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Tudor Settings of the Lord’s Prayer

The reign of Elizabeth I brought comparative stability after the turmoil following her father's Reformation and the various regimes that followed it. The fate of English religion was now settled. The Book of Common Prayer, written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in Edward VI's reign, was re-established. All Church Services were to be held in English, rather than Latin. The musicians of the day would have to compose works to new texts, rather than to the traditional Latin. Many musicians, such as William Byrd, were Catholic or had Catholic sympathies, and had previously written music especially for the catholic rite. Some of these works were simply given new, English titles.

Yet this was a time of great musical creativity. All the major components of the prayer book were set to music: Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, Benedictus, Te Deum, Jubilate, Responses, Litany and Psalms, as well as the liturgy of Communion and many other prayers. However, one important text was given short shrift by all this musical activity: The Lord's Prayer.

The dearth of sources is striking, perhaps reflecting a necessity for the congregation to recite this crucial piece of the liturgy. And so there are only a handful of settings. However, those which do remain are both interesting and impressive. I have split them up into three groups, according to their various attributes:

Homophonic Settings

Robert STONE (1516 - 1613)

The usual source for this work is Certaine notes set forth in foure & three parts, printed by John Day in 1560. However, earlier partbook from the Edwardian period (1549 - 1552) show this to be (one of) the first settings of this English text. This is the Lord's Prayer with which most choral musicians will be familiar, because of its almost parity to the Book of Common Prayer text. Despite the composer's long life, it is his only known composition.

The British Library has the Medius and Bass books of the first edition, printed in 1560, (K.7.e.7.) and a complete set of the second edition, printed in 1565, (K.7.e.8.) which corrects a wrong note in the Medius part. Each of the part books, with the exception of the Bass, contains the seemingly obvious sentence: "This Meane is for Men"; "This Contratenor is for Men"; and "This Tenor is for Men". Fermatas are printed at the ends of each phrase in only the Contratenor and Tenor books, whilst the key signature is given in only the Medius and Tenor. The books also provide a number of settings of the Canticles for Evening and Morning Prayer, and various other settings.

Despite the correction of one note in the Medius part in the second edition, Day's print still contains a number of errors and oddities. Luckily, a set of Edwardian partbooks, known as the Wanley Partbooks (Bodleian MSS Mus e 420 - 422), provide a much more accurate and presumably more authoritative version of the work. There are some rhythmic differences, better provision of accidentals, and a repeat mark for the final phrase 'But deliver us'.

The Bass part of the Wanley book is mirrored in an early 17th-century part book written in Ludlow Parish Church, now held at the Shrewsbury Record Office, which shows that Day's 1560 print was not the only source in common currency.

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John FARMER (c. 1570 - 1602)
Thomas MORLEY (1557 - 1602)
William PARSONS (fl. 1545 - 63)
John Angus (fl. 1543 - 95)

These Lord's Prayers are similar for two reasons. Firstly, the text is the version found in the metrical psalter by Sternhold & Hopkins, and secondly, they share the tenor line. This line was sung by the congregation and known as The Church Tune.

Such psalters were originally produced by John Day, as is the 1563 edition, in which the setting by Parsons appears. Day won the exclusive right to produce these psalters from Elizabeth I in 1557, and demand became so great that he had to license other printers. Eventually the monopoly broke, due in part to domestic strife between Day and his son, Richard. The composer William Byrd gained the monopoly on music printing in 1575, but handed over control in 1587 to Thomas East, his printer. The 1592 edition of the metrical psalter, printed by East, contains the Lord's Prayer by John Farmer. Thomas Morley won control of the music printing monopoly in 1595, and so it is no surprise that the publisher William Barley included a setting of the Lord's Prayer by Morley in his edition of 1598.

Farmer's version is the best known to present day church musicians, but usually appears with the underlay changed to the Book of Common Prayer version, which adversely affects the natural rhythm. Originally, it is more likely that these settings would be sung in the Communion service, at either of the two occasions where the prayer appears in the Book of Common Prayer liturgy.

Of course, being Scottish, John Angus is technically not a Tudor composer, but a Stuart one. His setting is taken from the Wode partbooks (GB-Eu MS La III. 483(a), (b), (c); GB-Lbl Add. MS 33933), dating c. 1560.

Since the publication of the Church Music Society's edition of Tudor Responses, there has always been a desire to complement it with contemporary settings of the Lord's Prayer. However, a dearth of suitable settings has created a climate in which only a few editions, of mostly dubious pedigree, abound.

