Posts Tagged ‘ English choral music ’

Robert Ramsey (fl c1612-1644): When David heard

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February 9, 2015

HPOW CaptionedRamsey was probably born at some time during the 1590s but the first reliable record we have of him is at Cambridge from 1612. He seems to have spent his entire adult life at Cambridge taking a B.Mus in 1616 and being appointed or­gan­ist at or­gan­ist of Tri­n­ity Col­lege, Cambrid­ge from 1628 until his death in 1644. He also held the post of Mast­er of the Childr­en at the col­lege from 1637. All of this argues that he was a talented musician well respected by his peers. His madrigal motet When David heard,  is one of the many musical expressions of grief at the death of Henry Prin­ce of Wales, King James I's first son from composers throughout England and Scotland. The text is taken from the Bible and tells of Kind David's reaction to the news of the death of his son Absalon, everyone who heard this being sung or who read the the text would have understood that King James was represented by David and that Absalon was Henry his son.

When David heard that Absalon was slain,
he went up to his chamber over the gate,
and wept, and as he went thus he said:

O my son Absalon, Absalon,
would to God I had died for thee,
O Absalon my son, my son.

Unlike many of the other expressions of grief this one was meant for private performance. It's a beautifully crafted piece of music, deceptively simple, but very lovely. It's sung below by The Sixteen. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Pelham Humfrey (±1648 —1 674): By the waters of Babylon

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January 16, 2015

Pelham Humfrey started his career as one of the 'forwardest & brightest' boys recruited for the Chapel Royal by  Henry Cooke who had been ordered by Charles II to restore English Church Music to its former glory. He was probably a Londoner but nobody really knows all that much about his origins. What we do know is that 'forward and bright' really only begins to describe his musical talent who already had written several anthems by the time his voice broke aged sixteen. Aged sixteen he was sent to Paris on full pay for two years to study music and on his return proved himself to be a master musician and composer who succeeded to the post of royal choirmaster when Cooke died in 1672. Sadly he only outlived his old master by two years but in that two years he produced some remarkably fine music including By the waters of Babylon. It's a symphony anthem – one of fourteen that he composed, and clearly demonstrates his skill at crafting musical structures in in which the vocal and instrumental components are organically linked, rather than just tacked together which had been the norm up to then. It's a somewhat unusual symphony anthem in that it opens with a short prelude rather than the full symphony which appears as a dance measure towards the end. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Jesu salvator saeculi

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January 14, 2015

Tallis' setting of the compline hymn Jesu salvator saeculi (Jesus, saviour of the age) is an alternim setting that alternates the chant and composed music retaining the cantus firmus in the top part. Under Sarum usage it would have been sung between low Sunday and Ascension it's typical of the new style of hymnody pioneered by Tallis and his contemporaries eschewing the massive polyphonic 'wall of sound' of earlier generations in favour of an elegant simplicity and textual clarity.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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John Taverner (±1490–1545): Christe Jesu, pastor bone

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December 16, 2014

While the carols sung in Elizabethan England were often distinctly secular and in English, the music sung in the Cathedrals, at court, and in University Chapels was, despite the reformation, still permitted to be sung in Latin, of course making it crystal clear where your loyalties lay was also a very good idea. Taverner's Christe Jesu, pastor bone Jesu is a good example (as well of course as being very good music). Enjoy :-).

mfi

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John Taverner (±1490 – 1545): Quemadmodum

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November 21, 2014

When Cardinal Wolsey fell from grace money for the college he founded suddenly became very scarce. This decided Taverner to leave his post at the college and retire to Boston where he remained for the rest of his life. He continued to compose and Quemadmodum  a setting of the first verses of Psalm 41 (42) is one of the products of that time. It's a refined and poised piece of musical that for its time was  very daring and radical piece of work. It continued Taverner's breaking free from the Tudor mould that paved the way for the music of The English Reformation. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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