John Taverner (±1490 – 1545): Quemadmodum

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)…

Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): O Lord Blessed be thy name

1641 was a momentous year in English and Irish history during that year Strafford the King’s right hand man was impeached by Parliament, tried, and executed. Archbishop Laud was imprisoned, Parliament passed The Triennial Act,  there was a major Irish Uprising,  and Parliament issued The Grand Remonstrance.  Less momentous perhaps but no less important from…

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…

Thomas Weelkes (1576–1623): Hosanna to the Son of David

This is a remarkably powerful piece of music that confirms were such a confirmation necessary that Weelkes was an outstandingly talented composer. It’s an evocation of Matthew 21:9 in which the Evangelist depicts the crowd’s reaction to Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. You can hear their enthusiasm which Weelkes underscores by repeating their initial cry of…

Walter Lambe (±1450 – ±1500): Nesciens Mater

The clearest possible indication of how important Lambe was considerered to be by his contemporaries lies in the fact that so many of his compositions were collected in the Eton Choirbook. His five part (SATTB) setting of the Marian antiphon Nesciens Mater uses the chant as its cantus firmus but surrounds it with what Harry…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Nunc Dimittis from the Great Service

Byrd’s settings for the Great Service took Anglican music forward from its hesitant and somewhat experimental phase into somewhat more splendid territory. He probably wrote the Magnificat (about which I wrote last Friday see: William Byrd (±1539-1623): Magnificat from the Great Service | Saturday Chorale) and the Nunc Dimittis last it’s beautiful music which manages…

William Mundy (±1529-1591): Vox Patris caelestis

Mundy composed Vox Patris caelestis (The voice of the heavenly Father) during Queen Mary’s reign (1553–1558) we can date it to these five years first because Mundy was too young to have written it during Henry VIII’s reign, secondly its text which is a Marian paean based upon the Song of Songs would have been…

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

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,…

John Blow (1649 – 1708): I will hearken

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…

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…

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,…