The Hundredth Psalm Tune.
It was not to be supposed that the movement which had spread thus rapidly in France and Germany, would be suffered to pass unheeded in England, where the study of the Madrigal had already brought part-singing to a high degree of perfection. [Madrigal.] Here, as in France, the first incentive to popular Hymnody seems to have been the rendering of the Psalms into verse in the mother tongue. Sternhold's fifty-one Psalms first saw the light in 1549: but the 'Whole Booke of Psalmes,' 'by T. Sternhold, J. Hopkins, and others,' did not appear until 1562, when it was 'imprinted' by John Daye, 'with apt notes to sing them withal': the 'apt notes' being simply the melodies, as sung in France, and Germany, without bass, or any other part. In 1563, the same John Daye 'imprinted' the 'whole Psalmes, in foure parts,' harmonised, in the simplest possible manner, by Thomas Talys, Richard Brimle, William Parsons, Thomas Causton, J. Hake, and Richard Edwards. This was the first collection of Hymn Tunes ever published in England for four voices. Neither Burney nor Hawkins seem to have been aware of its existence. A perfect copy is, however, preserved in the library of Brasenose College, Oxford; and one, containing the Medius and Tenor parts only, in that of the British Museum. It was followed, in 1567, by another invaluable volume, also 'imprinted,' but not published, by John Daye, viz. 'The first Quinquagene' of Archbishop Parker's metrical version of the Psalms—a work which has only been preserved through the medium of a few copies given away by Mistress Parker, and so scarce that Strype 'could never get a sight of it.' At the end of this precious volume—a copy of which is happily preserved in the British Museum—we find, printed in four parts, eight Tunes, set, by Talys, in plain counterpoint, with the melody in the Tenor. Each of these Tunes is written in one of the first eight Modes; the eighth, or Hypomixolydian Tune, being the well-known Canon now universally adapted to the words of Bishop Ken's Evening Hymn. A larger collection was published, in 1579, by Guilielmo Damon, whose harmony is clear and good, and—as it always should be, when intended for congregational use—extremely simple. In 1591, another collection appeared, by the same author, in two books, in the second of which 'the highest part singeth the Church Tune'—probably for the first time. In 1585, six years before the publication of Damon's second work, John Cosyns had put forth sixty Psalms, with the Tunes first printed by Daye, set for five and six voices: but, by far the most important volume which appeared before the close of the century was the complete Psalter printed by Thomas Este in 1594 [App. p.684 "1592"], and containing Tunes skilfully harmonised, for four voices, by John Dowland, E. Blancks, E. Hooper, J. Farmer, R. Allison, G. Kirbye, W. Cobbold, E. Johnson, and G. Farnaby—composers of no mean reputation, and generally reckoned among the best of the period. A far inferior volume was published, by John Mundy, in the same year; and, in 1599, a collection appeared, by Richard Allison, with accompaniments 'to be plaide upon the lute, orpharion, citterne, or base violl, severally or together': but all these works were superseded in 1621 by 'The Whole Booke of Psalmes,' edited, and in great part arranged, by Thomas Ravenscroft. This famous volume contains settings, for four voices, of the best German, French, and English Tunes, by Tallis, Dowland, Morley, Bennet, Stubbs, Farnaby, the editor himself, and fourteen other noted musicians of the day. The melody, according to custom, is always given to the Tenor. The counterpoint throughout is admirable, and every Tune may fairly be regarded as a masterpiece. The Bass and Tenor proceed, for the most part, nota contra notam, while the Treble, and Alto, though by no means written in a florid style, exhibit a little more variety of treatment. The effect of this arrangement, when the Tenor is sung by a large body of voices, in unison, and the harmony by a select Choir, is exceedingly impressive. The finest Tune in the collection—John Dowland's setting of the Hundredth Psalm—may still be frequently heard in Salisbury Cathedral; and there is no possible reason why many others should not be brought into almost universal use.
- Set to the 134th Psalm of the French translation.
- Burney erroneously describes this as the first collection, in four parts, published in England.