Anglican Chant from a metrical psalmody tune…

The choir will be singing the Benedictus at St Andrew’s next week, and I’ve been looking for an appropriate setting. Common Worship has a few metrical settings of the text, one of which is Double Common Metre. This fits to a number of tunes, but perhaps my favourite DCM tune is number 373 in the New English Hymnal — also known as “Third Mode Melody”. This was made famous by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Fantasy on a Theme by Tallis, but it was originally part of a set of tunes Thomas Tallis wrote for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter. That work is now available on CPDL, for those interested; in these, the melody is in the tenor.

In the NEH version the melody has been switched to the treble, and it is from this that I made my own adaptation of the tune into Anglican chant. It isn’t, perhaps, the happiest-sounding tune to the modern ear. The quadruple chant doesn’t work well with Psalm 2, for which the third melody was intended; though Psalm 2 has 12 verses, they are in four groups of three, not three groups of four. In that sense it works rather better with the Benedictus, which has some coherence in three groups of four verses. However, the inconsistent tonality of the music will require sensitive registration and skillful singing to communicate the peace and joy of the Benedictus text. We’ll be singing mostly unison, so it’s really down to skillful registration. (That, in turn, would be easier if the organ worked… but we use the instruments we have, not the ones we don’t.)

I can’t put the version I’m printing for the choir online, due to copyright stuff I couldn’t make up if I tried, but here are the dots, anyway:


As usual, the license is CC BY-SA.