Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O, all ye people, clap your hands

Henry Purcell This is a gloriously sunny and happy piece of music in which with Purcell’s help the four singers obey the author’s injunction to "make a cheerful noise". It dates from about 1680, and takes its text from one of  John Patrick’s (1632-1695) psalm paraphrases. (Patrick was an Anglican clergyman, controversialist, and anti-Catholic polemicist who actively opposed the religious policies of James II and preached against them. He believed that some of the Psalms were unsuitable for Christians as they either could not be separated from Jewish life and traditions or because they or because they embrace emotions and actions (such as vengeance and wrath), which are antithetical to Christian experience. You can read a very short biography of him here.)

I like everything to do with this anthem. I like the exultation with which it starts and how Purcell makes the voices alternate between calling ‘all ye people’ and the running passagework in which they ‘make a cheerful noise’. I like everything that follows too, such as how the homophony in the fourth line (‘Declare your inward joys’) gives way to a return of close imitation at the fifth line with ‘ His high perfections’ being passed rapidly from voice to voice. There are more vocal trumpet calls at ‘In a triumphant state our Lord. Is gone above the skies;’ when we come to line 11 the boy soloists (the excellent Eamonn O’Dwyer and Mark Kennedy) alternate vocal fanfares and echoes in response to the instrument s that ‘proclaim our joys’ and ‘ Applaud his victories’ .A more melodic mood establishes itself at line 13 (‘ Sing cheerful praises to our God ‘) and harmony reigns supreme as ‘ God o’er the heathen people reigns ‘ before the anthem ends on a relaxed and broad tempo as God from his throne of glory ‘Shall judge the world at last’. You’ll find it and its text below. Enjoy :-).


Text: O, all ye people, clap your hands Z138

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O, all ye people, clap your hands,

And make a cheerful noise;

With acclamations to your God

Declare your inward joys.

His high perfections proclaim

Him greatly to be feared;

This king of all the world commands

Your honour and regard.

In a triumphant state our Lord

Is gone above the skies;

Trumpets proclaim our joys and all

Applaud his victories.

Sing cheerful praises to our God,

Sing praises to our king;

He is lord of all the earth, his praise

With understanding sing.

God o’er the heathen people reigns;

And in that throne is plac’d,

Where he in glory sits, and thence

Shall judge the world at last.

John Patrick (fl1678-1678)

Performers: Eamonn O’Dwyer (treble), Mark Kennedy (treble), Charles Daniels (tenor), Michael George (bass)

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