ORLANDO GIBBONS (1583 - 1625)
Orlando Gibbons belongs to the generation of English composers which followed that of William Byrd, 40 years his senior, who died in 1623. He was a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, where his elder brother was Master of the Choristers, and later became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, which he served as an organist and to which he later added the position of organist at Westminster Abbey. He wrote music for the Church of England, madrigals, consort music and keyboard works.
Gibbons wrote some 40 anthems. Of these the verse anthem This is the record of John is one of the best known. The verse anthem, a peculiarly Anglican form of church music, contrasts a solo voice with passages for full choir; other fine examples from Gibbons include the Christmas anthem Behold, I bring you glad tidings, Glorious and powerful God and Sing unto the Lord, o ye saints. The eight-voice full anthem O clap your hands is a noteworthy example of another form of anthem, without the use of solo voices. Other full anthems include Hosanna to the son of David and Lift up your heads.
Secular Vocal Music
The most famous of all the madrigals Gibbons wrote is The silver swanne, included in the only collection published by the composer, The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets, apt for Viols and Voyces. This collection appeared, advertised as newly composed, in 1612. Some of these are more akin to consort songs for solo voice and instrumental accompaniment, and could be performed in this way rather than with each part sung. Gibbons’s consort songs include the remarkable concoction The Cryes of London for five voices and five viols, a composition that makes use of the street cries of hawkers and vendors in the London of his time.
Gibbons wrote a number of pieces for consorts of viols, the playing of which was socially acceptable. These include contrapuntal fantasias, dance movements, and examples of the traditional English instrumental form the In nomine—a composition based on a fragment of a setting of the ‘Benedictus’ in a Mass by the English composer John Taverner.
Gibbons continued the English tradition of keyboard music exemplified in the work of William Byrd, John Bull and others. Work by all three was published in 1613 under the title Parthenia or the Maydenhead of the First Musicke that ever was printed for the Virginals. Gibbons contributed a number of fantasias, one of them for double organ, and various airs and dance movements, including Lord Salisbury’s Pavan and Galliard.
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