Benedictine monks first came to the site of the present Westminster Abbey in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship that has continued for over a thousand years. The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of seventeen monarchs, to date. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in England. Some of the most significant people in the nation’s history are buried or commemorated there, and the building is a treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artefacts.
Singing has played a hugely important role at the Abbey, from the plainsong Offices sung by the monks to the daily choral services sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey today. Over the intervening centuries some of the most illustrious British organists, singers and composers have been closely associated with the Abbey, which continues to play a leading part in the musical and cultural life of the nation today. In addition to the grand architecture of the building, the Abbey’s organ has played a hugely significant role in services and events over the centuries. An organ built by Christopher Schrider for use at the coronation of George II and Queen Caroline in 1727 was placed over the quire screen in 1730. It was subsequently much rebuilt and enlarged, notably in 1848, 1884 and 1909, by William Hill and Sons. The present organ, built by Harrison and Harrison, was first heard at the coronation of King George VI in 1937. With four manuals and eighty-four speaking stops, it incorporated some of the pipework from the earlier instrument. Further restoration work and enlargement have followed since.
Graham ROSS, extract from the 24-page booklet included with the recording.
At the very heart of English Baroque music
Robert White (c. 1538–1574) Christe qui lux es et dies (IV) (arr. Edward Tambling), Stile Antico.
Robert Parsons (c. 1530–1570) In nomine a 4 no.2, Stile Antico, Fretwork.
Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625) O clap your hands together, Stile Antico.
Christopher Gibbons (1615-1676) Not unto us, O Lord. Voluntarie in C, Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr, director & solo organ.
Orlando Gibbons See, see, the Word is incarnate, Stile Antico, Fretwork.
Pelham Humfrey (1647-1674) Hear my crying, O God, Donna Deam, soprano / Drew Minter, countertenor, Rogers Covey-Crump, John Potter, tenors / David Thomas, bass / Choir of Clare College, Cambridge / Romanesca, cond. Nicholas McGegan.
Henry Purcell (1659-1695) My heart is inditing, verse anthem Z.30 / Funeral Sentences (Musique funèbre pour la Reine Mary) March Z.860 / Man that is born of a woman, full anthem Z.27 / Canzona Z.860 / In the midst of life, full anthem Z.17 / Canzona Z.860 / Thou know’st, Lord, the secrets of our hearts, full anthem Z.58c / March Z.860. Collegium Vocale Gent, Philippe Herreweghe.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) The truth from above. The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, dir. Bill Ives.
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) Sacred and Profane (1974-1975) Eight Medieval Lyrics Op.91 for unaccompanied voices. RIAS Kammerchor, dir. Marcus Creed.
Ralph Vaughan Williams The Blessed Son of God. The Choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, dir. Bill Ives.
Henry Purcel, realized by Benjamin Britten Job’s Curse (1950) – from Harmonia Sacra. Mark Padmore, tenor / Roger Vignoles, piano.
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), orchestrated Imogen Holst. Rejoice in the Lamb: A Festival Cantata (1952) [text: Christopher Smart] Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues / For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry / For the Mouse is a creature of great personal valour / For the flowers are great blessings / For I am under the same accusation with my Saviour / For He is a spirit and therefore he is God / For the instruments are by their rhimes / Hallelujah from the heart of God / Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, dir. Graham Ross.
Henry Purcel, realized by Benjamin Britten. An Evening Hymn (1947) – Three divine hymns from Harmonia.
Max Emanuel Ainmiller, The Choir of Westminster Abbey, 1851, oil on canvas, Munich, Neue Pinakothek – akg-images
Portrait of Orlando Gibbons, akg-images
Westminster Abbey, central aisle of the nave, 13th-14th centuries. akg-images/A.F.Kersting
John Closterman, Henry Purcell, c.1695, black chalk heightened with white, De Agostini Picture Library, Bridgeman Images
Benjamin Britten conducting, 1968 – akg-images/Ullstein Bild
Cover: Westminster Abbey (Unesco World Heritage List, 1987), London, England. Akg-images/De Agostini Picture Lib./G. Wright