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Thomas Weelkes - Grant the King a long life

Thomas Weelkes - Grant the King a long life

Ref: CD708

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Thomas Weelkes was a notorious drunkard and blasphemer, in regular conflict with the authorities of Chichester Cathedral where he was organist, Informator Choristarum, and a singing-man from 1602 until his death in 1623. At least that is his modern reputation. But regardless of the man’s personal flaws, his music firmly stands as sublime. He was the most notable composer of madrigals in his day, and one of the most prolific composers of church music. Featured here is a selection of his finest full and verse anthems as well as instrumental music for organ, viols, and solo voice, including a number of anthems in praise of King James I of England.
with soloists drawn from the choir

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Thomas Weelkes
Grant the King a long life
English Anthems & Instrumental Music
Produced by David Skinner,
Ben Atkinson & Dan Smith
Engineered and edited by Jim Gross
Executive producer Martin Souter
Chamber organ supplied & tuned by
Dr Stephen Coles
box organ after John Loosemore
(Nettlecombe Court, 1655);
tuning Neidhardt 1724 (Dorf).
Cover image: Portrait of James I of England and
James VI of Scotland (1566–1625), purported to
be the marriage portrait sent to the Danish Court
to seduce Anne, his future wife (oil on panel),
Vanson, Adrian (fl.1580–1601) (attr. to) © Gavin
Graham Gallery, London, UK / The Bridgeman
Art Library
with soloists drawn from the choir
1. Hosanna to the Son of David
2. Pavan [1]: ‘Mr Weelkes his Lacrimae’
3. What joy so true
4. All people clap your hands
5. Voluntary [1]
6. Lord to thee I make my moan
7. When David heard
8. Gloria in excelsis Deo
9. Pavan [3]: ‘Mr Weelkes his 3. Pavin’
10. Give ear, O Lord
11. Most mighty and all-knowing Lord
12. O how amiable
13. Voluntary [2]
14. Alleluia. I heard a voice
15. O mortal man
16. Pavan [5]
17 Give the king thy judgements
18. Fantasy ‘for 2 Basses’
19. If King Manasses
20. O Lord, grant the King a long life
Total time OBSIDIAN
P & C 2012 Classical Communications Ltd
Made in Great Britain
Recorded in The Chapel of Sidney Sussex College,
Cambridge, 4-6 July 2011, with kind permission of the
Master and Fellows.

Thomas Weelkes has emerged in modern
times as one of the finest composers of
Elizabethan and Jacobean church and
chamber music. He died in 1623, the
same year as the more illustrious court
composers William Byrd and Orlando
Gibbons, but never seemed to emerge
beyond his comparatively provincial
status, although his earlier career as a
madrigalist promised much. Famously,
his later life was somewhat plagued with
intrigue and scandal.
Nothing concrete is known of Weelkes’
birth or childhood, though there is strong
circumstantial evidence to suggest that
he was the son of a certain ‘John Weekes’,
who was rector of Elsted in Sussex, and
who, like the composer, had connections
with Oxford, Winchester and Chichester.
A ‘Thomas Wike’ was baptised in Elsted
parish church on 25 October 1576,
while a ‘Thomas Wikes’ appears listed
as a chorister of Winchester Cathedral
in 1583 and 1584. Certainly in 1598
the composer was appointed organist
at Winchester, and the following years
were to be his most fruitful in terms of
madrigal composition and publications.
After Winchester, Weelkes moved the
short distance to Chichester at some
point between 1601 and 1602, and there
received a decent salary. On 13 July 1602
he was awarded a BMus degree from New
College, Oxford, and in the following year
married Elizabeth Sandham, the daughter
of a wealthy Chichester merchant.
