Wanley Partbooks

Music for Men from the Wanley Partbooks

If Ye Love Me: Sixteenth-Century Music for Men's Choir and Organ

January 2016

How do musicians respond to rapid cultural change? Choristers and organists faced this question head on in the late 1540s as the English church services went from late medieval catholicism to full blown protestantism in the space of a few months. The new services required new music - often this meant counterfeiting (adding new English lyrics) old Latin motets, but it also meant composing new works that fit the mood of the times. Edwardine England (1547-1553) was an age of musical experimentation as composers and musicians sought to figure out what would work best with a new language, new services, and challenges to their craft. The most ardent reformers didn't like choirs very much and sought to emphasize congregational singing. The pieces we're left with are a hodge-podge of repurposed late medieval choral polyphony, homophonic chant-like psalms, and a series of first-species counterpoint pieces. Our concert will explore a range of works for Men’s Choir from the Wanley Partbooks (Bodleian MSS Music School e. 420-422, c.1549-c.1551), from short 30 second sentences, to interpolated organ and choral settings, anthems, and a five-part men’s communion setting. Many of the pieces are best described as 'one off' functional liturgical music. But there are diamonds amidst the rough - Thomas Tallis's If Ye Love Me, being the most famous. We’re very pleased to welcome Adrian Foster, who will be offering works from the Mulliner Book (British Library Additional MS 30513), a contemporary manuscript of keyboard, vocal, and instrumental music.

Following brief introductions to the Wanley and Mulliner manuscripts, and their mid-Tudor context, our concert this evening will alternate between choral and organ pieces. Most of the pieces are fairly short – some last no more than thirty seconds! You’ll find they’re a mixed bag. Some, like Tallis’s famous piece, foreshadow the great age of Elizabethan and Jacobean polyphony with William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Tallis himself. Others harken back to the pre-Reformation era of the Eton Choirbooks. There are moments where we are familiar with movement of the melodic lines and harmonic progressions, yet points where we find the unfamiliar and unexpected. We’ve sifted through some 40 pieces for men’s voices, and found what we think are the best. Some works are more polished than others.

Our evening is arranged around two themes: communion and evening. The first half features music which would have been performed during a communion service – a five-part setting, with sentences, and anthems. The second turns to an evening service. Here we find a slightly different focus on homophonic textures, presaging the rise of Anglican chant.

  • John Sheppard, I give you a new Commandment (Wanley #8)
  • Edwardine England & the Wanley Partbooks – Matthew Milner (History, McGill)
  • Richard Allwood, A Voluntarye (Mulliner #17)
  • Anon., O Most Merciful (Wanley #21)
  • Anon., psalmus. O Lorde turne not awaye (Mulliner #109)
  • Anon., Let Your Light (Wanley #64)
  • Anon., Christus Resurgens (Wanley #20)
  • Richard Farrant, Felix namque (Mulliner #19)
  • Anon., Sanctus & Benedictus (‘Communion Service VIII’, Wanley #86)
  • Robert Johnson, In nomine (Mulliner #45)
  • Robert Stone, Pater Noster (Wanley #56)
  • John Redford, Agnus Dei (Oxford, Christ Church, Musical Ms 371)
  • Anon., Agnus Dei (‘Communion Service VIII’, Wanley #86)
  • Anon., Happy are Those Servants (‘Postcommunion Sentence’, Wanley #10)
  • John Redford, Verbum supernum withe a meane (Mulliner #66)
  • Anon., I am the Voice of a Crier (‘Postcommunion Sentence’, Wanley #31)
  • John Sheppard, Versus (I) (Mulliner #55)
  • Anon., Christ our Paschal Lamb (Wanley #58)
  • John Redford, Salvum fac (Mulliner #62)
  • The Mulliner Book – Adrian Foster (Music, McGill)
  • Anon., O God in Whose Hands (Wanley #69)
  • John Sheppard,Quia fecit (Mulliner #24)
  • Anon., Nunc Dimittis (Wanley #33)
  • John Redford, Glorificamus (Mulliner #54)
  • Anon., Happy is the People (Wanley #19)
  • Christe qui lux est: Organ verses by John Redford (Mulliner #31 & #40; London, British Library MS Additional 29996); and Heathe (Mulliner #107)
  • Anon., O Lord the Maker of All Thing (Wanley #53)
  • Thomas Tallis, Iste confessor (Mulliner #106)
  • Thomas Tallis, If ye Love Me (Wanley #49)