Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625): This is the record of John

Gibbons’ anthem for five voices (SAATB or ATTBB) This is the record of John is a wonderful example of  the verse anthem. It consists of solos that alternate with full choral passages in which the choir repeats the words of the preceding solo section. The writing for the soloist is almost declamatory – Timothy Dickey describes it as ‘quasi-declamatory’, and is very fluid while the choral writing which alternates between chordal homophony and and imitative writing is very direct. I particularly like the third solo passage, both in and of itself, and because with its madrigalian effects it’s a great example of how "free form" the verse anthem was and how that freedom was seized upon by composers to produce what must have seemed to the listeners to be startlingly innovative music. Mostly you’ll hear this sung to the accompaniment of an organ but Gibbons’ original intent was for it to be accompanied by viols which apart from the excellent singing is the reason why I chose the recording below for you to  enjoy :-).


Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625):  This is the record of John

This is the record of John,
when the Jews sent priests and Levites
from Jerusalem to ask him: Who art thou?
And he confessed and denied not; and said plainly:
I am not the Christ. And they asked him:
What art thou then? Art thou Elias?
And he said, I am not. Art thou the prophet?
And he answered, No. Then said they unto him:
What art thou? That we may give an answer unto them that sent us.
What sayest thou of thyself? And he said, I am the voice of him
that crieth in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.

John 1: 19-23


King’s College Choir, Cambridge conducted by Phillip Ledger. Soloist: John Butt

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