When Byrd set the mass to music in the early 1590s, he was doing something no English composer had done for thirty years.
Given the political and cultural risks involved, it is surprising that he managed to do it at all.
The 1559 Act of Uniformity strictly forbade the celebration of the old Catholic liturgy in England. Those who went on cultivating it could be punished with fines, imprisonment, or, in exceptional cases, even death. What had taken place daily at every pre-Reformation altar, from the humblest parish church to the greatest cathedral, was now a rare and dangerous luxury.
Centuries later, these works enjoy exceptional popularity, performed in both the Catholic and protestant liturgies, as well as in concert programmes.
The pinted partbooks are easy to read, even for amateur choirs, and should surely be on the shelves of anyone with an interest in music or liturgy of the Tudor period.