The Organ

‘To Fill, Forbear, or Adorne’: the Organ Accompaniment of Restoration Sacred Music

Rebecca Herissone: ‘To Fill, Forbear, or Adorne’: the Organ Accompaniment of Restoration Sacred Music

This Royal Musical Association Monograph takes us deep into a rather specialized area of continuo playing; since the chief composers considered include Purcell, Blow and Locke, the matter is of some considerable fascination. The aim (stated in the Preface) is to inform us as to how organists then would have used the organ books from which they played. These organ books were for the exclusive purpose of performance, and were often copied along with sets of part books.

The opening chapter describes the organ books in detail, with copious examples. Subjects include the doubling of inner parts, the fact that figures were a luxury not required by competent musicians, the continuo player’s constant problem (in any period) of how many voices to play at a given moment. The following chapter delves into the question of whether or not organists played not only the inner parts, but the uppermost part in the right hand. It goes on to discuss independent writing unique to the organ part.

Distinctions between different types of music (service settings, full anthems, choruses, solos, etc) are examined, and it appears that the style of organ accompaniment remained similar in most cases. The book closes with a long section on a single manuscript by Matthew Locke, his verse anthem How doth the city sit solitary. This reveals a more complex style of accompaniment than most other London sources.

Rebecca Herissone’s research shows that new editions of Restoration music may need to re-consider accepted notions about organ accompaniments