Project 2: The Forrest-Heyther Partbooks

They say that making the second album is far harder than the first. It would seem that applies to projects as well. Cardoso450 (2016-17) was a huge undertaking — certainly the largest exploration of Portuguese polyphony we know of — but planning the programme was relatively straightforward since the composers predominantly set biblical texts which found an obvious home on a Sunday when that particular passage from scripture was read. We surveyed about 280 works in order to arrive at the 22-month, 60-service, 186-work project; it was the editing of all the music that was so time consuming.

On paper, the Forrest-Heyther Partbooks project was simpler: spread the 18 Masses out and fill in some gaps with a selection of fabulous Tudor music. In fact, the programme has been far longer in the works that Cardoso450 for two main reasons:

  1. Awkward, non scriptural texts
  2. Length of composition

These factors led to well over 400 works being surveyed in order to arrive at the 22-month, 61-service, 128-work project. A number of wonderful pieces had to be left behind either because they had a text which didn't fit within a Sunday liturgy, or they spent 15 minutes delivering a text that did. With our Sunday Mass at 11.00am and the following Mass starting at 12.15pm, length of music has to be considered. (So the complete Eton Choirbook project is on hold for now!).

The calendar listing all the music we’re singing is available on the project page. During 2018-19 we’re looking forward to singing some of the finest polyphony ever written (the Director of Music nominates Tye Missa Euge bone), indulging in some firm favourites, and to discovering works that we’ve certainly never sung and, probably, most people have never heard.