William Child (1606-1697): O praise the Lord

William Child is largely forgotten today and when musicologists do discuss his music they tend to dismiss it as unimaginative and utilitarian. I very much doubt though that that is what his contemporaries and his successors, who included Blow and Purcell thought. We may today be grateful for our rich inheritance of music from Blow, Purcell, but it was Child who laid the groundwork for them by singledhandedly producing a vast output of church music for the Anglican church as it struggled to make a new start and re-establish its traditions after the 1660 restoration of the monarchy. His music served as a model for the first generation of Restoration composers and both Blow and Purcell thought sufficiently highly of his music to transcribe it and develop it further  for example by developing the aria-recitative structure which much of his music anticipates. His importance then is as a model but not only as a model, granted he wasn’t a genius but even the most run-of-the-mill of his compositions are eminently listenable to and at his best his music shows both vitality and sensitivity to the the texts he was setting. I think it unfair to dismiss his music as nothing more than a way-point between Gibbons and Blow it’s more accurate to see him as the first Restoration composer as the man who paved the way for Blow and Purcell. His anthem ‘O Praise the Lord‘, a setting of the first four verses of Psalm 135, was ‘Composed Upon the Restauration of the Church And Royall Family in 1660‘ and marks the start of the climb to greatness of English church music as it recovered from the devastation wrought upon it by the Puritans.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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