Following the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the king took steps to re-establish the Chapel Royal. Amongst the choristers who sang there in the years immediately following the Restoration were Pelham Humphrey, Robert Smith, Michael Wise, John Blow, Daniel Roseingrave, Thomas Tudway, William Turner, Henry Hall and Henry Purcell. These composers form what is generally referred to as the ‘Restoration School’. They were certainly influenced by Charles II’s appointment of ‘four and-twenty violins’ to the Chapel Royal. Pepys recorded this event on 14 September 1662 as follows: ‘This the first day of having vialls and other instruments to play a symphony between every verse of the anthem; but the musique more full than it was last Sunday, and very fine it is.’ The diarist Evelyn records the date (probably incorrectly) as being 21 September and not the 14th as Pepys indicates. Evelyn noted: ‘Instead of the antient, grave and solemn wind musiq accompanying the organ, was introduc’d a concert of 24 violins between every pause after the French fantastical light way, better suiting a tavern or playhouse than a church. This was the first time of change, and now we no more heard the cornet which gave life to the organ, that instrument quite left off in which the English were so skilful.’ Evelyn is partly responsible for the fallacy that the liturgical music of the Restoration was inappropriate for church use. Christopher Dearnley (John Scott’s predecessor as Organist at St Paul’s) has noted that Restoration composers ‘did not need much encouragement from a merry monarch after the Puritan years of goody-goody high-mindedness’.
One of the choristers who sang during this period, Michael Wise (c1647–1687), returned to the Chapel Royal at Whitehall in 1676 having been a lay clerk at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and Eton College, and organist and instructor of the choristers at Salisbury Cathedral. On the recommendation of James II, Wise was appointed almoner and master of the choristers of St Paul’s Cathedral in January 1687 once the musical life was re-establishsed at the Cathedral following the Fire of London in 1666. This appointment would have required his resignation from his post at Salisbury Cathedral, but the sequence events which followed is unclear. Wise evidently remained in Salisbury; one Anthony Wood recorded that on 24 August 1687 (St Bartholomew’s night), ‘he was knocked on the head and killed downright by the night watch at Salisbury for giving stubborn and refractory language to them’. Wise was replaced at St Paul’s by fellow chorister John Blow.
Wise’s anthem The ways of Zion do mourn is considered to be his masterpiece. Some of the sources mark ‘Ritornello’ at two points in the score as do some later manuscripts of this piece. This suggets that the anthem may originally have been intended to have instrumental interludes—as had been introduced at the Chapel Royal. None of these instrumental passages is extant, although this is hardly surprising as such string accompaniments were short-lived and later taste was to omit or shorten such passages.
from notes by William McVicker © 1991