Nathaniel Giles: English Sacred Music

Nathaniel Giles English Sacred Music Joseph Sargent

Early English Church Music [volume] 63
ISBN 978 0 85249 965 8 | ISMN 979 0 2202 2643 4 (Hardback)
xxx, 130pp. £70
Stainer & Bell

This second volume dedicated to the few surviving works of Nathaniel Giles (1558?–1634) contains service music. While presenting an edition of the First Service is straightforward, the Second Service can only be reconstructed from the surviving sources to within a certain degree of completeness and the editor Joseph Sargent has had to put his creative hat on for passages where the solo parts are not available, and the Short Service is very fragmentary indeed but both Sargent and the series editor, David Skinner, recommend their contrapuntal possibilities to would-be reconstructionists. After a detailed biography of the composer, Sargent surveys the sources and lays out his editorial approach. Then come detailed descriptions of the sources and a meticulous editorial commentary on the three services. Then to the music itself, laid out on pages larger than A4 size that can accommodate the up to ten voices (two five-part choirs – cantoris and decani, according to Anglican tradition) and the organ part(s). I had to do some brain juggling when systems were compressed and a voice from the lower group appeared in the middle of the combined groups, but generally the approach works. The added parts are printed in smaller notation. The paper is slightly shiny – I did not find that a problem but I have heard others complain about using such paper for music because it can sometimes catch light awkwardly and become difficult to read. I hope more than anything else that this marvellous tome (at another bargain price of only £70!) will encourage performances of the music – it very much deserves to be heard!

Brian Clark

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