Jump to content
Mander Organs
michaelwilson

Chapel Royal history

Recommended Posts

Currently the Chapel Royal choirs seem clearly divided, with St James's and Hampton Court appearing to be entirely separate choirs with their own Directors of Music. Does anyone know when this came about?

My understanding is that, historically, the choir was one body, with the Master of the Children de facto Director of Music. Since the Restoration there seems to have been more than one organist, John Blow for example was "one of the organists", and was in charge by virtue of being Master of the Children.

Does anyone know what happened to the title of Master of the Children? Is it currently held by either of the Directors of Music at St James's or Hampton Court, or was it abolished when the choirs were divided?

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There seems to be a gap in the market.

Perhaps the excellent Dr Gant could turn his mind to a history of the music in the various Chapels Royal*, once his forthcoming magnum opus is out of the way.

* I was surprised to see that these include three locations in Ontario, Canada and two at the Tower, in addition to the oft-forgot (and ‘under-used’) Brighton and Plymouth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of  information can be found by Google searches of both Chapels Royal.  I guess that both Directors of Music are busy today, but I’m sure you will get an authoritative answer soon from a prominent member of this Board!

The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy is sometimes included in some ‘lists’, but we will wait for the reply anticipated above.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The rationale for calling the choirs of both St James's and Hampton Court the Chapel Royal probably owes something to history. Originally our monarchs were a bunch of unsavoury persons of no fixed abode. They were peripatetic and the royal household moved around with them. By early Tudor times there was a marked preference for residence at the palaces of Greenwich, Westminster and, under Henry VIII, Whitehall, while after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey in 1529, the king took his palace at Hampton Court. As the court's peregrinations settled down a bit, so, too, did the lay clerks of the royal household chapel. Most chose to live in Westminster, from where it was only a modest boat-ride down to Greenwich, but some chose to live elsewhere. Tallis, for example, lived in Greenwich. By contrast, the secular court musicians, a large number of whom were foreigners, preferred to live in London, often grouped by nationality. However, all who were required would still have to resort to boat or horse when the court moved to places such as Windsor or Richmond.

The ancient history of the organists is very obscure. There seems to be very little evidence before the first "Cheque Book" was begun in 1561. Presumably the early Chapel Royal followed the usual medieval practice of allocating the task of playing the organ to any lay clerk who could play. But that's just a guess because evidence is lacking. Once information becomes available in Elizabeth's reign it is clear that there were three specific organists (who still would have been primarily lay clerks): Tallis, Blitheman and Byrd. Thereafter, when one of the organists died, he was replaced by another organist. There continued to be three organists up to the death of Purcell in 1695, then two up to the death of Sir George Smart in 1867, after which there was only one.

This body of musicians is the one that eventually became associated with St James's Palace. Unfortunately, I have no information about the establishment of the separate musical institution at Hampton Court. I would be interested to learn.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 03/02/2019 at 10:28, Rowland Wateridge said:

A lot of  information can be found by Google searches of both Chapels Royal.  I guess that both Directors of Music are busy today [...]

The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy is sometimes included in some ‘lists’, but we will wait for the reply anticipated above.

It has been a busy day, Rowland! The choirs of the Chapels Royal were not 'divided' as the OP suggests.

The Chapel Royal today is still a body of priest and singers that attends on the sovereign. It’s based at St James’s Palace, and comprises the Dean of the Chapels Royal (Lord Chartres), and the Sub Dean who is assisted by three Priests-in-Ordinary.  The clergy and the choir of ten boys and six Gentlemen attend the Sovereign privately at such ceremonies as baptisms in Buckingham Palace, and publicly, such as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They also attend the sovereign at the annual Cenotaph Service (which is why this service is conducted - until last year, exceptionally - by the Dean of the Chapels Royal) and at the Royal Maundy service.

The Chapel Royal has three other daughter establishments at HM Tower of London, Hampton Court, and more recently, the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy (a royal peculiar, but inaugurated as a Chapel Royal in November 2016), each with its own Chaplain and choir.  The Chaplains of these three places, incidentally, have been appointed to the three Canonries of the Chapel Royal, ancient offices instituted by Edward IV in 1483 and revived by the Queen in 2010.

Hampton Court Palace was part of the royal circuit until the reign of George III. Until then, services were regularly sung by the itinerant Chapel Royal whenever the monarch was in residence.  With the departure of the court from Hampton Court in 1737, there was a hiatus of 130 years before a permanent choir was established there in 1868. The 150th anniversary of this choir was celebrated in April 2018. The choirs of Hampton Court and the Savoy have a presence on social media, and a quick search on Facebook will keep one abreast of what is happening in the two locations.

The information about John Blow (mentioned earlier) needs to be clarified. The Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal was not 'de facto Director of Music' in his time. Blow was sworn a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in March 1673/4, appointed Master of the Children (in succession to Pelham Humfrey) in July 1674, and succeeded Christopher Gibbons as one of the three organists of the Chapel Royal in October 1676. He was appointed Composer for the Chapel Royal (a newly created post) in 1699. The title of Master of the Children, according to the personnel list in David Baldwin's book The Chapel Royal Ancient and Modern (1990) is last used for Stanley Roper (Organist and Composer) who served from 1919-1953, and is shown as Master of the Children from 1923-1953.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, thank you for that. It certainly clarifies a few things for me, I shall have to check out Baldwin's book.

I had assumed that Master of the Children would have generally been the most senior Gentleman and, prior to an official DoM role, would have had responsibility for what was sung. But perhaps this fell to whichever organist was present and the Master was really just concerned with the choristers as the title suggests.

I've never been to any of the royal chapels (except St Peter ad Vincula many years ago) but I intend to correct that this year, hopefully when the choirs are present.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the choice of music in the Chapel Royal, here are some entries from the cheque books:

19 December 1663: "The service shalbe appointed by ye Deane or subDeane or his subtitute, with advice of the Master of the Children, for such Anthems as are to be performed by ye Children of ye Chappell."

6 October 1726: "And to prevent disturbance, which is necessarily occasion'd by sending Messages backward and forward in the Chapel, during the Performance of Divine Service, the Sub-Dean, or some other Appointed by him, shall on every Sunday & Holiday make known to the Quire, and also to the Organists, before Prayers begin, what Service and Anthem shall be Perform'd for that time, & on all other days he shall make known the Same, during the Voluntary."

2 August 1859: "The anthem appointed to be sung, will not be changed without the authority of the Dean, or of the Subdean."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 04/02/2019 at 08:05, michaelwilson said:

I've never been to any of the royal chapels (except St Peter ad Vincula many years ago) but I intend to correct that this year, hopefully when the choirs are present.

Hampton Court Chapel's website is being overhauled, and details of services have not been updated. Current information is available here though. Information about the establishment at St James's is here; HM Tower of London; The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...