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Choral Responses

Free editions of The Preces and Responses, available to download can be found below, or by clicking the links in the sidebar.

Choral Responses are that most functional of all choral works in the Anglican tradition, beginning with Tallis's setting of the Litany in the summer of 1544, only a month or so after the first liturgical text in the English language was published in May of that year. Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549, with John Merbecke's musical rendering in chant the following year. Tallis scored another first with his settings of the Preces and Responses after that, probably in the few years before the reign of Mary in 1553. Byrd and Morley are likely to have composed their settings after Elizabeth came to the throne, though they clearly drew on Tallis as a model. In the post-Creed Responses, all three composer feature Merbecke's congregational response in the Tenor part. However, almost no 16th-century material survives, so we have to rely on manuscripts copied between 1625 and 1640, many of which are either incomplete or error-filled.

Curiously, the surviving disparate sources lack the second of the two Contratenor parts in many of the settings. Editors must use their skill and judgment to recreate the missing part. As Watkins Shaw acknowledges, the solution is often 'an obvious possibility, whoever may attempt it'. There are only so many notes that will fit the harmony, and that can be limited further by the combination of notes that precede and follow each one.

The Preces and the Responses are mistakenly thought of as one coherent composition; however, the source material tends to present the Preces, which initiate Morning and Evening Prayer, as one 'work', usually paired with Psalm settings by the same composer, in a similar homophonic style. There are a number of settings of the Preces without any 'matching' Responses, such as those by Orlando Gibbons. All the Preces by Byrd, Smith and others are frequently found with Psalm settings. The Responses, which follow the Creed later in the service, are found as an entirely separate composition.

The first publication to include Tallis's Responses was John Barnard's First Book of Selected Church Musick, in 1641. Tallis's setting also found its way into Boyce's Cathedral Music of 1760. The first book to contain a collection of settings by Byrd, Smith, Tallis and Tomkins was John Jebb's The Choral Responses and Litanies of the United Church of England and Ireland, in 2 volumes between 1847 and 1857. Ivor Atkins and Edmund Fellowes published these settings, plus Morley's, in 1933, which was followed by Watkins Shaw's ubiquitous edition in 1966.

The PDFs below do not have page numbers, so that users can select whichever settings they like, and combine the pages into booklets themselves in any order and with any other material, before adding page numbers. Other free editions (of varying quality) exist of the Ayleward, Byrd, Smith, Tallis, Tomkins and Naylor already exist. The unique offerings: Barnard's 'complete' set of Preces & Responses; the Loosemore contrafacta; the Tallis Litany and the Book of Amens -- these are (or will be) available for purchase.

Printed sets or bespoke customized editions can be supplied on request.

Richard Ayleward (1626 - 1669): Preces & Responses
Newly edited from King's College Cambridge, Rowe Library Mss 9-17.

John Barnard (b.1591 fl.1641): Preces & Responses
Reconstructed and edited from Royal College of Music Barnard partbooks. Available to purchase.

William Byrd (c.1543 - 1623): Preces & Responses
Newly edited from the Peterhouse Cambridge Latter Caroline partbooks, with reconstructed 2nd Alto.

Henry Loosemoore (c.1607 - 1670): Preces & Responses
Adapted from Loosemore's setting of The Litany.
Copies available to purchase.

Thomas Morley (c.1557 - 1602): Preces & Responses
Newly edited from the Royal College of Music Barnard partbooks, with reconstructed 2nd Alto.

William Smith (1605 - 1645): Preces & Responses
Newly edited from the Durham Cathedral partbooks, with reconstructed 2nd Alto.

Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585): Preces & Responses
Newly edited from the Peterhouse Cambridge Former Caroline partbooks.

Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585): Litany
Newly edited from the Peterhouse Cambridge Latter Caroline partbooks and other sources. COMING SOON!

Thomas Tomkins (1572 - 1656): Preces & Responses
Newly edited from the Peterhouse Cambridge Latter Caroline partbooks, with reconstructed 2nd Alto.

E. W. Naylor (1867 - 1934): Final Responses

The Ancient Groove Book of Amens. COMING SOON!

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