Erik-Peter Mortensen | Teach Me, O Lord

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Classical: Early Music Classical: Choral Music Moods: A Cappella
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Teach Me, O Lord

by Erik-Peter Mortensen

Heavily influenced by William Byrd's composition of the same name, Teach Me, O Lord is written in the style of an English verse anthem, for soloist, full choir, and accompaniment of varying disposition - in this case, a cappella "loo's".
Genre: Classical: Early Music
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About the track:

Heavily influenced by William Byrd's composition of the same name, Teach Me, O Lord is written in the style of an English Jacobean verse anthem, for soloist, full choir, and accompaniment of varying disposition - in this case, a cappella "loo's". Accompaniment could also suitably be provided by organ or a chamber consort of viols or mixed instruments.

In religious music, the verse anthem is a species of choral music, or song, distinct from the motet or 'full' anthem (i.e. for full choir).

In the 'verse' anthem the music alternates between sections for a solo voice or voices (called the 'verse') and the full choir. The organ provided accompaniment in liturgical settings, but viols took the accompaniment outside of the church. In the 'verses', solo voices were expected to ornament their parts for expressive effect with the 'full choir' sections providing contrast in volume and texture. The verse anthems were a major part of the English Reformation due to the use of the vernacular. In addition to this, the use of soloists allowed the text to be expressed more clearly. For the choirmaster they were useful too: the choir only had to learn a small part of the anthem, leaving the hardest passages to a soloist to learn on their own, reducing rehearsal time. Verse anthems developed and were very popular during the early 17th to the middle of the 18th centuries. At the Restoration of Charles II, enthusiasm for the older 'motet' style of anthem returned, but composers continued to write verse anthems, sometimes on a grand scale, particularly for the Chapel Royal.

Notable composers of verse anthems include William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Tomkins, John Bull and Pelham Humfrey. The "Star Anthem" by John Bull was the most popular Jacobean verse anthem occurring in more contemporary sources than any other. Of the Jacobean anthems the most well known in the 21st century is "This is the Record of John" written by Orlando Gibbons for a visit of Archbishop Laud to his alma mater St. John's College Oxford.

Verse anthems have been frequently transposed to suit modern English cathedral choir voices, so "This is the Record of John" exists as an alto solo as well as the original tenor.

Henry Purcell composed several examples, usually for special occasions like the composition of his odes. For example, "The Way of God is an Undefiled Way", apparently a Psalm setting, was to be sung by the famed bass soloist, the Reverend John Gostling, to celebrate King William III's safe and successful return from campaigning in Flanders. The larger anthems are often referred to as Symphony Anthems as they include, in addition to sections for 'verse' and 'full choir', passages for string instruments and organ alone, e.g. 'O sing unto the Lord' and 'Rejoice in the Lord always'.

About the text:

Source of text: Psalm 119 vv.33-38 (BCP), with the minor doxology.
Description: Third Psalm to the Second Preces, this alphabetic acrostic is the longest Psalm: 176 verse lines and 1063 words. Together with Psalm 118, it functions in Book V as a bridge between two well-defined cycles, the First Group of Eleven Psalms (107-117) and the Songs of Ascents (120-134).

Book of Common Prayer (1662)
English text

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes : and I shall keep it unto the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law : yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart.
35 Make me to go in the path of thy commandments : for therein is my desire.
36 Incline my heart unto thy testimonies : and not to covetousness.
37 O turn away mine eyes, lest they behold vanity : and quicken thou me in thy way.
38 O stablish thy word in thy servant : that I may fear thee.

(minor doxology)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.


Recorded, edited and mixed at Papagena Productions, New York City


Emily Speer, soprano
Erik-Peter Mortensen, countertenor
Edwin Santayana, tenor
Erik-Peter Mortensen, bass



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