Brighton Early Music Festival

European Day of Early Music

A cappella Europe - 700 years of song
BREMF’s 3 Choirs Festival Concert featuring:

BREMF Community Choir
Andrew Robinson and Joe Paxton directors
The BREMF Singers
John Hancorn director
BREMF Consort of Voices
Deborah Roberts director

St. Martin's Church, Lewes Road, Brighton BN2 3HQ
Wednesday 21st March 2018


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European Day of Early Music is on 21 March 2018.

A cappella Europe – 700 years of song

Singing must be as ancient as speech – if not older – but writing down songs rather than passing them on orally is much more recent. Although very early forms of music notation have now been identified on ancient stone tablets, the earliest written music other than chant was discovered three years ago; a piece of two-part music dating from the 10th century. So this is our starting point, Sancte Bonifati, a short sacred song written in a style known as organum, with the voice parts moving in parallel motion; a style that was often improvised.

Our trip through the centuries moves on through medieval songs of pilgrims, monastic music from 13th-century Lewes, an extract from the earliest polyphonic mass by Machaut, richly complex but touchingly beautiful polyphony by the great Josquin des Prez, sublime but exuberant 16th-century music by Palestrina and yearning harmony from the 17th-century Portuguese composer Duarte Lobo. Then into the baroque with German texted music by Heinrich Schütz and JS Bach, and English by Henry Purcell.

A final set with the Community Choir illustrates the lighter side, with folk and drinking songs, before all three choirs come together in a grand finale: a 12-part, two choir setting of Regina caeli by the Venetian Giovanni Gabrieli.

All of the music is a cappella, meaning just human voices with no instrumental support. Singing is something everyone can do, and our three choirs show just what an enormous range of music there is to be sung. This programme covers at least 700 years of music intended for a variety of occasions and representing seven European countries. The main festival will cover 17 countries.

To quote the 16th-century English composer William Byrd:

Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.

William Byrd

This will be a fundraising concert in order to underpin the 2018 Festival, which needs more support than ever if we are to bring over a number of ensembles from around Europe! Whatever their feelings about the EU nobody can deny that we are geographically and culturally linked to Europe, and that will never change. In these uncertain days we can at least celebrate how much musical beauty we have shared since medieval times.

Please support this exciting event live if you can but if you can’t, we will be streaming the concert allowing music lovers from around the world to experience bremf in their own homes. We will also provide an opportunity for them to make a donation for viewing.



Anon c.900   Sancte Bonifati (BCV men)
Léonin fl.1150s–?1201   Haec dies (BCV women)
Codex Calixtinus (12c)   -Resonet nostra Domino caterva (BCC)
-Regi perennis
The Lewes Breviary (13c)   -Dei testis egregius
-Beate martyr prospera – hymns for St Pancras
Codex Calixtinus   -Vox nostra resonet
-Pour avoir mon Dieu propice
Guillaume de Machaut c.1300–1377   Kyrie from Messe de nostre Dame (BCV)
Guillaume Dufay c.1397–1474   Ave maris stella (alternatim with chant)
Josquin des Prez 1450–1521   Praeter rerum seriem
John Sheppard c.1515–1558   The Lord’s prayer
GP da Palestrina c.1525 –1594   Tu es Petrus
Duarte Lobo 1563–1646   Audivi vocem de caelo
Heinrich Schütz 1585–1672   Selig sind die Toten (BREMF Singers)
Henry Purcell 1659–1695   Hear my prayer O Lord
JS Bach 1685–1750   Jesu, meine Freude
English folk songs   -King Herod and the cock (BCC)
-Bold Reynard the fox
Thomas Ravenscroft 1588–1635   -Sing we now merrily
-Three country dances in one
Michael Wise 1648–1687   Counsel for married folks
Giovanni Gabrieli c.1555–1612   Regina caeli (tutti)