Monday, 28 January 2013

Counterpoint Choir's spectacular first 2013 concert, Saturday 9 Februrary, Programme update from Director of Music David Acres

Counterpoint Choir
Buckfast Abbey
Saturday 9 February 2013

Following their baroque extravaganza, 'An evening of Handel' with special guest, countertenor James Bowman, in October last year, the Counterpoint Choir are back with another sensational selection of the music for which they are so rightly famous - English Renaissance.

Counterpoint Choir
Who can forget their beautiful 'In Memoriam' concert in February last year, which followed the funeral programme of the much loved heir to the throne of James the first, Henry Prince of Wales. The music dated back to 1612, which is borderline renaissance/baroque. Now they will take us further back in time to the time of  Herny's first cousin three times removed (his great grandmother's niece) Mary Tudor, who was England's first female monarch.

The Counterpoint  concert at Buckfast Abbey will include choral music from Mary's lifetime:

From her childhood:

Heinrich Isaac
Heinrich Isaac 1445-c.1517
1503: Virgo prudentissima For Emperor Maximilian I

William Cornysh 1465-1523
1505: “Ave Maria, Mater dei” The Eton Choirbook
1518: “Ah Robyn, gentle Robyn” Henry VIII’s Songbook

From her father's newly created 'Church of England':

Christobal de Morales
Christobal de Morales 1500-1553
1539: “Peccantem me quotidie” (I sin every day)
Officium Defunctorum for Empress Isabella of Portugal
and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
(parents of Philip II of Spain)

From her reign as Queen of England and Ireland:

Jacobus Clemens non Papa 1510-1555
1550: “Ego flos campi” (I am the flower of the field)
for the Marian Brotherhood at 's-Hertogenbosch

Thomas Tallis
Hernando Franco 1532-1585
Christus factus est (Christ is born)

Thomas Tallis  c.1505-1585
Loquebantur variis linguis
(They spoke in many tongues)


Nicholas Gombert 1495-1556
Lugebat David Absalon (David Mourned for Absalon)

Robert Parsons 1530-1571
Ave Maria (Hail Mary)

Robert Whyte 1538-1574
Regina coeli  (Queen of Heaven)

John Taverner
John Taverner 1490-1545
O Jesu Christe, pastor bone
(O Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd)
Votive Antiphon)

Thomas Tallis  c.1505-1585
O sacrum convivium (O sacred banquet)

Francisco Guerrero 1528-1599
O Domine Jesu Christe (Lord Jesus Christ)

John Sheppard  c.1515-1558
In pace, in idipsum (together, in peace)

A lifetime in music - an what a life it was!

Childhood: 1520s

Mary was born in 1516. For the first 18 years of her life, the English Church was part of the Roman Catholic Church. Her father, Henry VIII, was head of the church, and loyal to successive Popes, Leo X, Adrian VI and Clement VII in Rome.

Anne Boleyn
But, when Mary was only 11 years old, her father proposed marriage to Anne Boleyn, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, who was Hanry's Ambassador to The Low Countries. However, Clement VII would not agree to the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine, despite appeals by Cardinal Wolsey.

When Mary was 16, Anne became pregnant with Henry's child and Henry and Anne were married the following year. Mary's half-sister Elizabeth was born in September when Mary was 17.  Henry's marriage to Mary's mother was annulled by Archbishop Cranmer the following May, three months after Mary's 18th birthday . In defiance of Clement VII and Catherine's nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Henry passed the Act of Supremacy making himself the supreme head of the Catholic Church in England.

A Young Woman: 1530s

Jane Seymour
Mary's mother died a month before her 20th birthday. The cardiac tumour which caused Catherine's death was misinterpreted as a symptom of poisoning which was suspected to be the work of Henry and Anne. On the day that Catherine was buried, Anne, who was terrified by the fact that Henry's affections had been transferred to one of Catherine's maids-of-honour, Jane Seymour, suffered a miscarriage and lost the male child who would have been heir to the Henry's kingdom.

