2012-12-16 Notes from the Bench

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James Gerber, Music Associate

“This is the record of John” by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke continues the story of the John the Baptist who announced to his followers that the time of the Messiah was near.  The crowds asked if John may be the long-awaited Messiah, but he responds, “one who is more powerful than I is coming.”  The text for the anthem, “This is the record of John” by Orlando Gibbons recounts this story as recorded in the Gospel of John and is one of Gibbon’s more popular choral works.

Gibbons was born in Oxford, England.  As a youth, he sang in the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree.  Gibbons is well-known for his keyboard and instrumental works, madrigals, and sacred vocal works.  Gibbon’s keyboard works are among the earliest printed music in England, a collection titled Parthenia, published in 1611.

Gibbons’s life spanned a time period that was a golden age of English music.  The works of Gibbons are among the finest of the era.  Music styles were in transition from the late-Renaissance to the early-baroque.  There was a brief respite from the religious and political turmoil that resulted from various reform movements within the English church.  It was a period of musical richness and productivity.  Gibbons’s sacred music was formed fully within the Anglican tradition.  The use of English texts, as opposed to Latin, was among the liturgical changes that occurred during the English reformation; the anthems of Gibbons reflect the church’s preference for English.  He was appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal by King James I where he served as organist.  The Chapel Royal employed the finest musical talent in England, who contributed to the theatrical splendor of the liturgical celebrations.

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