Although the first full consort of viols did not arrive in England until 1540, there were actually several intriguing examples of what are now called "consort" music from before that time. Of course, the homogenous viol consort became supreme, and the present program (also featuring some 2-lute arrangements) focuses on the first part of that repertory. This developed at Elizabeth's court in the 1570s & 1580s, among professional musicians, but based on relatively restrictive models. Some pieces in the present program are composed freely, heralding the next step in consort development which, along with the small output of Byrd, allowed the English consort idiom to fully flower. Of course that was followed closely by the even larger and more famous repertory of consort music by composers such as Gibbons which was eventually geared more toward amateur players.
When William Camden's Britannia was printed in 1586, it staggered its Elizabethan readers. Nothing like it had been seen before. For the first time, the entire British Isles had been described in astonishing detail: the mountains and rivers, the history and customs, the climate and the people of each and every county. Britannia was an encyclopaedic tour of the whole country in a single book.