Thomas Weelkes's sacred music for the Anglican liturgy falls into two distinct categories: smaller-scale pieces for the 'half choir' at Chichester Cathedral, where he was Organist, and more ambitious works for the Chapel Royal where, it is thought, he was a 'Gentleman Extraordinary'. Accordingly, his ten services include both concise 'short' and verse settings and large-scale works. The modest scope of the 'Sixth' Service* indicates that it was almost certainly written for Chichester.
Until1969, when a set of four part books originally in use at Chirk Castle, North Wales, came to light, the only material known to have survived (three vocal parts) was at Wimborne Minster, Dorset. The concordance established between these two sets has made it possible to reconstruct the Service. They appear to provide all the vocal material except the 'soprano' chorus part; an organ part has been devised to complete the work. The subtitle 'for two countertenors' probably refers both (i) to the chorus writing for SAA TB, rather than SA TB (as, for example, in Weelkes's First Service, also a 'Chichester' piece), and (ii) to the scoring of two of the verse sections for alto duet. Unusually, in service writing at this time, the two canticles share the same music for the 'Gloria Patri' -as in the composer's 'Fifth' ('in medio chori') and 'Seventh' (Short) Services.
Weelkes often quoted from his other sacred music in his services and anthems. The 'Sixth' Service has many such examples including: (i) the opening of the first chorus of the Magnificat paralleled, a tone higher, in the 'Fourth' Service ('for trebles'), (ii) the first choruses of the Magnificat and the fragmentary verse anthem Why art thou so sad? (paired with the 'Sixth' Service, according to a Wimborne reference), (iii) the bass verse at 'He hath put down' (bars 56-8) which resembles the bass part at this point in his 'Seventh' Service, (iv) the passage at 'thy salvation' in the Nunc Dimittis, which is a contrafact of the music set to the words 'mercy, good Lord' in both the final verse and chorus sections of the anthem Give ear, 0 Lord and (v) several verse motifs shared with the 'Fifth' Service. Also typical of Weelkes is the thematic relationship between the (vocal) head motifs in the verse sections and the canonic writing in the two alto verses.
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