John Taverner (±1490–1545): Audivi vocem de caelo

Taverner’s setting of this responsory takes its text from Matthew 25: 4-6. At first sight it’s a standard alternatim setting in which the chant alternates with polyphony in which it can also be heard as a cantus firmus but its original scoring is somewhat unusual in that it was originally scored for high voices only…

Robert White (±1538-1574): Tota pulchra es

When Robert White died at the age of thirty six during one of the many outbreaks of plague that London was subject to at the time Robert Dow made a copy of all his motets and added this epitaph ‘Greatest glory of our muses, White: you perish, but your muse remains for ever’ nor was…

Feature: Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Sancte Deus

In early Tudor England composers produced four main types of church music: Masses, Magnificats, Votive antiphons Smaller liturgical pieces From this we know that Tallis would have composed this votive antiphon for four voices (SATB) during Henry VIII’s reign but before the Reformation. It must have been fairly popular because it was set both by…

John Sheppard (±1515-1558): Haec dies quam fecit Dominus

Sheppard’s best work is for the Latin liturgy written during the five years of Queen Mary I’s reign and her attempt to roll back the protestant reforms of Henry VII and Edward VI. He seems to have made something of a specialism of plainsong-based settings  of  Responds, Gradualia  and Hymns, Haec dies quam fecit Dominus…

Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Magnificat Regale

Shortly after he was crowned Henry VIII made clear that Fayrfax stood high in his favour by awarding him the sum of £9 2/6 (nine pounds two shillings and six pence) to be paid on top of Fayrfax’s salary from the Chapel Royal. We don’t know when Fayrfax composed this setting of the Magnificat to…

Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): With all our hearts

This motet suitable for Trinity is a contrafactum of  Tallis’ first setting of Salvator mundi it was clearly popular with Tallis’ contemporaries (and indeed the succeeding generation) as it was very widespread during the reigns both of Elizabeth I and James I. I have to say I feel that in places the English text isn’t…

William Mundy (±1529-1591): Adhaesit pavimento

William Mundy’s six-part (SSATBB) psalm motet Adhaesit pavimento sets verses from psalm 119 (118 in the Vulgate) gets its name from verse twenty five Adhaesit pavimento anima mea (My soul has cleaved to the dust) which is its first line. English composers of Mundy’s generation were well aware of Josquin’s psalm settings and sought to…