Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/337
CATHEDRAL MUSIC. 325
and metrical psalm singing established itself in connection with our revised ritual, though independently of its direct authority. Such singing was in use early in Elizabeth's reign, having doubtless been borrowed from the Protestants abroad. For the purpose of giving a quasi-official sanction to a custom which it would have been very unwise to repress, it was ordained by a royal injunction in the year 1559, that while there was to be a 'modest and distinct song so used in all parts of the common prayer, that the same might be understanded as if it were read without singing' (in other words, while the old traditional plainsong in its simplified form is to be employed throughout the whole service, yet) for the comforting of such as delight in music it may be permitted that in the beginning or at the end of the common prayer there may be sung an hymn or such like song, to the praise of Almighty God, in the best melody and music that may be devised, having respect that the sentence of the hymn may be understanded & perceived.'
This injunction gave legal authority to the setting of English words to be sung anthemwise. The first anthems written for the Reformed Church are full, i.e. sung in regular alternation by the whole choir; they resemble the motets of the Italian Church, which furnished models to the first English anthem-writers. 'Verse anthems', i.e. those in which certain passages, called verses, were sung in slower time, not by all the voices on one side but by a selected number, were introduced about 1670; though Dr. Jebb informs the writer that precedents for verse anthems existed in the pre-Reformation service.
As principal composers of cathedral music from the Reformation to the Rebellion we may select Tye, Tallis, Farrant, Shepherd, Taverner, Redford, Morley, Byrde, Bull, and Gibbons. The compositions of this period are more conspicuous for technical skill than for musical expression, and no difference can be traced between the secular and the sacred style. Dr. Jebb however maintains that the latter was at least national and peculiar to this country, and that the Church of England was not indebted to Palestrina; which statement he supports by urging the similarity of the style of Byrde and Tallis to that of Robert White, who was anterior to the great Italian composer.
Under the Commonwealth, music, except in the form of metrical psalmody, was expelled from English churches; it was restored in 1660 by Charles II, the effect of whose French tastes upon Cathedral music is thus described by Tudway (Burney's History, vol iii. 443): 'His majesty was soon tired with the grave and solemn way which had been established by Bird and others, and ordered the composers of his chapel to add symphonies with instruments to their anthems; and established a select number of his private music to play the symphony and ritornellos which he bad appointed. The old masters of music, Dr. Child, Dr. Gibbons, Mr. Low, etc., hardly knew how to comport themselves with these new fangled ways, but proceeded in their compositions according to the old style.' There was great difficulty during the first years of the Restoration in finding boys capable of singing in the choirs, since the art had been so much neglected during the Protectorate. Hawkins (History of Music, iv. 349) says on this point, 'Nay, to such streights were they driven, that for a twelvemonth after the Restoration the clergy were forced to supply the want of boys by cornets, and men who had feigned voices.'
It appears from a passage in the life of Archbishop Whitgift (Biographia Britannica, p. 4255), that cornets had been before introduced; for an allusion is made to the 'solemn music with the voices and organs, cornets and sackbuts'; and in Stow's Annals (864), we read that at the churching of the Queen after the birth of Mary daughter of James I, in the Royal Chapel, sundry anthems were sung with organ, cornets, sackbuts, and other instruments of music.' [See Anthem, 2nd period.]
'In about four or five years time' says Tudway, 'some of the forwardest and brightest children of the chapel, as Pelham Humphrey, John Blow, etc., began to be masters of a faculty in composing; this his majesty greatly encouraged, by indulging their youthful fancies. In a few years more, several others educated in the chapel, composed in this style; otherwise it was vain to please his majesty.' The peculiar influence here ascribed to Charles II may be traced in the works of Humphrey, Blow, Wise, and their contemporaries, in the too evident aim at effect, and the mannerisms and exaggerated ornaments which characterise them; even the great genius of Purcell did not escape the effect of Charles's fantastic tastes. Many of his finest anthems are disfigured by symphonies of such a kind as were evidently invented merely to gratify the king's desire for French mannerisms. But it was in the 18th century that the lowest musical standard prevailed in the service of the church. A florid sing-song melody, with a trivial accompaniment, was the type to which everything was sacrificed, and a rage set in for objectionable adaptations and arrangements. The works of Nares and Kent may be taken as specimens of this class, though one worthy exception should be noticed in Dr. Boyce.Within the last 25 years choral communions have been introduced: they had been discarded at the Restoration, from which time up to 1840 the Communion Service was never set to music except in so far as parts of it, e. g. the Sanctus, and the Gloria, were arranged as anthems and introits.
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