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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
  Full Anthem: Sing joyfully unto God
William Byrd
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 3 Tracks 47-50

We should thank William, our keyboard-type improviser, for sharing his good humor. There does not seem to be enough happy music. Especially when one is spending so much time with religious composers. The impressiveness of crucifixion laments must have been hard to pass up. Fortunately, no one piece of music or theme is ever enough for the endless pairs of ears that enjoy harmonious sounds. And composers, at some time, must face the challenge of not trying to be profound.

Byrd's ensemble piece does not strive for a climax or repeat a memorable tune. Mostly, we enjoy the festive echoes that abound as the text is clearly presented. The few bars that sing about blowing a trumpet are vital to the composition. These provide the most staid moment of the piece and an important contrast precisely at the moment the listener may be tiring of the festivity. Byrd knew how much of a good thing is good.

What I like about this piece is that Bill works with short phrases. This allows the attention of the work to be focused on sound. There is an enjoyable quickness when these six voices are repeating a few words at different times. Byrd's anthem is not an exploration of the ensemble's range. It is simply a joyful sound. 

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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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