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This is the Record of John

Offertory Anthem: “This is the Record of John” Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)


Today’s anthem is taken from the Gospel reading (John 1:6-8,19-28). This anthem is often cited as the quintessential example of its genre, the verse anthem. Anglican church music in the Tudor period included choral settings of the English service and two types of piece called "anthem." They were distinguished by scoring and disposition of voices. The full anthem, a choral setting of mainly Biblical or liturgical texts, roughly took the place of the Latin motet. More complex settings (verse anthems) of some texts appeared, in the hands of Orlando Gibbons as well as William Byrd, Richard Farrant, William Mundy, and Thomas Morley. These pieces juxtapose full choral passages and sections with solo voices and instrumental accompaniment. One of this piece's numerous sources gives a possible clue as to its genesis: a manuscript now at Christ Church contains the rubric: "This Anthem was made for Dr. Laud, President of Saint John's Oxford, for St. John Baptist's day." Gibbons' text comes from the Gospel According to St. John (John 1:19-23) and describes a dialogue at the outset of the ministry of John the Baptist. Jews and Levites from the Temple authorities come to question John to determine if he is the Messiah. In a subtle way, the verse anthem genre, with its intrinsic dialogue between a solo voice and a larger group, is the perfect vehicle for this text. The verse anthem of the time implied no specific formal structure; Gibbons chooses a simple threefold alternation between solo and choir, with the choir in each case echoing the final phrases of the soloist's text. The melodic writing for the solo voice is quasi-declamatory, supple, and fluid. The accompaniment, quite idiomatic for the viols, often includes cadential flourishes and brief imitative motives (some also imitate the voice). The choral writing remains reasonably direct, though it, too, contains textural alternations between chordal homophony and imitation. The third solo passage presents some almost madrigalian effects: when John quotes Isaiah and calls himself the "Voice of him that crieth in the wilderness," Gibbons' harmonies suddenly shift to a remote minor; the text, however, continues with the command to "make straight the way of the Lord," and the harmony instantly returns to the tonic.


Description by Timothy Dickey; https://www.allmusic.com/composition/this-is-the-record-of-john-anthem-for-voices-mc0002367792, accessed 16 December2017


Orlando Gibbons was the youngest child of William Gibbons, a musician who had been a member of the Cambridge waits. In 1596 he became a chorister at King's College, Cambridge, and he took the Cambridge degree of Bachelor of Music in 1606. From 1603 he was a member of the Chapel Royal, and served as organist there (jointly with Thomas Tomkins) possibly from 1605, certainly from 1615 until the end of his life. In 1606 he married Elizabeth Patten; they lived in Westminster. He was well connected in court circles and in 1619 was appointed ‘one of his Majesty's musicians for the virginelles to attend in his Highness' privy chamber’. In 1623 he became joint organist and Master of the Choristers (with Thomas Day) at Westminster Abbey; he took part in James I's funeral in March 1625. He died of a brain hemorrhage during preparations for the reception into England of Charles I's royal bride, Henrietta Maria. Gibbons was one of the most versatile composers of his generation. He was a serious madrigalist, shunning the frivolous pastoral style of the Italian-influenced Morley and Weelkes in favor of a moralizing, strictly contrapuntal manner in the tradition of Byrd and the consort song; his setting of The Silver Swan, for instance, is a lament for modern life in which ‘More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise’. His sacred music was written either for the Anglican Church or for occasions of state; his best work is found in such large-scale pieces as the anthems Hosanna to the son of David and O clap your hands together, yet even his most modest works are perfectly shaped and finely expressive. His contrapuntal skills are particularly evident in his pieces for viol consort. Above all, however, Gibbons was celebrated during his lifetime as an organist and virginalist. His keyboard works use virtuosity for expressive ends, not for its own sake, and they often have considerable emotional power. The best known of them is The Lord of Salisbury, his Pavan and Galliard, first published in Parthenia (London, 1613).


Arnold, Denis, and John Milsom. "Gibbons, Orlando." In The Oxford Companion to Music. : Oxford University Press, http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy.roosevelt.edu:2048/view/10.1093/acref/9780199579037.001.0001/acref-9780199579037-e-2872.







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