Adrian Batten was one of the most prolific composers of English church music during the early years of the seventeenth century. He was baptised in Salisbury in 1591 and served as a chorister at Winchester Cathedral. From 1614 until his death in 1637 he held lay-clerk posts at Westminster Abbey and, later, St. Paul's Cathedral where he is thought to have taken over the duties of Organist. During these years he may well have compiled the so-called 'Batten Organ-Book' (St. Michael's College, Tenbury MS 791, now housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford), a most important source of church music of the late-Elizabethan and early-Stuart periods. Despite the popularity of his music, he appears never to have secured a coveted permanent position as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.
Batten's music was very widely circulated during his life-time. Some sixty-eight anthems and eight services survive, with comparitively few being too incomplete to allow reconstruction. The First Verse Service displays all those characteristics which made Batten's music so popular: solid workmanship, a consistent level of inspiration, easily singable vocal lines, straightforward rhythms and a clear sense of tonality. The two sets of sources, both incomplete, indicate that there were two distinct versions of the Service, the reading with four-part chorus in the Durham Cathedral manuscripts being clearly adapted from a more extended setting with five-part chorus in John Barnard's collection (see page 21 for details of these sources). This edition is based on the more complete Durham version with the chorus bass part being reconstructed by reference to the organ part. The soprano verses, lacking in the Durham manuscripts, have been adapted from the reading in Barnard's part-book. The original five-part ending to the Nunc Dimittis has been considered preferable to the four-part one; the edition here is a slightly adapted conflation of all the available sources.
This edition marks the first appearance in print of the Evening Canticles from Batten's First Verse Service.