About our concerts
"The big attraction was Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass, a long, mournful, and revelatory work of imagination and restraint, which the ten-singer choir delivered with a lovely unity of sound: as with most top choirs, the group voice is closely calibrated and takes precedence over the individual voice. The classically proportioned St. Stephen’s has rich and lively acoustics, and the choir’s singing, with its crisp balances and full bass tones, seemed sometimes like the sonorous boom of a pipe organ filling the hall."
"In reviewing the 2011 performance, I felt that the Byrd Ensemble was a first-rate chorus for this challenging repertory, in sound, technique, and expression. These motets are shaped into a complex polyphonic web that can seem entirely opaque to the ear if not sung with accuracy and clarity. The Byrd Ensemble singers perform with two voices on a part, producing a sound that is strong enough to fill a substantial space, but with a very careful attention to blending the twin voices on each line to provide that essential clarity."
Ledbetter, Steven. “Byrd Ensemble - back in Boston.” The Boston Musical Intelligencer 6 June 6, 2013."
“Obenza handles the literature with an appropriately sophisticated approach, holding the interweaving lines in precision while creating a blend that is bursting with life.”
“When this group performs live, it fills every cubic inch of the room with warmth and brilliance.”
Sutherland, John. “Preview: Renaissance Singers Usher In Season With Christmas in Cambridge.” The Seattle Times 23 November 2009.
“…they perform centuries-old music in a pure, authentic style that brings out its universal human gorgeousness.”
“[The Byrd Ensemble], led by Markdavin Obenza, lock into ancient harmonies as one body, like a multitongued god announcing its own divine beauty.”
Sutherland, John. “Renaissance Singers plumb the humanity of ancient music.” The Seattle Times 28 November 2008.
"[The Byrd Ensemble] gave a pleasurable and informed concert…. succeeded with rhythmic acuity and panache…. Always, the group had focus and commitment.”
Campbell, R.M. “Group brings English Renaissance works to life.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer 30 November 2008.
“…the Byrd Ensemble is a first-rate group ideally suited to perform the music of their eponymous composer and his colleagues.”
“The clarity of blend between pairs (always trickier with just two on a part than any other combination) were splendid, making possible the clearest projection of the contrapuntal lines.”
“…the Byrd Ensemble provides a beautiful balance between the parts and elegantly shaped renderings of the rhythmically flexible lines.”
Ledbetter, Steven. “Magnificent Byrd, Miniscule Attendance.” The Boston Musical Intelligencer 30 October 28, 2011.
About our recordings
MUSIC OF THE RENAISSANCE (2016)
"...a sumptuous choral sound"
Gatens. "Renaissance." American Record Guide. May/June 2017
ARVO PÄRT (2013)
"..., this recording creates the illusion of hearing the music for the first time. The small size and the clear, fresh voices of the Byrd Ensemble, an American group with a strong background in Renaissance music, mean that the dissonances and their consequent resolutions in the Seven Magnificat Antiphons and the Magnificat in particular are brought into focus in a truly remarkable way."
"The precision of the performances, and the great attention paid to the enunciation of the texts, does not mean that they are cold or uninvolving, however: there is also a sense of space, of unhurriedness, that lets the music breathe."
"The Berlin Mass also receives a wonderfully crystalline performance, with organ registrations very sensitively chosen by Sheila Bristow, but for me it is the Magnificat and the Antiphons that show best the Byrd Ensemble’s ability to enter into the spirit of this music, simultaneously ‘stripped’ and loaded with meaning. Highly recommended."
Moody, Ivan. “Reviews.” Gramophone Magazine May 2014.
PETER HALLOCK: DRAW ON SWEET NIGHT (2013)
"Sensational (and difficult) brass and percussion playing can be heard right away on this disc. The choir sings magnificently in tune with a stunning accuracy of intent. I felt drawn into this music immediately. The disc starts with six large pieces (most of them just over eight minutes in length) and then includes seven psalm settings that Hallock composed for the Compline Choir (not the same as found in the Ionian Psalter). I love what Obenza is doing with this group. Recorded, appropriately enough, in St. Mark’s Cathedral, the disc is truly thrilling."
Dimmock, Jonathan. “Recording Reviews.” The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians. Vol. 23 No.1 January 2014.
IN THE COMPANY OF WILLIAM BYRD (2012)
"The Byrd Ensemble displays the sterling qualities found in their previous CD - beautiful blending, excellent intonation, soaring lines, ringing chords - and if they keep up at this level (and why not?), Seattle will be drawing singers just to work with them. This CD is a must for lovers of choral song. I can only hope that we may expect such a gift every year."
Moore, Tom. “Recording Reviews.” Early Music America July 2013.
OUR LADY: MUSIC FROM THE PETERHOUSE PARTBOOKS (2011)
“…these four tracks are all immensely impressive,”
Bartlett, Clifford. “Our Lady: Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks The Byrd Ensemble, Markdavin Obenza.” Early Music Review December 2011.
“This choir of 11 young singers under the artistic direction of Markdavin Obenza makes a splendid impression here. The sound is rich, full-voiced, and perfectly blended, the sopranos soaring, the lines beautifully sustained, the vowels ringing, and the musica ficta perfectly in tune—in other words, this is a choir at the level of the very best English choirs. (International concert management, take note!) They are making a major contribution to this repertoire, and I can only hope that the practicalities of music-making in the U.S.A. will not prevent them from continuing this work over the long term. To my knowledge, two of the four works included here are previously unrecorded (the lovely Magnificat, which opens the disc, and the Salve Regina), but even if there were no premieres, this collection would be fundamental to any lover of this repertoire. The engineering is first-rate, and the design of the informative booklet attractive."
Moore, Tom. “Recording Reviews.” Early Music America February 2012.
"...myriad contrasts of vocal colour and harmonic language to grasp the ear. As sung by the Byrd musicians, every expressive subtlety is placed in luminous and urgent context."
"Like the Tallis, the pieces by his colleagues require utmost precision of pitch, seamless unfolding of lines and clarity of texture for the music to work its wonders. The dozen or so members of the Byrd Ensemble, including artistic director Markdavin Obenza, are more than equal to the task. The sopranos are especially pure and radiant, and inner voices emerge or blend with magisterial refinement."
"Given the beauty of what the Byrd conveys through microphones, the ensemble must sound almost unworldly when performing in an ecclesiastical acoustic."
Rosenberg, Donald. "Our Lady." Gramophone August 2012.
"Obenza's most significant accomplishment is creating what he calls a "unified" rather than a "blended" choral sound with only two voices per part - not an easy task, yet one the Byrd Ensemble manages to achieve to splendid affect."
"The sopranos are crystal-clear, soaring to their highest notes with effortless grace yet never overbalancing the other sections, while the altos produce a focused brightness that can sometimes border on the reedy without crossing the line. The tenors' sound is warm and lovely..."
"From beginning to end, the ensemble's commendable intonation highlights the Tudor composers' deft control of harmonic tension as well as their penchant for harmonic cross-relations. All the singers approach the music with a gutsy intensity that is often sorely lacking in small choirs from both sides of the Atlantic, especially when approaching this repertoire."
Lebedinsky, Henry. "Our Lady: Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks." Fanfare September/October 2012.