George Wither's Hymns and Songs of the Church was published in 1623 'with music by Orlando Gibbons'. The volume contains fifteen tunes together with three self-adaptations, including Song 46 which appeared, uniquely, in a contemporary undated edition. The collection was in effect the first Anglican hymnal - as distinct from the familiar metrical psalter - so it occupies a worthy place in the history of English sacred music of the early seventeenth century. The unusual circumstances of its publication were typical of Wither's eccentric career: a special royal patent required the Hymns to be type-set afresh no fewer than twelve times, each surviving version differing from its neighbour in matters of minor detail.
The Hymns were printed with their outer parts only, so posing a problem: how elaborate the realisation of the inner parts should be. The editor has opted for a little elaboration, drawing on aspects of Gibbons' more concise sacred works in the 'full' style as a guide. Also a matte1· for conjecture is their method of performance. In a 'domestic' setting, instruments may well have been included in the ensemble. This edition presumes solo/choral liturgical performance - normally, therefore, with organ accompaniment. The 'Chorus' direction near the end of Song 46 (uniquely) implies that, where the final two phrases of music are repeated, the main section should be performed by soprano/treble with SATE chorus for the 'refrain', recalling the verse anthem of the period.
The editor suggests the following performing options:-
(1) solo (or chorus) soprano/treble with chorus (SATE) 'refrain', accompanied by organ [preferred option];
(2) solo or chorus soprano/treble throughout, accompanied by organ;
(3) SATB solo or chorus throughout, accompanied by organ or unaccompanied.