Visitors to Lincoln Cathedral will see, and hear, a new addition in St Hugh’s Choir as part of the Byrd 400 celebrations taking place this year.
The St Teilo Organ is a modern reproduction of a Tudor organ of the type that would have been familiar to William Byrd during his time as Master of the Choristers at Lincoln Cathedral, and it is on display in the Cathedral until September 2023.
The beautiful organ was built in 2001 by organ builders Goetze and Gwynn using traditional materials and techniques and is based on an original Tudor soundboard found at Wetheringsett in Suffolk in 1977. The oak case is covered in stunning decoration, including murals depicting the Annunciation and Adoration of the Shepherds on the doors. The organ is entirely mechanical, with power provided by a set of manually operated bellows.
The Revd Canon Nick Brown, Precentor at Lincoln Cathedral said the organisation was honoured to be hosting the organ, “The stunning St Teilo organ looks very much at home in St Hugh’s choir, in the heart of Lincoln Cathedral. This style of organ would have been familiar to William Byrd during his time at Lincoln Cathedral, when he wrote much of his music, and so it seems apt to have it in residence while we celebrate his life and music.”
He added that the sound is somewhat different to what listeners are used to from the grand Father Willis organ in the Cathedral today. “Not only is the St Teilo instrument much smaller, it is also tuned about a semi-tone higher than the Willis, so the overall effect will sound slightly unusual to our ears, but we very much hope that everyone will enjoy this opportunity to hear Byrd’s music performed in the most authentic way possible, in the space where he worked day-to-day and for which so much of his music was written.”
The Byrd 400 Festival is taking place at Lincoln Cathedral between 30 June and 4 July 2023 and marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd; one of England’s most prolific and respected composers of the late Renaissance. His influence on choral music is comparable to that of his contemporary Shakespeare’s influence on literature, and to this day Byrd’s sacred music is among that most commonly performed by parish and cathedral choirs.
The festival will welcome world-renowned performers and academics to Lincoln, to celebrate the life and works of Byrd, and will include music in the liturgy, events and concerts and a lecture series.
The St Teilo organ was built as part of the Arts and Heritage Research Council/Economic and Social Research Council-funded ‘Experience of Worship’ project (Bangor University, led by John Harper). Lincoln Cathedral would like to thank Professor Harper for permitting the loan of the instrument, Prof. Andrew Kirkman (University of Birmingham) for facilitating the loan, and Prof. Magnus Williamson for securing support from Newcastle University’s QR Policy Support Fund.
The St Teilo organ will be on display in the Cathedral during normal opening hours and will also be used during services, concerts and lectures as part of the Byrd 400 Festival. The full programme of events for the festival can be found here.