This verse anthem appears in many manuscripts copied during the twenty years after Purcell’s death, suggesting that it was an especially popular piece around the British cathedrals. The majority of the work is for an alto/tenor/bass trio, and the chorus appears briefly twice, with material that an average choir could learn rapidly. Perhaps the Chapel Royal choir was busy or just rather weak when Purcell wrote the anthem: with no known date of composition we can only guess, though the indications are that it is maybe one of Purcell’s later works. The vocal writing in the opening section is quite simple, with the main triple-time theme passed between the three solo voices. The mood changes briefly at ‘I have sworn and am steadfastly purposed’, and there is graphic rising chromaticism for ‘I am troubled above measure’: the dancing triple metre returns for ‘Quicken me’, the ‘O’ of ‘O Lord’ neatly thrown between the upper and lower voices, and this material is repeated by the full chorus. ‘Let the freewill offerings’ is delightfully tuneful in its back-dotting, with ‘and teach me thy judgements’ equally charmingly treated. The light mood briefly disappears at ‘The ungodly have laid a snare for me’ but the lilting triple time returns for the melismatic ‘They are the very joy of my heart’ and leads into a final Alleluia. Simple the individual melodic phrases may be, but the overall effect is perfect in its balance.
from notes by Robert King ©