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Orlando Gibbons: Orlando Gibbons (b. Oxford, 1583; d. Canterbury, 5 June 1625).
Orlando Gibbons was born in Oxford and baptised at St Martin's Church on Christmas Day, 1583. The family moved to Cambridge in 1588, and in 1596 Orlando entered the choir of King's College, where his brother, Edward, was then Master of the Choristers. He matriculated in 1598 as 'a sizar from King's' and the 'Mundum' account books show that in 1602 and 1603 he received reimbursement for music composed for special occasions. In March 1605, at the age of twenty-one, Orlando Gibbons was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal - a position he held for the remainder of his life. The following year he proceeded to the degree of B.Mus. at Cambridge. At about this time he married Elizabeth, daughter of John Patten of Westminster. Orlando Gibbons and his wife lived in the Woolstaple, Westminster, and their seven children were born there and baptised at St Margaret's Church.
In addition to his appointment at the Chapel Royal, Orlando Gibbons enjoyed considerable Royal patronage - in 1619, for instance, he succeeded Walter Earle as one of the 'musicians for the virginalls to attend in his hignes privie chamber' at a salary of £46. On the 17th May 1622, Orlando Gibbons received the degree of D.Mus. at Oxford. In 1623, he succeeded John Parsons as organist of Westminster Abbey, where, on the 5th April 1625, he was responsible for conducting the music at the state funeral of James I. Two months later the new King, Charles I, summoned the Chapel Royal to Canterbury to await the arrival of his queen, Henrietta Maria, from France. On Wednesday the 5th June, before the queen arrived, Orlando Gibbons suffered an apoplectic fit and died. He was buried the next day in Canterbury Cathedral, and a memorial tablet surmounted by his bust and coat of arms, was placed on the north wall of the nave. A copy of a contemporary portrait of Orlando Gibbons is in the Faculty of Music at Oxford. The original is unfortunately lost.
Orlando Gibbons wrote no music for the Latin rite of the church so far as is known, his great reputation is founded on his English Church music, secular vocal music and instrumental music. His church music includes a full service, a verse service, some forty anthems, two sets of preces, and seventeen hymn-tunes - most of which are found in the collection of Hymnes and Songs of the Church published by George Wither in 1623. Very little of Orlando Gibbons' music was published in his lifetime - a set of Madrigals and Mottets of 5 Parts: apt for Viols and Voyces appeared in 1612, some keyboard pieces in Parthenia (n.d.), and two sacred songs were included in Leighton's Teares and Lamentations (1612).
Orlando Gibbons' 'Short' Service is exceptionally tuneful, a quality which secured the work immediate and lasting popularity. The 'Verse' Service stands among the finest of such settings. Of the large-scale full anthems, Hosanna to the Son of David, O clap your Hands, and Lift up your heads, are particularly impressive, To this list must be added the penitential six-part anthem O Lord in Thy wrath, a work ol solemn intensity. In contrast to the magnificently rhetorical anthems, Orlando Gibbons proved himself to be a master of small design, as in the beautiful four-part setting of Almighty and everlasting God. A work of similar proportions, the anthem O Lord, increase my faith, long attributed to Orlando Gibbons, is now known to have been composed by Henry Loosemore, who was organist of King's College, Cambridge. A high proportion of Orlando Gibbons' anthems favour the verse structure - alternating passages for solo voice, with choir. Many have accompaniments for viols instead of organ. This is the record of John is Orlando Gibbons' most popular verse anthem, and clearly demonstrates his absolute mastery of the medium. His sensitive understanding of the declamatory features of the solo voice are fully exploited here and in another superb verse anthem See, see the Word is incarnate. He is often said to have experimented with the form and in effect to have prepared it for consolidation in the hands of Blow, Humfrey and Purcell. Orlando Gibbons regarded the solo voice more as part of the contrapuntal texture, with constant interplay of idea between voice and instrument resulting in an essentially polyphonic form - a completely different attitude to the Restoration composers.
Orlando Gibbons' ever-popular madrigal The silver swan (which is in a form closely akin to the 'ayre') is contained in the 1612 publication of Madrigals and Mottets. This important collection includes works which rank with the greatest music of the age: for instance, Now each flowry bank, What is our life, and Dainty fine bird that art encaged.
A performer of great accomplishment, Orlando Gibbons was described by a contemporary as having 'the best hand in England'. Yet his own keyboard compositions are noticeably restrained. Excluding some of the variations and dances, there are very few instances of the brilliant flourishes which colour so much keyboard music of the period. The Earl of Salisbury's Pavan and Galliard are acknowledged masterpieces among virginal music, and although the magnificent four-part Fantasia seems likely to have been intended for the organ, it was included in Parthenia, 'the first musicke that ever was printed for the virginalls'. The collection also includes five other keyboard pieces by Orlando Gibbons, which in total represents all that were published during the composer's lifetime. A Fancy For a Double Orgaine, the sole source of which is Benjamin Cosyn's Virginal Book of 1620, is the earliest extant example of the form which later became known as the 'double' voluntary. It gives us a glimpse of the qualities of Orlando Gibbons' organ playing which commanded such wide respect. Among his string compositions are a set of nine fantasias, the first music ever to be 'cut on copper'. A complete edition of Orlando Gibbons' keyboard music was published in 1967 by Professor Gerald Hendrie in the 'Musica Britannica' series.
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