The Byron Consort is Harrow’s elite vocal ensemble and was founded in 2001 by Mr Philip Evans (then Assistant Director of Music and now a House Master at Harrow) who continues to direct the choir. It consists of around sixteen Harrow boys and four adults. The choir sings a mixture of unaccompanied sacred and secular music, most of which comes from the Renaissance, Romantic and Modern periods. Many of the boys are ex-choristers from leading cathedral and collegiate choirs – there have recently been representatives from the choirs of Westminster Abbey, King’s College Cambridge, Canterbury, Westminster and Winchester Cathedrals, St George’s Chapel, Windsor and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, as well as a former member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir – many of the boys are Music Award Holders at Harrow School.
Since its inception the choir has sung regularly at services and concerts at Harrow and has sung at St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, various college Chapels in Oxford and Cambridge and many other London churches. A few years ago, the choir sang for the Duke of Marlborough, Prime Minister David Cameron and guests at a Christmas dinner at Blenheim Palace – this appearance was featured in The Spectator.
The choir has now been on ten overseas trips: in 2003 to the islands of Malta and Gozo where it sang at the Cathedrals of St John and St Paul in Valletta, at St George’s Basilica in Victoria and at Mosta’s famous Dome Church; in 2004 to Rome, where it sang masses in St Peter’s Basilica, Santa Maria in Trastevere and Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as a concert at the Villa Wolkonsky, residence of the British Ambassador to Italy, but perhaps most memorably of all, sang for the late Holy Father in front of some 12,000 people at the General Audience; in 2005 to Venice, where it sang at the Churches of San Marco, San Giorgio Maggiore, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the Frari Basilica as well as travelling to Padua to sing in the Basilica del Santo; in 2006 to Florence, during which it sang in the Duomo, the Churches of San Marco and the Duomos of Fiesole and Pisa; in 2007 to Sicily where it sang masses in the Duomo at Monreale and in the churches of San Domenico and San Giuseppe dei Teatini in Palermo and took part in Vespers with the monks of the Abbey of San Martino delle Scale. In the summer of 2007, the choir returned to Venice to sing by invitation at the wedding of Tamara Beckwith, which was held at Il Redentore and featured in Hello magazine. In 2008, the choir completed its second tour to Rome, and again sang at St Peter’s Basilica and other notable venues, as well as singing at the tomb of St Francis in the Basilica at Assisi. In 2009, the choir visited Austria and sang in the Peterskirche, the Malteserkirche and the Oratorium in Vienna and at the Dom, Stiftkirche St. Peter and Franziskanerkircher in Salzburg. In February 2010, the choir visited Stockholm and gave performances in several churches there as well as singing for the British Ambassador to Sweden and in the Grünewaldsalen at the Konserthuset, the national Concert Hall.
The choir was ten years old in 2011 and more than seventy boys have now sung in the choir. That year, the choir completed an ambitious trip to Washington DC and New York City. In Washington the choir sang at St Matthew’s Cathedral and at the Basilica of the National Shrine; in New York it sang at St Mary’s Times Square, Trinity Wall Street and at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. In March 2012, the choir travelled to Russia for a week and performed in many of the country’s most famous venues. It was a particularly ecumenical trip in which the choir gave a concert to over 1,000 people in Moscow’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and also gave a joint concert with the Male Choir of the Saint Petersburg Orthodox Spiritual Academy in St Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church. The choir sang at the Palm Sunday liturgy at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow and joined with a local professional choir to perform Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil as part of a Russian Orthodox liturgy. The choir gave private recitals at the residences of the British Ambassador in Moscow and the British Consul General in Saint Petersburg and was particularly honoured to be able to give the inaugural recital in the newly created Beethoven Hall at the world-famous Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The choir was also able to sing informal recitals in the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow, and the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg.
In February 2013 the choir is returning to Rome for the third time (see list of dates on right) and in July 2013 the choir will visit Russia again for a second time.
Byron Consort Selected Repertoire
- Bridge – The bee
- Bruckner – Christus factus est & Os justi meditabitur
- Byrd – Masses for Four and Five Voices
- Casals – O vos omnes
- Des Prez – El grillo
- Duruflé – Four Motets
- Gabrieli – Lieto godea and Jubilate Deo
- Gibbons – O clap your hands together
- Gorecki – Amen & Totus tuus
- Guerrero – Ave Virgo sanctissima
- Holst – Nunc dimittis
- Lauridsen – O magnum mysterium
- Leighton – Missa Brevis & Drop, drop slow tears
- Lotti – Crucifixus
- Marenzio – O mille volte
- Messiaen – O sacrum convivium
- Naylor – Vox dicentis
- Palestrina – Stabat Mater
- Pearsall – Lay a garland
- Poulenc – Salve Regina
- Purcell – Hear my prayer, O Lord & Remember not, Lord
- Rachmaninov – Bogoroditsye dyevo
- Rheinberger – Mass in Eb
- Sullivan – O hush thee, my babie
- Tallis – Sancte Deus and O sacrum convivium
- Tye – Omnes gentes
- Tavener – Song for Athene
- Villette – Hymn à la Vièrge
- Walton – A Litany & Set me as a seal