Wanley Partbooks Project

I'm working through the men's pieces of the Wanley Partbooks (Bodleian Music School MSS e.420-422) this summer with the men of One Equall Musick. It's pretty interesting stuff - musicologically and culturally. It's a mixed bag, even when it comes to the four-part anthems we're trawling through. There's plenty of homophony, interwoven with first-species counterpoint, and some more complex Eton-choirbook-like counterpoint (in one of the Amens - Lord Jesu Christ, son of the Living God). And there's some harmonic / cadential oddities like ending on a 1st inversion of a D major chord, where the Basses have a 6th into the final note... But there are also other things - some counterfeited pieces too: Taverner's Ave Virgo Sanctissima becomes christological, and several pieces mention Edward VI.

Our method has been to read through the some 30 four-part men's pieces, and to weed them down to a manageable size for simple research/demo-quality recording. At the moment we have 11 pieces:

  • #8 John Sheppard - I give you a new commandment
  • #19 Anon - Happy is the People
  • #20 Anon - Christus Resurgens
  • #21 Anon - O Most Merciful
  • #22 Anon - Lord Jesu Christ, son of the Living God
  • #29 Robert Okeland - Praise We the Father
  • #41 Anon - Let all the Congregation
  • #49 Thomas Tallis - If Ye Love Me (Wanley Version)
  • #55 Anon - Pater Noster
  • #58 Anon - Christ Our Paschal Lamb
  • #64 Anon - Let your light so shine
  • #69 Anon - O God in Whose Hands
We've cut the one that mentions 'science', but it's worth noting that its there in the collection. Some pieces are sentences, and are only a page long, while others are much longer anthems of 3-5 pages. The longest, by far, however is Let all the Congregation which we're having fun with - it's 8 pages, but each 12 bar section is repeated. First time, a duet, then filled out to 4 parts (fauxburden?). We're doing them in quartets, and at a bit of a clip.

One of the main questions we're looking to address is tempo. Christus Resurgens is best done at 1 in a bar, though it looks longer on the page than in reality. Transcriptions are helping in some places, but actually just getting into the pieces seems to be best. We're doing most at 66-70bpm for the semi-breve / whole note. Christus Resurgens is double that because of the notation.

Next week on July 15th we'll be practicing these pieces in the Ancienne Chappelle du College Brebeuf - a converted Jesuit chapel on Cote Ste Catherine here in Montreal. It's now a multi-purpose space for a junior college: the nave is a hall, while the Bibliotheque de a Compagnie de Jesu wraps around the nave, along the celestories, into the apse, but mainly raised off the floor in a two-storey addition at the back of the nave. The Bibliotheque houses the printed collection of the first Jesuit library in North America. We're getting a tour, and we'll sing some early Quebec music in this space before our rehearsal.