Red Byrd believes that the point of singing the music of the past is to illuminate the present. Its constant members are John Potter and Richard Wistreich, who are joined by other singers and instrumentalists with a strong grounding in early music to explore song old and new.
Its first concert, in the Musikfest Bremen in 1989, ranged from Monteverdi to Frank Martin and John Paul Jones, and in 1990-91 it toured Britain with both early and contemporary programmes. Since then it has visited the USA, Canada, Ireland, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy and Finland.
In 1993 it gave the first performance of Ivan Moody's Passsion and Resurrection with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at the Tampere International Choir Festival, Finland. It later recorded the work with Cappella Amsterdam for Hyperion, adding to recordings of music by Monteverdi, Blow and Purcell with the Parley of Instruments on that label; the group has also made several recordings on Virgin Classics and Naxos. In 1998, Red Byrd's first Léonin recording, Magister Leoninus, was made a disc of the year by the French magazine Diapason and BBC Music Magazine. A second CD of music by Léonin came out in 2001, and the group's latest release (described as 'absolutely stunning' by BBC Music Magazine) is A Scottish Lady Mass - Sacred Music from Medieval St Andrews.
Broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 have ranged from music by Landini, Palestrina and Purcell to John Cage, Thea Musgrave, Nigel Osborne and John Surman. Red Byrd contributes a number of tracks to Roger Marsh's Pierrot Lunaire, released on NMC in 2007, as well as the group's premiere of Thea Musgrave's Wild Winter I.