Give almes of thy goods

This Sunday’s (Oct. 30) anthem is the most tasteful stewardship anthem I know. I have said this for years, and I believe it to be true. Rather than “please turn in your pledge card,” this anthem text requests us to “give almes of thy goods.” How proper and gracious is this?

The text is from the Book of Tobit, a book in the Catholic and Orthodox editions of the Holy Bible. Tobit is one of the apocryphal (non-canonic, extra) books of the Protestant Bible, along with the books of Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach and others.

The full verse from the fourth chapter of Tobit comprises the entire anthem text:

Give almes of thy goods, 

and turn never thy face from any poor man:

and then the face of the Lord shall not be turned away from thee.

Christopher Tye (c.1505-1572) has been called an “innovator” of English cathedral music that was “perfected” by Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons. Tye and Tallis bridged the musical and liturgical styles from Roman to Anglican in the earliest days of the English Church in the mid-16th Century.

He worked closely with Edward VI, the young monarch who called Tye “our musical lecturer.” Moving away from Roman plainsong chant, Edward VI had decreed that choirs sing in English and with only one note to every syllable.

Tye graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from Cambridge and sang as a lay clerk in the King’s College Cambridge choir. He then became master of the choir at Ely Cathedral, and Cambridge bestowed upon him the Doctor of Music degree. Though not documented, it is assumed he held a position in the Chapel Royal in the 1550s.

About 1560 the Bishop of Ely ordained Dr. Tye deacon and priest within the same year, and he served in parish priest positions until his death.

The beauty and effectiveness of Dr. Tye’s short anthem “Give almes” is its simplicity and imitative voice parts. One vocal line leads as all the others follow, woven together like fine fabric. Listen for the words “and then the face” as they culminate in sublime, homophonic chordal treatment of the text “shall not be turned away from thee.”

Listen to “Give almes of thy goods” sung by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge.


Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 15:20