Christopher Tye (±1505 – 1573): Nunc dimittis – Merbecke Choir

Southwark Cathedral Reredos

A live performance of Christopher Tye’s Nunc Dimittis, given by the Merbecke Choir of Southwark Cathedral, directed by Huw Morgan.

Whenever I’m visiting London I always make a point of visiting South London’s, Southwark Cathedral, the building is well worth a visit in its own right and the cathedral has a fine choral tradition of which the Merbecke Choir is a new and vibrant part. The choir was founded in 2004 it is primarily intended for boys and girls who leave the cathedral choirs but want to continue singing. Merbecke choir members receive expert tuition and broaden their repertoire. They sing Compline on the 4th Sunday of each month at 6.30pm and perform a seasonal concert of music in each of the terms as well as singing for for livery companies in the City of London and for other organisations. They’re a good choir as I think you’ll agree once you’ve heard their performance of Tye’s Nunc Dimittis below.

I’m an unabashed fan of Tye’s music and find his setting of Nunc Dimittis interesting both for its music and for historical reasons. The text that he set isn’t the standard one it seems to be an amalgam of texts chiefly from 1533 and 1539 while the music itself seems to me be early Tye. Jeremy Summerly says that it dates from Tye’s time in Cambridge which as Tye received his doctorate in 1545 means it must date from some time between 1540 and 1545. Stylistically it’s a bit of a mix ’em gather ’em in that it makes heavy use Continental style imitation but the harmonisations and the way in which the text is set are, as Summerly put it ‘quintessentially English’. Enjoy :-)


Video Source: Nunc Dimittis – Christopher Tye – YouTube Published on 5 Mar 2014 by TheMerbeckeChoir

Text: Nunc Dimittis

Lord, let thy servant now depart in peace, according to thy promise.
For mine eyes have seen the saviour sent from thee, whom thou hast prepared before the face of thy people.
A light to lighten the Gentiles, to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, and is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Alway so be it.
Luke 2: 29-32

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