Insider review

An insightful review of the William Byrd Singers’ 2018-2019 programme written by one of the choir members Alan Tomlinson

Alan in amongst the basses at rehearsals

William Byrd Singers 2018-19 – another season to relish and a taste of what you can expect

Perform to a loyal audience

We have created a loyal and growing audience. It happily follows our eclectic mix of quality, yet often obscure, music. This is what we are about: discovering and learning music to engage and attract audiences and singers

Grapple with a challenging repertoire …

Our repertoire for the 2018-19 season showed all of these qualities. The music spanned six centuries, from early Tallis and Byrd, to contemporary composers such as Stephen Wilkinson, Roderick Williams, Bob Chilcott, and our own director, Keith Orrell. Across this wide spectrum we sang Bach, Brahms, Bruckner, Finzi, Hindemith Howells, David Grundy, Pearsall and Schumann. Members also skilfully sang solo items (and played instrumental items)  by Britten, Rebecca Clarke, Elgar, Quilter, Rutter and Vaughan Williams

… accompanied …

One of this season’s major challenges was Apparebit Repentina Dies, a rather devilish work by Paul Hindemith for which we enlisted a ten-piece brass ensemble and organist/pianist. We initially found its musical idiom hard to crack. In fact, it only made full musical sense to us in performance with the brass, but it was a highlight of the year. It brought our accompanied singing to the fore and the instrumentalists loved playing with us. It also provided chance to highlight instruments like French horns, particularly in Brahms’ Vier Gesänge Op 17, and trombones in pieces by Bruckner

And finally, how special that we took part in a commissioned piece, One Universal Shout, at the Bridgewater Hall. This marked the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. We joined the Wigan Youth Jazz Orchestra, the Sunday Boys choir and community choirs to do the occasion justice.

and A cappella

In contrast, we began 2018-19 with a simple and more familiar unaccompanied Ave Verum by William Byrd, which we paired with Roderick Williams’ three-choir re-imagining of it.  We challenged ourselves by singing Byrd’s original from memory while standing around the audience, creating a palpable connection with them.


We take pride in the quality and range of our programmes, seeking the hidden depths of every piece of music. We embrace the many musical challenges which our repertoire presents, persistently studying it even when some initially feels intractable. We work as a team, supporting and encouraging each other, with a professionalism that belies our amateur status.

Contact the choir to find out how to arrange an audition