William Byrd (±1539-1623): Teach Me, O Lord

It must have been an agonising experience for Byrd to see his hopes for the five-year English Catholic renaissance of 1553–58 dashed with the death of Queen Mary. A devout, and stubborn Catholic he was to live the remainder of his life under protestant monarchs. Fortunately for him, and for us, he managed the difficult…

Edgar Bainton (1880–1956): And I Saw A New Heaven

Edgar Bainton (1880–1956) is best known as a composer of church music and is a somewhat neglected composer in England he studied under Stanford at the Royal College of Music and starting in 1901  first a teacher and then from 1912 principal at Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Conservatoire.  In 1914 he travelled to Bayreuth for the festival when…

Herbert Howells (1892–1983): Regina caeli

This is the third four ‘Anthems of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ that Howells composed for the choir of Westminster Cathedral in 1916. For  some strange reason they were never published during his lifetime and only came to light in 1988 when the manusicript copy was rediscovered. I’ve not yet managed to hear it sung in…

Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): A new commandment

Tallis’ A new commandment is another one of those neglected gems that are his English language anthems. It’s a four-part setting and probably dates from about 1570. Its use of melisma means that its style is not quite as stark as that of his other English language anthems, perhaps that’s why it’s one of my…

Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley (1825–1889): O Saviour Of The World – Choir of King’s College Cambridge, Easter 2014

Sir Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley’s  (1825–1889) music is largely unknown today. Ousely was born into the upper echelons of Victorian Britain’s ruling class, his father was Ambassador to Russia, the Dukes of York and Wellington were his godfathers, he was a musically precocious child who composed his first opera at the tender age of eight.…

John Amner (1579-1641): Sing O Heavens

This glorious seven-part anthem, Sing, O heav ‘ns  (SSAATBB) is a perfect example of the richness and sonority that typified early seventeenth-century English anthems. I wonder if its scoring meant that Amner felt he couldn’t divide the tenor line. Or perhaps he wrote it with the stunning acoustic of Ely Cathedral’s Lady Chapel in mind,…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Who hath believed our report?

The text to this anthem is from the Book of Isaiah and if you think you’ve heard it very recently you probably have –  sixty years after Purcell wrote this setting Handel set much of the same text for the second part of Messiah. The autograph manuscript for Purcell’s setting is to be found in…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): Turn thou us, O good Lord

I’m including Turn thou us, O good Lord (Z62) more for the sake of completeness than anything else as I’m far from sure that the work is indeed by Purcell. It’s found in the first volume of the Flackton collection 1  and was noted by Flackton as follows: The 3.d Collect for the 30 of…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): My heart is fixed, O God

This wonderful verse anthem is one of my favourites I find it’s cheerful expansiveness simply irresistible while its joyful text from Psalm 57 is a great tonic to the Anglican angst in which Purcell all too frequently indulges himself. The source is the ‘Royal Music’ manuscript which dates it to the three year period 1682-85…

Henry Purcell (1659-1695): O Lord God of hosts

Purcell only ever wrote three anthems scored for eight-part choir of which ‘O Lord God of hosts’ (Z37) is one. It’s an early work which wrote by 1681 at the latest and it’s more likely that he wrote it a year earlier. The text is from Psalm 80 and Purcell who loved nothing more than…