Online musical odyssey features episode filmed at historic Hatfield House

The Luna Cinema is set to return to Hatfield House in September for a season of open air movies

Hatfield House, which features in five-part series A Choral Odyssey - Credit: Supplied by Hatfield House

Missing live choral music? The catch up period of a five-part online series featuring a programme recorded at Hatfield House has been extended.

With people being told to stay at home during the latest national lockdown, A Choral Odyssey with actor Sir Simon Russell Beale, top vocal ensemble The Sixteen, and acclaimed conductor Harry Christophers CBE can now be watched on demand until April 1, 2021.

The concerts' online availability was originally due to expire on January 31.

A Choral Odyssey features a programme recorded at Hatfield House.

A Choral Odyssey features a programme recorded at Hatfield House. - Credit: Tonwen Jones (www.tonwenjones.co.uk)

Blending music and documentary, A Choral Odyssey features five online programmes, exploring sumptuous music and beautiful architecture, with Elizabeth I's childhood home in Hertfordshire among the destinations.

Presented by acclaimed Shakespearean actor Simon Russell Beale, each episode takes an in-depth look at a wide-ranging selection of choral music in locations that are relevant to the music and which inform the theme and choice of repertoire.

The locations include Oxford's Magdalen College, Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory in London, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe, and Penshurst Place in Kent.

The fourth episode focuses on Hatfield House and the music of William Byrd, widely considered to be one of the greatest composers of the Renaissance, and contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.

Hatfield House features in the trailer for forthcoming Netflix series Bridgerton. Picture: Alan Davi

The North Front of Hatfield House in Hertfordshire - Credit: Alan Davies

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"We've come to Hatfield House in Hertfordshire to explore the fiery mix of religion, politics and culture that connects the worlds of William Byrd and Arvo Pärt," says the presenter in the episode's trailer.

The combination of Byrd and Pärt make for a perfect match.

Although separated by over four centuries, both Byrd and Pärt wrote their music in the face of strikingly similar adversity, enduring many years of persecution, both political and religious, in their own countries and finding solace in their sacred music.

Marble Hall at Hatfield House

Marble Hall at Hatfield House - Credit: Supplied by Hatfield House

Historic Hatfield House is the seat of the Cecil family, and the estate is where Elizabeth I learnt that she was to be Queen of England in November 1558.

Byrd, a Catholic, composed during Elizabeth's reign, although he was banned from writing in Latin or mentioning the Virgin Mary.

In conversation with The Sixteen founder Christophers, Russell Beale discusses the socio-religious-political themes surrounding each composition featured in the programme, as the winning combination from BBC’s acclaimed series Sacred Music reunite on screen.  

Christophers says in the Hatfield episode: "Byrd lived through the most extraordinary period in the history of English church music, totally unprecedented then and indeed now."

The Sixteen founder and conductor Harry Christophers. Picture: Firedog.

The Sixteen founder and conductor Harry Christophers. - Credit: Firedog.

Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, and his family fostered the arts, supporting the composer and many other musicians.

Byrd even wrote his famous pavane, The Earle of Salisbury, in memory of Robert.

The present Marquess of Salisbury at Hatfield House is patron of The Sixteen.

The Sixteen presents A Choral Odyssey, a series of online programmes. Picture: Firedog.

The Sixteen presents A Choral Odyssey, a series of online programmes. - Credit: Firedog.

Talking about the house's history, Simon Russell Beale asks Lord Salisbury: "Did it become a sort of centre of entertainment?"

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the 7th Marquess of Salisbury, replies in the programme's trailer: "Well, I think that was part of the story.

"I think there was a very strong connection between patronage of the arts and power."

The Hatfield House you see today was completed in 1611 for English statesman Robert Cecil, son of Lord Burghley, and the chief minister of Elizabeth I. 

He remained in power during the first nine years of King James I's reign, until his death in 1612.

In A Choral Odyssey, The Sixteen perform a programme of Byrd and Pärt in the spectacular Marble Hall, familiar in films from Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan to Batman and in Netflix series The Crown and Bridgerton.

The Marble Hall at Hatfield House. Picture: Hatfield House.

The Marble Hall at Hatfield House. - Credit: Hatfield House

The hall features the iconic Rainbow Portrait of Elizabeth I, which can be seen hanging on the wall behind the choir as they perform.

Elizabeth I Rainbow Portrait at Hatfield House. Picture: Alan Davies

Elizabeth I Rainbow Portrait at Hatfield House. - Credit: Alan Davies

A new streaming package for all five concerts in the series, including the one filmed at Hatfield House, costs £45. Each standalone concert is £10 each.

The episodes were originally released every Wednesday in November and December last year, and are all now available to watch on demand until April 1, 2021.

No audiences were permitted at the recordings.

For more, visit https://thesixteen.com/a-choral-odyssey/


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