The Choir of Jesus College Cambridge, directed by Richard Pinel, has gained an international reputation for its music-making, based on performances around the globe, broadcasts, highly praised recordings and regular services in the College's beautiful and ancient chapel.
Jesus College, founded out of the ancient nunnery of St Radegund in 1496, has a long and rich tradition of church music. It is distinctive in maintaining two choirs: the Chapel Choir, with its centuries of tradition, which is made up of boy choristers and adult male singers; and the College Choir, formed in 1982, which has female undergraduates for its top line. The adult male singers form the ‘back row’ for both choirs. Each choir has developed a distinctive reputation and repertoire.
Occasionally, the College and Chapel Choirs join together for services and concerts, forming an ensemble of nearly fifty singers. Projects have included Haydn's Nelson Mass, Handel's Messiah and Bach's St Matthew Passion and St John Passion. The Combined Choirs have performed with renowned soloists and ensembles including the Saraband Consort and His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts under Mark Williams, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under John Rutter. The Combined Choirs also participate in regular large-scale performances with other Cambridge Choirs, including Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, Verdi's Otello and Walton's Belshazzar's Feast.
Benjamin Britten is one most important British composers from the second half of the twentieth century. Remarkably, he focused on opera, a dying genre, at least in its current form. Britten's contributions however, among which Peter Grimes, The Rape of Lucretia, Gloriana, The Turn of the Screw, and Death in Venice, managed to remain core repertoire for opera companies to this day. Many of these productions included a role for his artistic partner and life companion Peter Pears. Britten also wrote a number of lieder for this tenor, among which his Serenade for tenor, horn and string orchestra. Yet, Britten excelled in many more genres. He wasn't even 20 years old when he composed his brilliant Phantasy for hobo quartet and his friendship with the legendary cellist Rostropovich led to a Cello sonata, three Suites for cello solo and a Symphony for Cello and orchestra in the 1960s.
Britten never became Master of the Queen's Music, yet he surely had feeling for public sentiments. For example, as a pacifist, he taught his people about world peace through his War Requiem from 1962. Britten was an excellent interpreter of his own work, just like Bartók and Stravinsky. Many of his recordings have been matched, but never exceeded.
William Byrd was an English composer. He was one of the greatest composers of his generation. Hiis name is sometimes spelled as Bird, Byrde, or Byred. The exact dates of his birth and death are not known, and even his place of birth (Lincoln) is merely guesswork, based on the fact that several families named Byrd lived in Lincolnshire during the 17th century.
As a child, Byrd received music lessons from the renowned Thomas Tallis in the Chapel Royal in London. Byrd is part of the so-called virginalists. In 1563, he was appointed as organist of the cathedral in Lincoln, even though he must have only been around 20 years old and in 1572 he was appointed as organist of Chapel Royal together with Tallis. In 1575, again with Tallis, he received the rights to publish and sell his music by Queen Elizabeth I. In honour of the Queen, the two composers dedicated their Cantiones Sacrae in the same year.
On multiple occasions, Byrd was prosecuted in court. As a catholic, he was repeatedly prosecuted for the rejection of Anglicanism. Nonetheless, he remained in favour of the Queen, probably because he composed music for both religious branches. Moreover, he wrote both secular and sacred music, and both vocal and instrumental pieces.