top of page

Our Lady: Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks (2011)

Byrd Ensemble, directed by Markdavin Obenza


Released October 2011

iTunes, Spotify

CD Booklet (PDF)




Markdavin Obenza, director


1. William Pasche (fl. early 16th c.) – MAGNIFICAT (15:27)*

2. John Merbecke (c.1510-1585) – AVE DEI PATRIS FILIA* (13:58)

3. Nicholas Ludford (c.1485-1557) – SALVE REGINA (16:11)* ​

4. Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585) – AVE ROSA SINE SPINIS (10:49)


*World-premiere recording, although there exists another recording of Merbecke's Ave dei patris filia reconstructed by David Skinner)



The Peterhouse Partbooks, a set of partbooks copied around 1540 belonging to Peterhouse, Cambridge, is one of the most important sources of English Latin church music leading up to the Reformation.


Dr. Nick Sandon has spent a large part of his life reconstructing music from the Peterhouse Partbooks. This album contains music from this beloved collection. Dr. Sandon has meticulously reconstructed the tenor parts in tracks 1-3 and has supplied some of the soprano part in track 4 with precision and artistry in order to provide us a sense of the sound world and the expressive writing of Pasche, Merbecke, Ludford and Tallis in the early 16th century.


THE BYRD ENSEMBLE is a Seattle-based vocal ensemble specializing in the performance of chamber vocal music. Since 2003, the ensemble has performed medieval, renaissance, baroque and modern music across the United States. Described as “pure and radiant” (Gramophone), “immensely impressive” (Early Music Review), and “rich, full-voiced, and perfectly blended” (Early Music America), the ensemble is garnering international acclaim for its recordings of renaissance vocal music. The Byrd Ensemble is an Artist-in-Residence at Seattle’s first Episcopal parish, Trinity Parish Church (established 1865), where the group presents their subscription series. The Byrd Ensemble is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The group’s creative efforts are led by Markdavin Obenza.

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MARKDAVIN OBENZA is a Seattle native and has been active in the local music scene since he was a boy Soprano in the Northwest Boychoir in the early 1990s. His love and dedication to early music and chamber vocal music emerged while singing as a countertenor for the Compline Choir at St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Tudor Choir in 2000. He performs regularly as a countertenor/baritone with the Tudor Choir (US), and has performed with members of the Tallis Scholars (UK) under the direction of Peter Phillips, the Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera (US) under the direction of Steven Stubbs, and the Kronos Quartet. He is one of the founders of the Byrd Ensemble and is the choirmaster at St. Clement of Rome Episcopal Church in Seattle.

DR. NICK SANDON studied music at Birmingham University, England and then lectured in music at Exeter University, where he took his doctorate. After several years as Professor of Music at University College, Cork, Ireland, he returned to Exeter as Professor of Music and remained there until his retirement. He now lives in France, where he restores incomplete Tudor compositions, studies medieval liturgy and chant, runs the early music publisher Antico Edition, listens to cricket on the Light Programme, and cultivates his garden.

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.


bottom of page