Programme Notes – “A daynty fine verse” St Swithun’s, Worcester, 31 July 2015

“A daynty finWP_20150731_11_08_50_Proe verse”
St Swithun’s, Worcester,  
31 July 2015
Music by Thomas Tomkins, William Hayes and from early 16th century manuscripts, played on the reconstructed c1530 ‘Wetheringsett’, and the 1795 Grey organs by

Andrew Benson-Wilson

Thomas Tomkins  ‘A Fancy’
Anon., from the ‘Tomkins’ manuscript: BM 29996.
Summi Largitor præmii  “A daynty fine verse“.  3 verses
Bina caelestis II “a good 2pts“.  3 verses

William Hayes  Organ Concerto in G
Adagio – Allegro – Andante – Minuetto Allegro

Thomas Tomkins
In nomini domini: gloria tibi Trinitas  (20/28 January 1647)
Voluntary or Fancy  (10 August 1647)
A sad pavan: For these distracted Tymes  (14 February 1649)
Worster Brauls


Today’s programme features two Worcester Cathedral organists, Thomas Thomkins and William Hayes, together with music from around 1540 collected and commented on by Tomkins.

WP_20150730_12_49_09_ProThomas Tomkins came from a Cornish family, but was born (in 1572) in St David’s where his father was organist. After a family move to Gloucester, Tomkins became organist of Worcester Cathedral in 1596, marrying the widow of his predecessor. In 1612 Tomkins commissioned the famous Thomas Dallam organ for the Cathedral. From around 1603 he was connected to the Chapel Royal, briefly reaching the highest musical post of “Composer of the King’s Music” in 1628, although he was soon unceremoniously removed from that post as it had, apparently, been promised to his predecessors son.

Further mishaps came in the 1642 with the death of his wife and the outbreak of Civil War in Worcester. The Puritans desecrated the Cathedral and badly damaged the Dallam organ. A year later, Tomkins’ own house was hit by cannon fire, destroying most of his belongings and manuscripts. The execution of Charles I in 1649 had a strong effect on the Royalist Tomkins, as evidenced by his moving A sad pavan: For these distracted Tymes written a few days later. Despite these difficulties, this period was the most productive musical for Tomkins, with most of the keyboard works dating this time. The last two years of his life were spent living with his son in nearby Martin Hussingtree, where he was buried in 1656.

WP_20150731_12_11_56_ProTomkins owned the manuscript of early 16th century liturgical organ pieces, now held by the British Museum (as BM 29996). His own compositions were clearly influenced by this music, and he added his own little comments to several pieces, including the “daynty fine verse” comment attached to the hymn Summi Largitor præmii. Many of the pieces in this manuscript are anonymous, but several seem to come from one composer, possible Thomas Preston.

Thomas Preston was English organist and composer. He held posts at Magdalen College, Oxford (1543, Trinity College, Cambridge (1548-59), and St George’s, Windsor (1559-63). Although very few pieces survive with his name attached, there are many pieces in early manuscripts that are very similar in style to his music, including the pieces played today.

WP_20150730_14_44_02_ProLike Tomkins, William Hayes (1708-77) also spent time in Gloucester and Worcester, where he became Cathedral organists in 1731 before moving to Magdalene College Oxford in 1734. He became Oxford’s Professor of Music and University Organist and the focus for Oxford’s musical life. The Holywell Music Room was one of his contributions.  His music was strongly influenced by Handel, as this Organ Concerto demonstrates. We don’t know the date of composition, or how or when it was performed, but it is similar to many such works intended for performance in London’s Pleasure Gardens


Andrew Benson-Wilson specialises in the performance of early organ music, ranging from early 14th and 15th century manuscripts to composers of the late Classical period.  His playing is informed by his experience of historic organs, an understanding of period performance techniques and by several internationally renowned teachers.  The first of his WP_20150730_14_37_31_Protwo CDs of the complete Tallis organ works (with chant verses sung by Chapelle du Roi) was Gramophone Magazine ‘Record of the Month’.  The Organists’ Review commented that his “understanding of the historic English organ and its idiom is thorough, and the beautifully articulated, contoured result here is sufficient reason for hearing this disk.  He is a player of authority in this period of keyboard music”.  His Tallis recordings have been broadcast throughout the world.

Andrew’s recitals have ranged from the enormous 1642 Festorgel organ in Klosterneburg Abbey in Austria to a tiny 1668 chamber organ in a medieval castle in Croatia, via UK venues such as London’s St John’s, Smith Square and St George’s Hanover Square.  According to one reviewer, his St John’s, Smith Square recital (of 17th century North German music) ”proved to be one of the most rewarding organ recitals heard in London in years – an enthralling experience”.  More recently, Andrew’s concerts have included the 1723 Hildebrandt organ in Störmthal, Leipzig (where Bach gave the opening recital) and the famous 1558 Ebert organ in Innsbruck’s spectacular Hofkirche.

Andrew is a regular writer on early music and organ topics.  His little book, “The Performance of Early Organ Music” is a required text in a number of Universities.  After 20 year as the principal concert and organ CD reviewer for the now defunct Early Music Review magazine, Andrew has now set up his own review website https://andrewbensonwilson.org/. This includes regular reviews of early music concerts and CDs, as well as occasional reviews of wider musical and organ interest.

Andrew’s next UK recitals include the complete surviving works of Nicolaus Bruhns (Tuesday 4 August, Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair.  1:10), and two recitals of rarely performed Renaissance organ music, related to an article Andrew has written for the Organists’ Review – on Tuesday 20 October in St George Hanover Sq (1:10) and on Wednesday 25 November at The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford (1:10).

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