‘Sent by him to Mr Wm Byrd, 1583’. That is the note we read on a London manuscript of de Monte’s eight-part motet Super flumina Babylonis. The text is taken from the first three verses of Psalm 137.

In the manuscript, this is followed by another eight-part motet set to the following verses of the psalm: Quomodo cantabimus. Here, the caption reads: ‘This Piece was made by Mr Wm Byrd, to send on to Mr Philip de Monte, 1584’.

Their moving musical correspondence found its origin in the time when de Monte had travelled to England in the retinue of King Philip II of Spain and came into contact with the Byrd musical family. William Byrd was still a youngster of 15 at the time, but 30 years later he received de Monte’s manuscript of Super flumina Babylonis. The parallel between the banished Jews and the precarious situation of Byrd as a Catholic in Anglican England was an obvious show of solidarity.

A year later, Byrd answered with Quomodo cantabimus: a motet full of melancholy and complex skill. ‘If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning’.


Philippus de Monte
Super Flumina Babylonis

William Byrd
Quomodo cantabimus / Ye Sacred Muses

Stephen Wilkinson
The Garden

Charles Tessier
Air espagnol: No ay en la tierra

John Dowland
Flow My Tears / Can She Excuse My Wrongs

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Mass in G Minor

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De Monte Distorted

Two signers and three guitarsts - all of them masked - present the project SUB†ILIOR. De Monte distorted... and incognito. At the heart ofthis sonic adventure is the Requiem by Philippus de Monte.

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