Henry Purcell was appointed Organist of Westminster Abbey in 1679 when he was just twenty years of age. By this time he had already composed a number of anthems and songs, and the accomplished string fantasias were soon to follow. He completed most of his remaining sacred music by c. 1685 after which, for the remaining decade of his life, he turned increasingly to stage works, including incidental music for plays.
Most of Purcell's seventy or so anthems are verse settings. A few early examples, including the present work, are scored for adult soloists with the short four-part chorus in the middle of the anthem being repeated at the end. His 'Bell Anthem' (Rejoice in the Lord alway) is his most familiar work in this format which was also adopted by such late seventeenth-century composers as William Turner [see CP 18], Pelham Humphrey and Michael Wise.Although the practice of assigning verses to adult soloists in many verse settings of the period was originally born of necessity - the loss of continuity in the training of boy choristers during the period of the Commonwealth - it persisted as a convention even into the eighteenth century.