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Rejoice in the Lord always

One of the joys of the digital age is that facsimiles of ancient musical manuscripts are made available online. The British Library has now digitized the Mulliner Book, a major source of Tudor music that once belonged to John Stafford Smith, composer of the tune to the Star-Spangled Banner. It is the only contemporaneous source for the anonymous 'Rejoice in the Lord' that sits alongside Purcell's setting as a favourite anthem in Advent.
I have long been intrigued by the major differences between published editions of 'Rejoice in the Lord'. Having the facsimile available, I have had a look at some of the questions. I have put a longer discussion, together with a transcription of the notes and my own reconstruction of the textual underlay, on my own website here:

Some questions remain puzzling:
  • How did 'Amen' grow from the final two chords to take over, for some editors, the music that John Stafford Smith thought matched 'Keep your hearts and minds'?
  • Is the composer anonymous because Mulliner genuinely did not know, despite his familiarity with some very obscure composers, or because he was so well known to Mulliner as not to need mentioning? Could it have been Mulliner himself or his teacher, possibly Heywood?
  • What is the basis for thinking that the 1549 Prayer Book version of Philippians 4 fits the music better than the text in the manuscript? Mulliner himself gave the title as 'Reioyce in the Lorde allwayes', not 'alway' as Common Prayer prescribed. The words added by a later hand resemble Tyndale and Coverdale, from the 1520s and 1530s, rather than the familiar Authorized Version. Where did that scribe get the words from, if not from the anthem itself?
  • More technically, what is the meaning of the sharp sign above the 'G' of 'God' at the top of the third page?
Without the digitized manuscript, none of this discusssion would be possible. I would love to hear your suggestions.
Best wishes,
Replies (3): Threaded | Chronological
on November 12, 2015 8:04pm
This is pretty fascinating. Don't you think they just changed to Alway to suit the Prayer Book, in case some priest got mad at them? No idea about that little sharp, but I have always (or is that alway, ha ha!) wondered about that long Amen. Ity doesn't really seem like an Amen, glad to find there are words we can try. I'd like to try it with your ideas incorporated, and tried to download the A version, which would suit us well. Not sure what key we do it in, singing from Anthems for Choirs Vol. I - purple and green, sort of, cover. Is there any way to remove the source information from pages 2-4 on the downkoad? It is showing up in the corner of the pdf I downloaded and blocking the music. I am talking about this "Music anonymous, transcribed and transposed from Thomas Mulliner's organ book and following a work by John Redford. Edited by Nigel Williams. " Thanks for posting this. very interesting.
on November 13, 2015 1:18am
Thank you for noticing the publishing slip. It is now corrected, with help from my wife. If you want to make any revisions or put it into any other key, the MusicXML file will load into several sorts of notation software. My two programs disagreed over which octave the basses should sing in but a change to one setting should put that straight pretty quickly.
on November 13, 2015 1:29pm
Thanks - we'll be singing it in A next time!
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