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Behold, It Is Christ

Behold, It Is Christ cover picture

The Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge

Director: Andrew Gant
Blow out the trumpet Martin Peerson
O, had I wings like to a dove John Milton
Alas that I offended Edmund Hooper
O, clap your hands together Orlando Gibbons
The Blessed Lamb Edmund Hooper
A song of joy Orlando Gibbons
Magnificat - The Short Service Edmund Hooper
Nunc Dimittis - The Short Service Edmund Hooper
Wellspring of bounty Edmund Hooper
Magnificat - The Great Service Edmund Hooper
Nunc Dimittis - The Great Service Edmund Hooper
When one among the twelve there was Orlando Gibbons
Magnificat - The Verse Service Edmund Hooper
Nunc Dimittis - The Verse Service Edmund Hooper
Behold, it is Christ Edmund Hooper
Now shall the praises of the Lord be sung Edmund Hooper

Total playing time 57m 00s

Behold, It Is Christ

Behold, It Is Christ
Anthems and services by Edmund Hooper and his contemporaries

Behold, It Is Christ

Edmund Hooper is one of the finest, though one of the least known, of early 17th century English composers. Born around 1553, he was appointed Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey in 1588, and Organist (the first person to hold the title still used today) in 1606. He was also a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and, from 1615, joint Organist of the Chapel Royal with Orlando Gibbons. He died in 1621 and is buried in the Abbey cloisters.

His music was extremely popular in its day. John Day included three of his pieces in his "First Book of selected Church Music" of 1641, and there are also contributions by Hooper to the volumes compiled by Este, Ravenscroft and Leighton. His full anthem Behold, it is Christ appears in more contemporary sources than any other piece of the period, a remarkable testament to its popularity.
A relatively small amount of his music survives: about seventeen anthems or sacred songs, four services of varying completeness, and a tiny amount of keyboard music. However, despite their small number, his compositions show a remarkably wide range of compositional skills and a wholly original and striking musical personality. His settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are of great interest in being in the three main forms of the time: Great, Verse and Short. All three are recorded here. His anthems likewise range in scope from the tiny Wellspring of bounty to the magnificent verse anthem The Blessed Lamb, equal in its grandeur to any contemporary example. This highly individual approach to the length and scale of his anthems may be one reason for their relative neglect; some are very long and demanding, others so short that it is difficult to find a context for their use. Another possible reason is that he favoured expressive devotional poetry for his texts, sometimes of questionable literary merit. The text of the miniature Wellspring of bounty, for example, is somewhat baffling. However, when he found a text of drama and profundity like The Blessed Lamb, his skill in word-setting and in building a large-scale musical structure, together with a uniquely expressive harmonic language, combine to produce music of a power unsurpassed by even the most celebrated of his contemporaries.

This recording sets Edmund Hooper alongside three contemporary musicians, all active in London at about the same time. Martin Peerson (c.1572-1651), was Sacrist of Westminster Abbey during Hooper"s tenure, becoming Organist of St. Paul"s Cathedral in 1624. He composed music in a variety of forms, including ayres, madrigals and instrumental pieces. John Milton (1563-1647), was father of the poet of the same name. Though not a professional composer (he became Master of the Scrivener's Company in 1634), he was a composer of some reputation in his day - one of his madrigals appears in the collection "The Triumphs of Oriana" of 1601. There is also reference to a 40-part "In nomine" by Milton, but it does not survive. The most familiar name in this short list is that of Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), Hooper's colleague and successor at Westminster Abbey. He was sent by Charles I to Dover in 1625 to meet the new Queen, Henrietta Maria, but regrettably died of apoplexy while he was there. He is buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

The permission of Mrs Bridget le Huray to use the unpublished work of the late Dr Peter le Huray is gratefully acknowledged.
Produced by Philip Moore
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews