House Concert

Enter the world of the English recusant Catholics…

Private concert given in your home by
Elizabeth and Charles Weaver (soprano and lute)

Sacred and secular music from the manuscripts of Edward Paston (1550–1630)

Available at the 2021 Gala Auction to benefit Regina Pacis Academy.

Edward Paston

Edward Paston was a prominent English Catholic gentleman during the reign of Elizabeth I, when Roman Catholicism was illegal, and when the Mass could only be celebrated in secret and in private homes. An associate of the great composer William Byrd (also a staunch recusant Catholic), Paston amassed a large collection of vocal polyphony from the Counter-Reformation and arranged it for a single voice accompanied by a lute. Whether this collection was intended for liturgical use or merely for private devotion, it offers a glimpse into the intimate musical and religious life of a sixteenth-century family.

Elizabeth and Charles Weaver have been exploring the Paston manuscripts for the past several years. They have compiled three different recital programs from the vast collection and have only scratched the surface. The music of master composer William Byrd is especially featured in the lute books. Many pieces by Byrd’s talented contemporaries on the Continent, such as Orlande de Lassus and Tomás Luís de Victoria, are also included. Perhaps most poignantly, motets, Mass excerpts, and even entire Mass settings of the pre-Reformation Sarum Rite era, by composers such as Robert Fayrfax, John Taverner, Robert White, and Thomas Tallis, are carefully preserved in these fragile lute intabulations, which are only faint echoes of the music which was once sung by large choirs in cavernous churches.

Detail from the Paston MS: intabulation of William Byrd’s song “Why do I use my paper, ink and pen?” composed on a text by St. Henry Walpole written on the martyrdom of St. Edmund Campion.