At that time Henry's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell Earl of Essex, initiated the 'Visitation of the Monasteries' to assess their value in preparation for confiscation by the King. Anne had opposed the proposed redistribution of property, and so made a very dangerous enemy. Henry appointed Thomas to gather evidence against Anne with a view to having her deposed and executed.

Jean Rombaud executes Anne Boleyn
Within five months Mary's step-mother had been found guilty of several acts of adultery and executioner Jean Rombaud was brought from France. As Cromwell looked on, Rombaud brutally decapitated Anne with a sword, just ten days before her third wedding anniversary. Two weeks later Henry was married to Jane Seymour.

The following autumn, Jane Seymour gave birth to the male heir that Henry had wanted for so long, but she died shortly afterwards. The 21 year old Mary was made Edward's godmother, and chief mourner at her second step-mother's funeral.

Thomas Cranmer
When Mary was 21 years old, Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, led an uprising against the parliament in Ireland. When this failed, the 'Parlaimint na hÉireann' declared Henry King of Ireland as well as England, in order to restore central control. Mary was now first in line to succeed to the throne of both countries.

Despite pressures for protestant reform, Henry's church had remained Catholic, even though it was independent of Rome. In 1539, five years after the act of supremacy, Henry passed the 'Act of the Six Articles' which made it a capital offence to question or defy six of the basic Catholic beliefs. The beliefs chosen were precisely those rejected by the Protestant church - so that actively professing Protestant belief now carried a death sentence. Archbishop Cranmer kept his family abroad for safety, and Bishop Latimer, amongst others, fled the country.

Inheritance: 1540s

Edward VI
Henry died when Edward was 9, and Mary 30. Edward became Edward VI of England and Ireland.

By the time Henry died, Edward, Elizabeth and Mary had had three further step-mothers. Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves had been annulled. Thomas Cromwell, who had arranged the marriage, had been executed without trial. (His great-great-great nephew, Oliver Cromwell, would later become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.) Catherine Howard, like her cousin Anne Boleyn, was executed for adultery - less than two years after marrying Henry. Catherine's body was buried alongside Anne at the Royal Chapel of St Peter in Chains at the Tower of London.

Katherine Parr
Henry's sixth wife and widow, Katherine Parr, was only four years older than Mary. She had married Edward Borough when Mary was 13. She had become the third wife of Baron Latimer when Mary was 18, and married Mary's father when Mary was 27. Katherine was made Regent a year after their marriage, when Henry left for a military campaign in France. Shortly before he died Henry ordered that she should retain her position as Queen after his death.

Within a year of Henry's death, Katherine  married for a fourth time - to Jane Seymour's younger brother Thomas. Mary went to live at the Seymour's family home, Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, with Princess Elizabeth and also Henry's niece, Lady Jane Grey. Shortly afterwards, Katherine became pregnant for the first time. During the pregnancy Thomas directed his sexual attention towards Elizabeth, whom he had previously hoped to marry, and she had to sent away from her step-mother's home, although Katherine and Elizabeth were very fond of each other.

Thomas Seymour
Katherine died shortly after giving birth to her daughter, whom she named Mary after her elder step-daughter - who was by then 33 years old. Thomas was suspected of poisoning his wife, although she probably died of puerperal fever. In any event he was executed for treason the following year.

The powerful position of 'Lord Protector of the Realm' had gone to Jane Seymour's older brother Edward, the Earl of Hartford - who then became Duke of Somerset. It was he who had Thomas executed for scheming to control the young King, and for proposing marriage to Edward's cousin, Lady Jane Grey..

John Dudley
Edward Seymour was succeeded by the John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, just two years later, and was executed for felony not long afterwards. Both Edward, and subsequently John, pursued policies of reformation of the Church of England, making it a protestant church. Warwick's son, Lord Guildford, was married to Lady Jane Grey.

Edward repealed the 'Act of the Six Articles' and oversaw six years of Protestant reformation of the Church of England.

Edward died of a chest infection when he was only 15. Mary was 37 and impatient to take over power and reverse Edward's policies. Edward changed his will just before he died, to make Henry VIII's 17 year old Protestant niece, Lady Jane Grey, his successor. Jane was never crowned Queen. Mary raised forces in East Anglia and Lady Jane took refuge in the Tower of London, which became her prison. In the face of Mary's popular support, the Privy Council pronounced Mary Queen.

Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane was found guilty of treason, having signed herself Queen Jane on several documents. She was sentenced to burning or beheading, at Mary's discretion. Mary deferred any decision about her cousin's fate. However, Mary planned to marry Prince Philip of Spain, the son of her maternal cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Jane's father and brothers joined a Protestant rebellion in a vain attempt to prevent this. The failure of this rebellion led to their execution, and the execution of Lady Jane and her husband, Lord Guildford. Princess Elizabeth, despite her insistence that she had not been involved in the rebellion, was imprisoned indefinitely in the Tower.

Royal Marriage: 1550s

Philip II of Spain
The 37 year old Mary was crowned Queen of England and Ireland. Her husband, Prince Philip of Spain, who had been made King of Naples and Jerusalem by Emperor Charles V, to raise his status to that of Mary, became King of England and Ireland.

Mary was soon diagnosed to be pregnant and, as the time for the birth approached, Elizabeth was released to attend her half-sister's confinement. Philip had been made Regent in case Mary died in childbirth, and was planning to propose marriage to Elizabeth in the event of Mary's death.

The royal physicians had been mistaken, however. Mary had not been pregnant and there was no baby. The process was repeated again three years later, again without any baby being born. Philip did not become regent and Elizabeth remained heir to the throne. Mary died the following year, aged 42. Her 25 year old half-sister Elizabeth became Queen of England and Ireland.

Mary reigned for just five years. During that time she reversed the changes to the church in England made by her father and half-brother. Archbishop Cranmer and others were imprisoned. Edwards religious laws were abolished and Mary brought back Henry's 'Act of the Six Articles' from 1539, which made it a capital offence to deny, as protestants did, that bread and wine became flesh and blood during the mass. Celibacy was also made compulsory for priests, meaning that married priests lost their positions.

Thomas Cranmer is burned
Mary returned the Church of England to the control of the current Pope (Julius III) but could not return the land confiscated from the monasteries. The new owners were too powerful. over a period of five years 283 Protestant church leaders were executed by burning. Archbishop Cranmer was forced to watch as Bishop Ridley and Bishop Latimer (who had returned to England during the Edward's Protestant Reign) were burned to death. Cranmer recanted Protestant belief and reaffirmed his belief in Six Articles, but was still burned to death five months later.

Mary also set out to consolidate the authority she had inherited from her father in Ireland. She initiated a policy of 'plantation' of English settlers in the Irish midlands, creating two new counties for the King and Queen of England (which now form the Dáil Éireann constituency of Laois-Offaly). The regally named administrative centres were 'Maryborough' and 'Philipstown' (now Port Laoise and Daingean).

Henry II of France
When Philip became King of Spain (and also 'Lord of the Seventeen Provinces' - in what is now Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of France and Germany) he convinced Mary to make an allied invasion of France, despite the alliance between Henry II and the new Pope, Paul IV. England was poorly prepared for war and made no gains. In the end the one remaining English possesion in Europe, the port of Calais, was lost.

Mary's reign ended in way that would seem familiar to us today. Several years of continuous rain led to crop failures and famine. Philip, despite being King of England and Ireland, would not allow England to share in the benefits of Spain's new world trade. In the autumn of 1558, while Philip was in Brussels, Mary died of influenza and Princess Elizabeth became Queen.

A fascinating and terrible life.

Incredible music.

Mary Tudor
Counterpoint Choir
Buckfast Abbey
Sunday 9 February 7.30pm
QUEEN MARY I (1516-1558)
director of music: David Acres
choral music by:
William Cornysh Heinrich Isaac
Nicholas Gombert Christobal de Morales
Jacobus Clemens non Papa Roger Parsons
Robert Whyte Rodrigo de Ceballos
Thomas Tallis Francisco Guerrero
Hernando Franco John Sheppard
Tickets: £10 (advance £8)
from David Acres: 01392 490398
Counterpoint website

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