Weelkes appears to have thrived during
his early years in Chichester, where he
completed his fourth and final volume
of madrigals in 1608. It was shortly after
this time, however, that his personal
decline began. During the bishop’s
visitation in 1609 he was charged with
unauthorised absences, and in 1611
the Dean and Chapter questioned his
performance. In 1613 he was charged
with public drunkeness, and by 1616
he was ‘noted and famed for a common
drunkard and a notorious swearer and
blasphemer’. Matters came to a head in
1617 when Weelkes was dismissed from his
post as organist and choirmaster (though
he still retained his singing position as a
Sherbourne clerk). The oft-quoted
passage concerning the height of his
downfall is taken from the 1619 visitation
of Bishop Carlton:
‘Most of the choir and other the officers of
the same (as many as come to Divine Service)
demean themselves religiously all the time of
prayers, save only Thomas Weelkes, who divers
times and very often come so disguised [drunk]
either from the tavern or alehouse into the choir
as is much to be lamented, for in these humours
he will both curse and swear most dreadfully
... as it is most fearful to hear, and to the great
amazement of those present ... I know not
of any of the choir or other the officers of
the Church to be a common drunkard but
Mr. Weelkes.’
After this time it is clear that Weelkes
spent less time performing his duties in
Chichester. Following his wife’s death in
1622 he stayed in London at the house
of a friend, Henry Drinkwater, in St
Bride’s parish. Weelkes died in debt on
30 November 1623 and was buried the
following day at St Bride’s.
But regardless of any personal flaws on the
man, the music firmly stands as sublime.
While more Canticle settings survive from
Weelkes’ pen than any other composer of
the period, all are incomplete or woefully
defective (yet those that do survive
intact are of the highest quality). This
recording centres around Weelkes’ full
and verse anthems, several of which are in
honour of King James I (whose youthful
portrait is on the cover of this CD) as
well as music for viol consort and organ
solo. His style, although akin to that of
Gibbons or Tomkins (Obsidian CD702)
is, one might argue, more tuneful and
immediately appealing. Weelkes’ melodies
and harmonic progressions are infectious,
and certainly memorable. It is thought that
most of his church music dates from his
years at Chichester, and a good sample has
come down to us: no fewer than sixteen full
anthems and twenty-three verse anthems
(though of these, unfortunately, only five
survive intact). Weelkes drew largely from
biblical texts and, in particular, the psalter:
some metrical (Sternhold & Hopkins) and
some composite. ‘Hosanna to the son of
David’ stands out among his full anthems
in that, with its close imitation and intense
virile melodic entries, it follows closely
his well-honed madrigalian practices (the
same might be said for ‘All people clap
your hands’, though to a lesser extent).
The distinct three-part structure found
in ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ and ‘Alleluia. I
heard a voice’ is more typical, while the
poignant lament ‘When David heard’ is
one of the most successful settings of this
popular text. While Weelkes describes
himself as a Gentleman of the Chapel
Royal in his last volume of madrigals
(1608), there is nothing in the chapel
records to confirm this. It is suggested
that he was, at most, a Gentleman
Extraordinary; perhaps anthems dedicated
or alluding to King James I were composed
with such a position in mind. However, it
is worth noting that Weelkes was at the
height of his musical powers and influence
when James was crowned in 1603, so it may
possible that ‘O Lord, grant the King a
long life’ was composed for the coronation
ceremony at Westminster Abbey on 25
July (although it could have been written
simply in praise of the new English king).
For some of his verse anthems Weelkes
consulted published ‘meditations’ of
the time, including William Hennis’
‘Comfortable Dialogs betweene Christ and
a Sinner’ published in 1583 (containing a
beautiful monody of ‘Give ear, O Lord’),
and ‘If King Manasses’, which is an extract
from ‘St Peter’s complaint’ by the poet and
Catholic martyr Robert Southwell, who was
executed at Tyburn by hanging, drawing,
and quartering in 1595. It has been noted
that, in his verse anthems Weelkes leaves
much of the burden to the soloists, and
the full chorus passages are technically less
demanding; while this is indeed true for
most compositions, it is unlikely that this
was forced by any lack of competence in
the choir at Chichester. There is a depth,
poise, and rhetoric in each of these little
gems from the repeated ‘Mercy, good
Lord’ passages in ‘Give ear, O Lord’ to the
repeated couplets in ‘What joy so true’.
