Programme note for ‘O Praise the Lord’ by Adrian Batten
Anthems have been sung in the Church of England since the Reformation In the early 16th century. An anthem uses words selected from the Bible or the liturgy.
In 1559, the year of her coronation, Elizabeth I issued the so called Injunctions, which intended to plant true religion and suppress superstition in her realms and dominions. Item 49 states “In the beginning, or in the end of common prayers, either at morning or evening, there may be sung an hymn, or such-like song, to the praise of Almighty God, in the best sort of melody and music that may be conveniently devised, having respect that the sentence of the hymn may be understood and perceived.”
Early Elizabethan anthems used little counterpoint and were largely syllabic, i.e. setting the words with one musical note for each syllable, to help listeners understand the words. Batten (b. 1591 Salisbury, d. 1637 London) was a prolific composer of anthems who worked during the first golden age of the English anthem from 1590 to 1640. The Chapel Royal and several cathedrals acquired sufficient resources, in particular competent boys’ choirs, to allow a more ambitious musical programme; anthems were now written for 5, 6 or 8 vocal parts. He probably began his career at Winchester Cathedral as a boy chorister. In 1614 he moved to Westminster Abbey, where he worked as a singing-man and occasional music-copyist for the next 12 years. His last appointment was at St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.
This short anthem for four voices sets the two verses from Psalm 117 which enjoin us to praise the Lord because He is merciful and kind to us and His truth endureth for ever. It’s mood is one of quiet and confident joyfulness. It is to be hoped that the choir will sing with clear diction!
Evening Hymn by Henry Balfour Gardiner
This is a classic anthem of the English Choral Repertoire. Its composer, Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877-1950) – great-uncle of the contemporary conductor John Eliot Gardiner – was active in the early decades of the 20th century and is best known for arranging and funding a series of concerts in 1912-13 to promote contemporary English composers such as Arnold Bax, Percy Grainger and Gustav Holst, to name but a few. Only a limited number of his compositions survive; Balfour Gardiner was a self-critical man who stopped composing in 1925 and it is likely that he destroyed many of his own works.
The latin hymn ‘Te lucis ante terminum’ is dated to the 8th or 9th century. It is one of two hymns at Compline in the Roman Breviary, the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgical book used until the reforms of 1974. Compline or Night Prayer is the final service of the day. The hymn has three verses and is a prayer to our Lord to guard us and guide us in His way and to to protect us from the terrors of the night. The final verse reiterates the request for protection in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The words have often been set to music; this version and that by Thomas Tallis are among the best known settings.
‘Evening Hymn’ is written for organ and four part choir; all parts subdivide during the anthem to create a lush thicket of music. In the first verse the composer builds up to the entry of the choir with music coloured by the use of chromatic sequences above a sustained note in the bass which only stops at the climax when the request to ‘guard and guide us’ is reached. In the second verse the choir, singing unaccompanied, illustrates in the music the terrors and fantastic company of the night. In the last verse the majestic mood implies confidence that the Lord will grant the prayer. A drawn out Amen concludes this anthem.
More about Soul Space
Date(s) - 25/09
6:30pm - 8:00pm
St Barbara's Church