The Song Company has its Byrd decidedly in hand for its presentation of Byrd Underground,a collection of motets from late 16th century Elizabethan England. Taken from the five partbooks of Robert Dow, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and trained calligraphist, the collection was mostly copied out by him and are an important source of Tudor music, being the sole known source for several pieces.

Artistic Director of The Song Company, Antony Pitts explains in his welcome why these partbooks are so special: these scores contain just one part each, not the full stave (often with piano reduction accompaniment) to which today’s choral singers are accustomed. Each partbooking ensemble singer must rely on their own musical navigational skills. As well, there are no bar lines, so tactusmust be communicated; the scansion, where the text is written to match the notes has yet to come into use; accidentals are not always written. More than a salon concert, this is a sophisticated learning exercise for the performers, who have the opportunity to hone their already considerable skills in musicianship and to...