‘Most mighty and all-knowing Lord’ is
the only consort song to have survived
by Weelkes. However, a number of
Weelkes’ full anthems are easily adaptable
to such treatment, such as ‘Lord, to thee
I make my moan’ and ‘O mortal man’
performed here with viols. Relatively
little instrumental consort music survives,
though the Pavans recorded here represent
his finest (the third Pavan having been
reconstructed for this recording). Even
finer, perhaps, is his six-part Fantasy ‘for 2
Basses’, which, though short, is a beautiful
example of expertly concise construction
yet with profound impact.
Whatever the truth of Weelkes’s life and
morals, and setting aside the undoubted
sadness of his final years, his posthumous
reputation deserves to be based on his
proven skills as as a highly versatile and
imaginative composer, with a sure mastery
of the variety of styles, performing
forces and textures which we hear on this
David Skinner
Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
Hosanna to the Son of David
Hosanna to the Son of David.
Blessed be the King that cometh in the
name of the Lord. Hosanna, Hosanna.
Thou that sittest in the highest heav’ns.
Hosanna. Hosanna in excelsis Deo.
(Paraphrase of Luke 19: v. 38)
What joy so true
What joy so true, what comfort so divine
Throughout the race of our mortality
As that which they in greatest measure find,
Which keep the sacred bond of unity!
It much resembleth that delicious oil,
Infus’d upon the sacrificer’s crown,
Which, gliding thence, did all his beard
Thence smoothly stream’d his gorgeous
coat adown.
Or that pure issue of sweet Hermon dew
Which, scattered in many a crystal drop,
Lies ev’rywhere like pearls of clearest hue,
Enameling fair Sion’s stately top.
For so, right so, high God most lovingly,
Pours down His gracious benefits amain
Upon that, on that blest society
Whose life can love and amity maintain.
(Paraphrase of Psalm 133)
All people clap your hands
All people clap your hands, sing loud unto
the Lord with a joyful voice.
God is gone up with triumph, ev’n the
Lord with the sound of the trumpet.
Praise the Lord with harp, sing unto Him
with viol and instruments of music.
Let us rejoice in the living God from this
time forth for evermore. Amen.
(Paraphrase of Psalm 47)
Lord to thee I make my moan
Lord to thee I make my moan,
When dangers me oppress;
I call, I sigh, ‘plain and groan,
Trusting to find release.
Hear now, O Lord, my request,
For it is full due time,
And let Thine ears aye be press’d
Unto this prayer mine. Amen.
(Psalm 130, vv. 1-2; as in Sternhold &
When David heard
When David heard that Absalom was
slain, he went up to his chamber over the
gate, and wept; and thus he said: O my son
Absalom! Would God I had died for thee!
O Absalom, my son!
(2 Samuel 18, v. 33)
Gloria in excelsis Deo
Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Sing, my soul, to God Thy Lord,
All in glory’s highest key.
Lay the Angels’ choir abroad
In their highest holy day.
Crave thy God to tune thy heart
Unto praise’s highest part.
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Amen.
Give ear, O Lord
Give ear, O Lord, to hear a sinner’s careful
And let my woeful plaints ascend, above
the starry sky.
To grace receive the soul that puts his
trust in Thee:
And mercy grant to purge my sins.
Mercy, good Lord, mercy.
My soul desires to drink from fountains of
Thy grace,
to slake this thirst, O God, vouchsafe, turn
not away Thy face,
But bow Thy tender ear with mercy when
I cry,
And pardon grant for all sins past.
Mercy, good Lord, mercy.
Behold at length, O Lord, my true
repentant mind,
Which knocks with faith and hope thereby
Thy mercies great to find.
