Music post: Henry Purcell

Okay either there’s a demand for Zepuka or there’s a demand for more music posts. Probably both, but finding out these sorts of things will take time and effort we simply don’t have. So let’s just bank on it and see if it works! I mean seriously, what do we have to lose?

Alright, say it’s the 1600’s and you live within the British Kingdom. Things are pretty cool; you’re still kicking even though the Black Death (combo x2) is rampaging and you hit mid-life crisis around 20 years of age. Not too shabby; have to say it’s a step up from barbarism. Why, feudalism is the best thing since sliced bread! (or does sliced bread come later?) So what’s music to you? You may hear the occasional lute, lyre or viol pluck a note or maybe a nice clicky harpsichord, but it should be safe to say iPods or personal orchestras aren’t for the common folk. At any rate, your queen dies. Matriarchal leadership can be harsh, yet it was all you had ever known for your whole short lifetime.

In comes Henry Purcell to baroque and roll! Queen Mary II has her funeral all ready and set up while Purcell busts out what he’s been working on for the past few years: A full anthem of processional themes. Dour perhaps, but surprisingly sheds light on the myriad of emotions many may have had back in the day. Listen to this excerpt below and you might sense something more than just the sadness caused by loss of a friend, especially when you hope on that separation to be temporary.

Sure, a casual listener may capture the words as vain repetition, but what the singers might be crying for could sway that presumption. The psalm it is quoting tells of a seeker of God out of necessity, though being in a temporal state; not quite where they will be in the future, striving to keep faith in the present. On a more personal level, they might be shouting thanksgiving to God for allowing them to live in the same world and time as the one they’ve just let go. They could be begging God to give them strength even now in an effort to take full advantage of how their loved one encouraged them to be faithful.

Seems this version has five singing parts, but may have had more on the original performance. If the psalm wasn’t enough, the notes themselves appear to share a certain emotion: a quintessential theme in Christianity. The ebb and flow of major and minor chords shingling one another sparks the dichotomy between sadness and blessing, man’s sin and God’s righteousness, and Jesus’ death and resurrection. Can goodly things be recognized aptly without evil to contrast? Can choosing God be any more sincere when given free will on a sin-cursed Earth? Is God revealing more love when we are humbled so low that He reaches deeper to pull us up?

There isn’t much I can say to put justice to this piece, but I thought it was worth the share even if tastes clash. For the record, I’d take these two minutes and change over anything written in the past seventy-five years. Enjoy. (Thanks, Thomas)
Psalm 102:1

3 thoughts on “Music post: Henry Purcell”

  1. See when I think of Henry Purcell I always think of the wedding songs Trumpet Voluntary and Trumpet Tune in D. I can never remember which one was written by Purcell, but come to find out today after looking them both up neither were written by him. Both were instead miss-attributed to him.

    Nice write-up on him though, it never hurts to get a bit more classical music in our lives once in a while.

    HT’s last blog post.. Bold Faced Lies

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