Hyperion Records

Hearken unto me, ye holy children
March 1728
author of text
various Biblical texts

'Handel: The Choice of Hercules' (CDA67298)
Handel: The Choice of Hercules
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No 1. Solo: Hearken unto me, ye holy children
No 2. Chorus: Magnify His name
No 3. Chorus: And in praising Him you shall say
No 4. Solo: To be a father to the fatherless
No 5. Duet: Therefore shall he receive a glorious kingdom
No 6. Recitative: How is he numb'red
No 7. Solo: His name shall endure for ever
No 8. Chorus: Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers

Hearken unto me, ye holy children
The text of the ceremonial anthem Hearken unto me, ye holy children, drawn mainly from the books of Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha, is associated with King’s College, Cambridge, and was first set in 1724 by Thomas Tudway for the founding of the Fellows’ Building at King’s, another work of James Gibbs. (It forms the west side of the central court, parallel to the river Cam.) According to a note on an early copy of the score, Greene’s new setting was composed for performance in King’s College Chapel on 25 March 1728, the anniversary of the college’s foundation. This date has however been questioned by H Diack Johnstone, the leading authority on Greene, as there is nothing in the college records to indicate a special celebration of the anniversary in 1728. Johnstone suggests instead that the performance may have been a month later, on 25 April, when George II was on a visit to Cambridge and is known to have attended King’s College Chapel ‘to hear an anthem composed for that day’. The king’s presence would have provided a reason for Greene and other musicians to come up from London, and Greene may have taken the opportunity to prepare the ground for obtaining his doctorate two years later.

The anthem begins with what seems at first to be a short overture – four chords in slow tempo introducing a more lively Andante – but it leads directly into the opening alto solo, and the material of the Andante then becomes the basis of the rest of the solo. The first chorus, ‘Magnify His name’ is declamatory. It gives way, via a linking passage on the words ‘And in praising Him you shall say’, to a more stately choral movement (‘Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers’) in which fugal textures emerge and eventually predominate. A reflective tenor solo is followed by the duet ‘Therefore shall he receive a glorious kingdom’, anticipating Handel’s more elaborate setting of the same text in his funeral anthem The ways of Zion do mourn. A recitative and solo for the bass provide a happy change of vocal colour. Greene then brings back the chorus ‘Blessed be the Lord God’ in slightly modified form and adds on a setting of the words ‘Hallelujah, Amen’ to conclude. This final passage also appears (with trumpets) at the end of Greene’s anthem O praise the Lord, ye angels of his which both Samuel Arnold and Friedrich Chrysander published in their collected editions of Handel’s works and which for a long time was regarded as Handel’s ‘Twelfth Chandos Anthem’. Greene would probably have been flattered by the mistaken attribution, but one suspects Handel would not have been amused.

from notes by Anthony Hicks © 2002

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