Much of Thomas Tomkins's substantial output of sacred music for the Anglican rite was published in the posthumous collection Musica Deo sacra (1668) which was seen through the press after the composer's death by his son, Nathaniel. The collection comprises five services, fifty-three full anthems and forty-one verse anthems as well as several other smaller items.
The publication includes two settings, one full and one verse, of O pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The genesis of both works was almost certainly a full anthem by Richard Nicholson (fl 1595, d. 1639) who was Informator choristarum at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1595 until his death. Nicholson's work provides the opening material for both of Tomkins's settings while the verse anthem also recalls Nicholson at 'Peace be within thy walls'; the full version sets verse six only. In 1607 Tomkins was admitted to the degree of BMus at Magdalen College, so it is a distinct possibility that he wrote his full anthem (rather than his verse setting: see the following paragraph) in 'homage' to Nicholson, a practice with which he was particularly associated. Indeed, a case can be made that the surviving version of Tomkins's anthem (for SSTB) was originally a five-part (SAATB) setting, like Nicholson's.
With the sudden death of Orlando Gibbons in June 1625, Tomkins assumed the role of senior musician in the preparations for the Coronation of Charles I in February 1626. At that time the familiar text of O pray was not associated with the Coronation Service itself so the present anthem may, instead, have been one of the 'many songes' that he composed for the associated festivities; its earliest source (Royal College of Music MS 1051) dates from this time. Its survival in a large number of manuscript sources is an indication that it evidently enjoyed considerable popularity in the seventeenth century.
The work, as it appears in Musica Deo sacra, displays inconsistencies in the distribution of the inner parts in the chorus sections as well as unacceptable doublings. However, since the manuscript sources do not entirely resolve these issues, the 1668 reading has been retained as the basis for the present edition with the primary manuscript sources helping to clarify such problems.
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Catalogue No. CP44 Publisher Cathedral Press Contents No