Latin Mass Society

The St Robert Southwell Consort

The St Robert Southwell Consort

Consortium Sancti Roberti Southwelli A new polyphonic consort based in London to accompany the Extraordinary Form

The Latin Mass Society is delighted to announce the formation of a new polyphonic ‘consort’—a small choir specialising in the liturgical music of the Renaissance.

The Southwell Consort will provide an outlet for singers in London who have musical training but may not be pursuing singing professionally, as well as professional singers, performing the liturgical music of the Renaissance in the context for which it was composed: the ancient Latin Mass.

The Consort will be directed by Dominic Bevan, a graduate of the Royal College of Music and professional opera singer, with a close interest in early music and Gregorian Chant.

From September 2021 it will be singing regularly on the first and fourth Mondays of each month in the church of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane (alternating with the Houghton Schola), and elsewhere.

Those interested in singing with the Consort should email Dominic on southwell@lms.org.uk


St Robert Southwell

St Robert Southwell (1561-1595), a Jesuit priest, is one of best known martyrs of Penal Times, the period from the 16th to the 17th century during which Catholic practice was illegal in England and Wales. He has special significance for English Catholic music as an associate of the English composer William Byrd (c.1540-1623), who managed to maintain a position writing music for Queen Elizabeth with work for Catholic patrons.

In July 1586, St Robert and fellow Jesuit Henry Garnet were at the Catholic recusant house of Sir John Petre, Ingatestone Hall. The house party was described by a contemporary:
A congenial household and company … the gentleman was also a skilled musician and had an organ and other musical instruments and choristers, male and female, members of his household. During these days it was just as if we were celebrating an uninterrupted Octave of some great feast. Mr Byrd, the very famous English musician and organist, was among the company …

St Robert was himself a poet of considerable ability, and an influential spiritual writer. Among his most famous lines are these:

This little babe, so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake.
Though he himself for cold do shake,
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.

In 1592, after six years on the English mission, he was captured, tortured, and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he managed to maintain a correspondence with St Philip Howard, also a prisoner. St Philip Howard wrote words of comfort from St Robert Southwell on the wall of his cell in the Beauchamp Tower in the Tower of London, which can still be seen by visitors:

Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro.

(“The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next.”)

St Robert was eventually tried, and hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in London, on 21st February 1595, at the age of 33.

He was beatified in 1929, and canonised in 1970 as one of the Forty English Martyrs. He shares the feast-day of the Blessed English Martyrs (4th May), and as a graduate of English Catholic school and university in exile at Douai in the Spanish Netherlands, in the feast of the Blessed Martyrs of Douai (Archdiocese of Westminster, 30th October).

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