Posts Tagged ‘ English choral music ’

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

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July 15, 2014

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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John Blow (1649 – 1708): I will hearken

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July 7, 2014

The collapse of the Puritan regime and the restoration of the Stuart monarchy under Charles II in 1660 meant an immediate change in the style of government. Charles' government immediate priority was restoring those institutions of state that the Puritans had destroyed and that included the Chapel Royal which had been a vital centre of English musical life.  Cooke – Charles' first choirmaster had a difficult task because the tradition of training choirboys had been destroyed but he did have benefit of being able to ride a wave of pent-up creative energy. Blow was a chorister at at Newark Parish Church when Cooke conscripted him into Chapel Royal's choir thirteen years later Blow was appointed as as Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal a post he held for nearly thirty five years combining it with a very successful career as a composer.

His setting of verses 8-12 of psalm 85 is one two dozen symphony anthems that he composed for the Chapel Royal.  It's a contemplative and quite intimate piece that uses short ritornellos that develop naturally from the vocal material rather than a main symphony. Blow chose to have the instruments accompany the voices instead of alternating with them and it is this innovation which accounts for the piece's pleasing richness and the seamlessness of its texture. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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

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June 9, 2014

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 favourites amongst those works. It's performed below by the Chapelle du Roi conducted by Alistair Dixon. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Gabriel Jackson (1962–): To Morning, ‘O holy virgin! clad in purest white’

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May 5, 2014

Gabriel Jackson Gabriel Jackson's five-part setting of William Blake's poem 'To Morning' is one of my favourite examples of a modern composer achieving a perfect match between his text and his music. I love how he treats his topic here – the way in which the tiny speck on the horizon is enticed lovingly with musical caresses to draw nearer and nearer and how as the dawn draws closer and closer the choir trumpets the growing light that 'Rous'd' like a huntsman to the chase' appears 'upon our hills'. How better to start a week? You'll find it below, together with its text and performer information. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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John Amner (1579-1641): Sing O Heavens

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April 22, 2014

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, that is probably more likely now that I think of it because the Lady Chapel also served as Amner's parish church The Church of the Holy Trinity. Either way it's a wonderfully celebratory piece. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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