Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Graydon Beeks (Pomona College, USA)

"Cherubs, in his high praise, thy anthems sung": the creation of a Handelian repertoire

At the time of his death Handel was already viewed as a great composer of sacred music. Unfortunately, few of the anthems he had actually written were appropriate for performance in cathedrals or in parish churches large enough to maintain choirs. In an attempt to create a repertoire of suitable anthems, musicians in the late 18th century generally followed one of two paths with varying degrees of success.

The first is exemplified by Thomas Pitt’s collection of SIX ANTHEMS/ From the sacred works of Handel published at Worcester in 1788 and followed the next year by a second volume of ten anthems. Pitt, a lay clerk and later organist of Worcester Cathedral, followed the lead of William Boyce, who in the 1760s had created anthems for the Chapel Royal by selecting several related solo and choral movements from Israel in Egypt and Messiah, shortening them, and providing organ accompaniments.

The other path was followed by Hugh Bond, Lay Vicar of Exeter Cathedral, in his Twelve/ ANTHEMS/ for/ ONE, TWO, THREE, AND FOUR VOICES,/ the Music selected from the sacred Oratorios of /MR. HANDEL which was published for the author in London in about 1792. Bond, following the lead of Samuel Arnold in his pasticcio oratorios such as Omnipotence, selected generally unrelated movements from a number of different oratorios and fitted them to new words. Significantly, Bond retained the original keys for these movements and did not abridge them.

Last updated on 10 May 2004