7-22 October
Wollongong, Sydney, Newcastle, Hobart and online

In the 400th anniversary year of the death of renowned English Renaissance composer William Byrd, The Song Company celebrates Byrd's own music and his legacy that continues to influence contemporary composers such as David Lang, Jeremy Cull, and Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen. These composers have taken inspiration from Byrd's unique style and expanded upon it, creating contemporary pieces that are deeply rooted in the tradition of a cappella music.

Today, Byrd's music is celebrated for its rich harmonies, intricate polyphonic textures, and innovative musical ideas that continue to captivate audiences around the world. Noted early-music specialist Christopher Watson makes his conducting debut with The Song Company in this program of sublime beauty.


William Byrd, David Lang, Jeremy Cull, Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen, Gabriel Jackson


Susannah Lawergren, Amy Moore, Jessica O'Donoghue, Timothy Reynolds, Chris Watson, Hayden Barrington    


Chris Watson

William Byrd: Tristitia et anxietas
David Lang: I want to live (where you live)
Jeremy Cull: Super flumina
William Byrd:  Ye sacred muses
Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen: You and I and Amyas,
Gabriel Jackson:  In all his works
William Byrd:  Tribue Domine
Gabriel Jackson:  I gaze upon you

Guest Director Christopher Watson writes: 2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of the English master William Byrd, who with his friend and teacher Thomas Tallis wrote some of the finest vocal music ever produced. My first approach when putting together a concert like this is to look at the texts that a composer set. William Byrd was born, and died, a Catholic. 

Over the course of his long life (he was born during the reign of King Henry VIII and died 20 years after Queen Elizabeth I) Byrd witnessed immense change and terrible suffering among the Catholic community in England, and a great deal of his vocal output reflects this. Catholics had to worship in secret private chapels, where a lot of his music would have been sung, and many of his pieces explore the themes of isolation and exile. In particular, the destruction of Jerusalem was used as a metaphor for the state of the Catholic faith in England. 

At the same time, Byrd had an extraordinary faith, and expressions of praise were never far away. We are book-ending this concert with two of his large scale works, Tristitia et anxietas (Sadness and anxiety have overtaken my inmost being) and Tribue Domine (Grant, O Lord, that while I am placed in this feeble body my heart shall praise Thee) and are also including possibly his most personal piece Ye sacred muses, a lament on the death of Tallis.

These themes that Byrd explores are, of course, universal. David Lang, Jeremy Cull, Pelle Gudmunsen-Holmgreen, Paul Stanhope and Gabriel Jackson have all been inspired by similar texts and as I make my directorial debut with the Song Company I am delighted to be able to combine the music of these modern writers, with all of whom I have worked closely, with the music of one of the greatest masters of them all.


Listen to Tristitia et Anxietas by The Tallis Scholars

Tour Details

Dates & Times

Wollongong – St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Saturday 7 October - 3pm
Sydney – The Neilson, Pier 2/3 (ACO) Walsh Bay Sunday 8 October - 3pm
Newcastle – Harold Lobb Concert Hall, Newcastle Conservatorium of Music Friday 13 October - 7pm
Sydney – The Neilson, Pier 2/3 (ACO) Walsh Bay Tuesday 17 October - 7pm
Digital Live Broadcast – Australian Digital Concert Hall Tuesday 17 October 2023 - 7pm
Hobart – St David's Cathedral Saturday 21 October - 7pm
Melbourne – Trinity College Sunday 22 October - 3pm