Secret Byrd

Witness this extraordinary theatrical concert, which celebrates the 400 year legacy of William Byrd, one of England’s finest composers.

The Gesualdo Six collaborate with Fretwork in an immersive performance by candlelight, created and directed by Bill Barclay and produced by Concert Theatre Works.

Touring the UK in London, Scotland, York, Lincoln, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge, and in the US in DC, NYC, Santa Fe and churches in New England.

Photos by Mark Allen

About the Music

Byrd was a recusant Catholic writing secret masses to be sung by worshippers during the Reformation. These masses were held in people’s homes with smuggled priests and hidden Catholic artifacts. Byrd’s courage in using his art to allow people the freedom of belief inspires us today, when three quarters of the world’s population still live in countries engaging in some form of religious intolerance.

About the Performances

Concert Theatre Works uses imaginative production techniques to bring music to life. Soup and bread cooked on site are passed to foster a sense of ritual and inclusivity. Audiences rove freely among the costumed artists feeling the original hand-made part-books, all illuminated by candlelight. Help us celebrate Byrd’s activism by entering a living museum – a concert experience like never before.

Watch the Secret Byrd trailer

Upcoming Tour Dates

Salisbury: Salisbury Medieval Hall
Thursday 11 July 2024 Tickets

Guildford: Holy Trinity Church, Guildford
Friday 12 July 2024 Tickets

Liverpool: Lutyens Crypt, Metropolitan Cathedral
Monday 21 October 2024 Tickets

More dates for 2024 to be announced soon.


“Musically it’s glorious…chillingly authentic…ominous, buoyant and uplifting… What better way to open this year’s 400th anniversary celebrations.

“The spirit of clandestine celebration of a Catholic mass is at the heart of Bill Barclay’s Secret Byrd…The all-male voices ring out with intonational precision and an almost ecstatic connection to text that would have delighted Byrd.”

The Guardian

“If they haven’t already filmed this, they should for when the initial tour is over. In the meantime, do try to see it live.”

Early Music Review

“Secret Byrd is deeply moving – a spiritual experience sensitively translated for a secular age…touring the UK and US throughout this year, it is the brainchild of Bill Barclay, a well-established master of sui generis music-theatre events. This collaboration with the vocal ensemble The Gesualdo Six and viol consort Fretwork has his meticulous fingerprints all over it.”

Alexandra Coghlan in The Tablet

“Few opportunities to hear [Byrd’s] music are as intimate or visceral as Bill Barclay’s “Secret Byrd,” an immersive program extremely on trend for classical music right now…The Gesualdo Six sang magnificently in tune; the ensemble was faultless. Their sound is precision-tooled for blend, perfectly rounded, and has the utmost ease and precision.

“Secret Byrd is a novel and engrossing way of bringing Renaissance music to the public and is done with an intimacy and imagination that embeds this music within the world.”

Opera World

From the Team

Bill Barclay – Creator & Director of Secret Byrd

“For Byrd’s anniversary I wanted to highlight a part of his personality that is little understood: his courageous activism.

Part art installation, part concert, and part immersive theatre, Secret Byrd will tour Byrd’s essential story, to highlight religious persecution still afflicting the world today, and perhaps most importantly – to encourage us all to let people believe what they wish.

I fervently believe that once we stop trying to convince people they’re wrong, we can move to the next stage of our evolution – working together to protect a world where we each get to choose our fate.

Owain Park – Director of The Gesualdo Six

“From the moment I met Bill in an underground café, he had convinced me of his incredible storytelling power, and deep understanding of how music interacts with all of our senses.

We have always loved singing the music of William Byrd: from the intimate settings that sound almost conversational to intricately woven motets in numerous parts, it is all glorious and we can’t wait to deliver the team’s vision for Secret Byrd.

While anniversary years provide a temporary focus, I’m sure that this project will have a life of its own after 2023, with the combination of music, theatre, taste and light inspiring audiences and presenters alike.”

Information for Promoters & Venues

Rider & Repertoire
Full Programme Notes

Secret Byrd has been co-commissioned by St Martin in the Fields, London, and Washington National Cathedral, DC, with generous support from Continuo Foundation.

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