Thy promise thus hath pass’d, from which
I will not fly;
Who doth repent, trusting in Thee shall
taste of Thy mercy.
Mercy, good Lord, mercy.
(from ‘Comfortable Dialogs betweene Christ and
a Sinner’, William Hunnis, London, 1583)
Most mighty and all-knowing Lord
Most mighty and all-knowing Lord,
True spring of consolation,
I do confess with heart and word,
Thou art my preservation.
Thou know’st good father I am weak,
And cannot bear Thy heavy ire,
Not knowing what to do or speak,
Or how to save me from this fire.
Unless Thou point me out the way,
With Thy wise spirit me directing,
Unto the devil I am made a prey,
Were not Thy power me protecting.
(Printed in Sir William Leighton’s ‘The teares or
lamentacions of a sorrowfull soule’, London, 1614)
O how amiable
O how amiable are Thy dwellings, Thou
Lord of hosts.
My soul hath a desire and longing to enter
into the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my flesh rejoice in the living
O Lord God of hosts, blessed is the man
that putteth his trust in thee.
(Psalm 84)
Alleluia. I heard a voice
Alleluia. I heard a voice as of strong
thund’rings, saying: Alleluia.
Salvation and glory and honour and power
be unto the Lord our God, and to the
Lamb forevermore. Alleluia.
(Paraphrase of Revelation 19: 6)
O mortal man
O mortal man, how long wilt thou remain
Drowned in sin, in danger for to die?
Lift up thine heart, and turn to Christ again
With all meekness, and most humility.
Beseeching aye His heav’nly Majesty
Of faith and force to fight against the flesh,
Which wanders here in this vale of misery.
Is none but He that may our silly souls
Give the king Thy judgements
Give the king Thy judgements, O God,
and Thy righteousness unto the king’s son.
Then shall he judge the people according
unto right, and defend the poor. Behold,
O God our defender, and look upon the
face of Thine anointed.
Let the words of his mouth and the
meditations of his heart be always
acceptable in Thy sight. O Lord, our
strength and our redeemer. Behold, O God
our defender, and look upon the face of
Thine anointed. Amen.
(Composite of Psalms 72, vv. 1-2; 84, v. 9; and
19, v. 14)
If King Manasses
If King Manasses, sunk in depth of sin,
With plaints and tears recover’d grace and
A worthless worm some mild regard may
And lowly creep, where flying threw it
A poor desire I have to mend my ill,
I should, I would, I dare not say, I will.
I dare not say I will, but wish I may;
My pride is check’d, high words the
speaker spilt.
My good, O Lord ! Thy gift. Thy strength
my stay,
Give what Thou bidst, and then bid what
Thou wilt.
Work with me what of me thou dost request,
Then will I dare the worst and love the best.
With mildness, Jesu, measure mine
Let true remorse Thy due revenge abate;
Let tears appease when trespass doth
Let pity temper Thy deserved hate;
Let grace forgive, let love forget my fall:
With fear I crave, with hope I humbly call.
Tender my suit, cleanse this defiled den,
Cancel my debts, sweet Jesu, say Amen!
(Extract from Saint Peters complaint by Robert
Southwell, 1561?-1595)
O Lord, Grant the King a long life
O Lord, Grant the King a long life: that
his years may endure throughout all
generations. Let him dwell before Thee
for ever: O prepare Thy loving mercy and
faithfulness, that they may preserve him.
So shall we always sing and praise Thy
name. Amen.
