Two of Thomas Tomkins's four verse services were included in the monumental Musica Deo Sacra (1668) where they follow three full services and so are designated Fourth and Fifth. The other two survive only in manuscript sources and are now numbered 'Sixth' and 'Seventh'*. In the early sources the services are entitled First ('Sixth'), Second ('Seventh') and Third (Fourth), an implied order of composition which is borne out by their stylistic traits. The Fifth Service, found only in Musica Deo Sacra, exhibits later characteristics.
An organ part - all that survives of the 'Seventh' Service - is sufficiently detailed to warrant the Service's reconstruction, taking also into account features of Tomkins's other verse services. The conjectured scoring of many of its verses for upper voices recalls earlier verse settings such as his 'Sixth' Service dating, probably, from the 1590s. However the inclusion of tenor and bass voices in some verse sections as well as the work's harmony, tonality and rhetoric (even evoking Tomkins the madrigalist) all point to a date of composition within a decade or so after 1600. The light-textured scoring, for four voices, of three of the verse sections probably derives from Byrd's seminal Second Service (at 'To be a light'). Similar examples may be found in all of Tomkins's verse services.
Although a case may be made for five-part (SAA TB) chorus writing throughout the Service, the organ part implies a four-part texture except in a few places where a second alto is required, as in the Fifth Service. The organ parts of the 'Amen' in the Nunc Dimittis and Tomkins's verse anthem The Lord bless us [Cathedral Press Edition: CP 4] - for which some vocal material survives - are virtually identical. The editorial has therefore opted for a five-part chorus at this point (despite four-part writing being technically complete), so following the related anthem with its more satisfactory texture.
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