Christopher Gibbons was the second and eldest surviving son of Orlando Gibbons his childhood and youth are obscure although there’s some evidence that he was one of the choristers who served in Charles I’s Chapel Royal. His career (for obvious reasons) didn’t really take off until the restoration when he was granted appointments as musician to Charles II and as organist of the Chapel Royal and at Westminster Abbey, in addition to the posts he became Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey in 1664. He was involved in various scandals including corruptly procuring a contract for a new organ at Worcester Cathedral, and he was so notorious for being drunk that it seems likely he was at the very least an incipient alcoholic.
Musically he’s a transitional figure with his verse anthems even though they lack symphonies heralding what was to come. Above the stars which you can hear below is quite typical of his verse anthems both in terms of its structure and of the virtuosic demands that Gibbons made of the two soloists who would originally have been trebles in the Chapel Royal. It’s based upon a text believed to be by Bishop Hall and consists of alternating passages in which the choir comments upon the passages that the soloists have exchanged it ends on a very personal even intimate tone. Enjoy :-).
Christopher Gibbons (1615 – 1676): Above the Stars my Saviour dwells
Above the stars my Saviour dwells;
I love, I care for nothing else.
There, there he sits and fills a place
for the glorious heirs of grace.
Dear Saviour, raise my duller eyne;
let me but see thy beams divine.
Ravish my soul with wonder and desire;
ere I enjoy, let me thy joys admire.
And wond’ring let me say,
come, Lord Jesu, come away.
Attrib: Joseph Hall
- Choir of the Academy of Ancient Music directed by Richard Egar.
- Alastair Ross – organist. Philippa Hyde – soprano. Charmian Bedford – soprano.