(Psalm 6, vv. 6-7; these verses with Psalm
132, v. 17, make up the coronation anthem
appointed to be sung during the procession into
Westminster Abbey)
from the ruins of the Cambridge
Greyfriars in 1596 and has long been a
nest for professional musicians. Indeed
the large chapel that stood on this site in
pre-Reformation times was the regular
venue for University ceremonies and
was the venue where a number of early
English composers took their degrees,
including Robert Fayrfax (MusB, 1501;
DMus 1504) and Christopher Tye (MusB,
1536). One of the earliest musicians in
the College was the Royalist pamphleteer,
author, and violist Roger L’Estrange
(1616–1704), whose family were patrons
of the composer John Jenkins. Earlier
Directed by David Skinner
Benjamin Atkinson & Daniel Smith, organ scholars
Hannah Berridge, Emma Boulding,
Verity Bramson, Eleanor Cramer (a),
Amanda Kay, Ruth Shannon,
Catherine Shaw (b), Philippa Vega
Victoria Bullard-Smith, Rosemary Dilnot (c),
Rachel Dilworth, Renee Hale, Anna Isaac,
Anna Souter, Camilla Wehmeyer
Ruairi Bowen, James Cormack (d),
Patrick Flanagan, Thomas Hindmarch
Joachim Cassel, Laurens Macklon (e),
Yates Norton, Henry Scarlett,
Christopher Webb (f), Toby Young
(a) tracks 3, 6, 11, 15 & 19.
(b) tracks 3 & 19.
(c) tracks 3 & 19.
(d) track 10.
(e) track 14.
(f) track 19.
still, the great Elizabethan composer
William Byrd would have been wellknown
to the foundress, Lady Frances
Sidney, and indeed two very fine elegies
by Byrd survive for her nephew, the poet
and courtier Sir Philip Sidney. Currently
resident in the College is Dr Christopher
Page (1991), founder and former director
of the multi-award-winning Gothic
Voices, and Dr David Skinner (2006) who
is director of the
early music ensemble
Alamire, and Sidney’s
first Director of
The Choir’s first
recording with
Obsidian was Thomas
Tomkins ‘These
Distracted Times’
with Fretwork and
Alamire, which was
awarded Editor’s
Choice and CD of
the Month in the
Gramophone. The
choir has since gone on to record and
tour a number of innovative programmes,
and frequently tours throughout Europe
and the USA; they also work closely with
Composer in Residence, Eric Whitacre,
who has written a number of works
especially for the College.
Richard Boothby, Richard Tunnicliffe,
Liam Byrne, Asako Morikawa, Reiko
Ichise & Bill Hunt (six-part Fantasia only).
‘Fretwork is the finest viol consort on the
planet’ – Stephen Petitt, The London
Evening Standard.
In 2011, Fretwork celebrated 25 years of
performing music old and new, and look
forward to a challenging and exciting
future as the world’s leading consort
of viols. Fretwork have expanded their
repertory to include music from over
500 years, from the first printed
consort music in Venice in 1501
to music written this year. And,
in between, everything that
can by played on a consort of
viols – Byrd & Schubert, Purcell
& Shostakovitch, Gibbons &
Britten, Dowland & Grieg.
This great musical adventure has
taken them all over the globe,
from Russia to Japan to North
America to Australia. Audiences
have responded enthusiastically to the
extraordinary sound world that Fretwork
create and to the consistently high
standards that they embody. The future
sees many exciting projects based on the
thrilling juxtaposition of old and new;
making the experience of old music new
and bringing the sensibilities of past ages
to bear on contemporary music.
This recording is their second
collaboration with the Choir of Sidney
Sussex College, Cambridge.
David Skinner is well known as a leading
scholar and performer of early music,
and director of the acclaimed early music
ensemble Alamire (www.alamire.co.uk).
He has also worked with the main early
music ensembles in the UK, including The
Cardinall’s Musick (as co-founder), The
Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, The Hilliard
Ensemble and The King’s Singers.
David is Fellow, Tutor and Osborn
Director of Music at Sidney Sussex
College, Cambridge University, where he
teaches historical and practical topics from
the Medieval and Renaissance periods.
With Sidney Sussex Choir he has toured
and made highly acclaimed recordings.
David is frequently invited to lead
workshops and coach choirs in Europe and
the USA, and is noted for his refreshing
and entertaining approach. He has
published widely on music and musicians
of early Tudor England.

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