonic/polyphonic structure which gives you a lot of options. It also just happens to contain the perfect number of vocal parts (3) to coincide with the rubrics of 3-3-3. Three is beautiful!

    Creative Solution 1: Have choir sing each of the sections in strict meter and end each with a fermata, having each part enter in succession (see the chart below). This works because Byrd employed a heavy use of thirds and sixths in the tenor, which makes for excellent harmonic progression when sung against the cantus. This is especially seemless with the final Kyrie as the final note in the alto is the exact same pitch as the entrance of the tenor. You can also increase the tension and resolution by not resolving to the B and A natural in the tenor the first time through. (Since this progression has never been sung or heard this way before, it will sound foreign to your choir until they get used to it). Alter the final cadence by maintaining the usual flats, and then for the last strophe, perform the final cadence as written which will bring heightened resolve. This will also eliminate the odd voice leading from Bnatural to Bflat from the Tenor to the Alto between the second and third strophe of the final Kyrie.

    K - Alto alone
    K2 - Alto and Tenor
    K3 - Alto, Tenor and Bass (fermata)

    C - Alto alone
    C2 - Alto and Tenor
    C3 - Alto, Tenor and Bass (fermata)

    K - Alto alone
    K2 - Alto and Tenor (tenor maintains Ab and Bb)
    K3 - Alto, Tenor and Bass (fermata) (tenor sings the Anatural and Bnatural)

    Creative Solution 2. (if you really wanted to be daring, and stylistically avante garde (did "I" suggest avante garde?! Mea Culpa!), switch out the alto and bass parts for the final Kyrie - Bass would sing alto an octave below, then the tenor would enter as usual, finally the alto would sing the bass part an octave above, but softer as not to overwhelm the cantus.) I often use this technique of switching parts between voices to achieve contrasting sonorities in early music (and in my own comps) to get some wonderfully beautiful variations using the exact same printed music.

    A small example of how ancient music and present (1962) rubrics can quite easily attain an equilibrium for today's liturgical requirements. Its kinda like photoshopping my kids younger face on his older body!
  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    I'm going to work through the same thing you propose, but I just want to say that the treasury of sacred music is so bursting full, it would be a shame NOT to take the kind of approach you describe here to intelligently abbreviate those big pieces.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,819

    Please post a recording if you ever have the opportunity. It would make a perfect audio illustration! I totally agree.. We could go on forever mining all the possibilities that are intrinsic to the music we already own.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Pes said: "Wrong at least on Lasso's account. "

    yes, but the sad part is, I know for a fact this professor knew about the kidnappings of Lassus on account of his beautiful voice.

    But, somehow, in the warped mind of a professional musicologist and Renaissance specialist who even published a doctoral thesis on Spanish polyphony, that doesn't mean Lassus could sing in tune . . . . go figure. And the way the professor said it...precluded any argument!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,819
    OK... here is a Kyrie based on the Byrd Kyrie following the suggestions I made earlier. Once I got into this, I began to take some liberties as needed to make this so that it isn't too repetitive. This will be in the 1 minute range on a real performance.

    Hear a Sibelius Simulation Here
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,819
    ...revised measure 17 so its a bit smoother.