For this reason, Ancient Groove Music has published Five Tudor Settings of the Lord's Prayer, being those by Stone, Parsons, Farmer, Morley and Angus. The intention is to provide a companion to the Preces & Responses, which will prove a similarly standard, and hopefully definitive, rendering of Lord's Prayers suitable for singing in church services.

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Polyphonic Settings

John SHEPPARD (1515 - 1560)

This piece is a rare example of a polyphonic setting of this English text. Whilst the text is close to the Book of Common Prayer, it is more of a motet than a hymn. The piece is in 5 parts, (SAATB) and is a superb example of Sheppard's style, incorporating complex contrapuntal movement and imitation. This gem exists only in a Tenor part book of 1578 (British Library Add. 22597 f.15b), however a table book of the same year contains the piece set out for viols (Add. 31390 f.94) and is titled: A book of In Nomines and other solfainge songes of v, vi, vii parts for voices or instruments, followed by the motto Vermis et non homo (I am a worm and no man: Psalm 22, verse 6). Consequently the only extant underlay is found in the tenor.

The underlay for the other parts is editorial and italicised. Text in square brackets in the tenor denotes the editorial filling in of repeat marks. The text of the Amen exists as the phrase 'Always so be it' and has been altered for idiomatic conformity. The placing of the underlay in the Amen reflects the original phrasing. Note values have been halved. Each F in the source is sharpened individually; there are no editorial accidentals. Ligatures in both sources are marked by a bracket over the notes concerned. Small notes are editorial; in the Tenor part they show variation in the viol book from the vocal source. A broken tie represents a note which has been split, or joined, to accommodate underlay. All barlines and slurs are editorial. All punctuation and spelling has been corrected to the Book of Common Prayer, where appropriate.

This motet is available from Ancient Groove Music. | Download |Up to Top

Hymnal Settings

Thomas CAUSTON (c.1520 - 1569)
William PARSONS (fl. 1545 - 1563)
Richard EDWARDS (1524 - 1566)
George KIRBY (1555 - 1577)
John Angus (fl. 1543–95)

These four settings have a markedly different text, a nine verse metrical setting also included in the Sternhold and Hopkins psalters, and again share a tenor line. This is 'an old High Dutch [i.e. German] tune', according to Ravenscroft, and is described elsewhere as Vater unser in Himmelreich. Indeed, it does match the tune of this name as used by Bach and others. The verses elaborate on each phrase of the Lord's Prayer, and the whole is sung as a hymn, each verse being musically identical.

Other harmonisations of the tenor tune can be found in a variety of psalters of the period, including two settings by the Scottish composer John Angus (fl. 1543–95), which are found in the Scottish Metrical Psalter of 1566.

It is well worth displaying the text in its entirety:

Our Father which in heaven art
And makst us all one brotherhood,
To call upon thee with one heart
Our heavenlie Father and our God,
Grant we pray not with lips alone
But with the heart's deep sigh and groan.

Thy blessed name be sanctified,
Thy heavenlie word might us inflame,
In holie life for to abide,
To magnifie thy holie name:
From all errours, defend and kepe
The little flocke of thy poore shepe.

Thy kingdom come even as this houre,
And henceforth everlastingly
Thine holie Gost into us poure
With all his gifts most pleanteously:
From Sathan's rage and filthie bande
Defende us with thy mighty hand.

Thy will be done with diligence.
Like as in heaven in earth also:
In trouble graunt us patience,
Thee to obey in wealth and woe:
Let not flesh, bloud, or any il
Prevaile against thy holy wil:

Give us this day daily bread,
And all other good things of thine:
Keepe us from war and from bloud-shed
Also from sicknesse, death and pine
That we may live in quietness,
Without all greedy carefulnesse.

Forgive us our offences all
Relieve our careful conscience,
As we forgive both great and small
Which unto us have done offence.
Prepare us Lord for to serve thee
In perfite love and unitie.

O lord into temptation
Lead us not when the fiend doth rage:
To withstand his invasion,
Give power & strengthe in every age.
Arme and make strong thy feble hoste
With faith and with the holie goste.

O Lord, from il deliver us
The dayes and times are dangerous:
From everlasting death save us,
And in our last end comfort us.
A blessed end to us bequeeth:
Into thine hands our soules receive.

For thou, O Lord, art king of kings
And thou hast power over all:
Thy glorie shineth in al things
In the wide world universal.
Amen, let it be done, O Lord
That we have prayd with one accord.
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