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The Booke Of Common Praier Noted
by Church Of England And John Merbecke
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Detroit Free Press, November 26, 2003
I found an Evensong chant that praised God's ultimate justice in the world. My daily troubles suddenly seemed more modest.
Scroll, August/September 1999
The first printing of the Anglican liturgy set to music can now be viewed in detail in any home.
University of Chicago Magazine, October 2004
Octavo editions give readers a firsthand experience of a milestone text: each includes page-by-page views, expert commentaries, and appropriate "marginalia."
Here, one year after the first English Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549, is the marvelous arrival of music in the Anglican Reformation service. The Booke of Common Praier Noteda curious phrase for the title, suggests church liturgy with an added crop of academic footnotes. Nothing of the kind, of course: "noted" means "set to music." Apart from its pioneering position and rarity, The Booke of Common Praier Noted is a work of the greatest charm. The slender quarto volume was printed by Richard Grafton in London; the composers name, John Merbecke, appears at the end in large gothic letters. It was designed for use in parish cathedrals, and Graftons music printing style was perfectly appropriate, if not a art form itself.
The purpose of the Book of Common Prayer was simplicity, ease of use, and comprehension, and soon after 1549 music followed and was probably in preparation concurrently, as the new, friendly, understandable liturgy must have seemed a dull affair with no singing. In the style of old plainsong, The Booke of Common Praier Noted was written so that each chanted syllable had its own note and was thus easily understood. The musical setting was entrusted to the Master of the Choristers of the Royal Chapel at Windsor, John Merbecke, who, apart from The Booke of Common Praier Noted, wrote a five-part mass and several Latin motets. He lived until about 1585, "singing merrily and playing on the organs."
Commentary by Colin Franklin, essay on music printing.
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