Chapel Royal


 The Chapel Royal 


St. James's Palace:  The Chapel Royal  

The Chapels Royal today are thought of more as buildings.  The two most celebrated (there are others around London and in Edinburgh) are the Chapel Royal in St. James's Palace and the Queen’s Chapel now across Marlborough Road, constructed through an area of the palace destroyed by fire, so that the chapel is more closely associated today with Marlborough House, currently occupied by the Commonwealth Secretariat.  The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, and Princess Margaret were both laid out in state in the Queen’s Chapel, and Princess Diana in St. James's Palace. Both chapels are currently places of worship open to the public and used for royal functions.  The chapels royal are among the royal peculiars directly under the authority of the Queen.  Since the 18th century the Bishop of London has served as dean of the chapels in London.  The sub-dean is chaplain to the Queen.





The current Chapel Royal (The Organist, Andrew Gant, is fourth from the left in the middle row)

But in its original meaning the Chapel Royal is not an edifice at all but the association of priests, organists and choristers who provide religious services for the British monarch.  Andrew Gant is the current organist of the Chapel Royal. Click to read more about the Chapel Royal in Wikipedia.



William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tomkins, prominently present in the Christ Church Cathedral repertory, were all members of the Chapel Royal during the reign of the Tudors and were known to each other: 





Thomas Tallis

The Chapel Royal is the locus of one of the highpoints in English liturgical music in the late 16th and early 17th century.  Thomas Tallis (1505-85) was already a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in the mid-16th century and he continued to serve until his death in 1585.  True to his Catholic faith, Tallis nevertheless served monarchs Catholic and Protestant, Henry VIII, then Edward VI, Mary, and finally Elizabeth as organist and composer.  Read about Tallis and listen to some of his music.




William Byrd

William Byrd (1543-1623):  Preces and Responses; Canticles from Third Service

William Byrd, also a lifelong Catholic, sang as a boy chorister in the Chapel Royal "bred up to music under Thomas Tallis." And joined his master as a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1572, a post he retained until his death, although for the last 30 years of his life (he died in 1623) he served in absentia, living on his estate in Essex, and giving himself over to writing music more suited to his Catholic leaning, yet without ever losing the favour of Queen Elizabeth.  Read about William Byrd and listen to some of his music.


Parthenia is the first book of music for virginal (here meaning any plucked keyboard instrument) printed in England.  It contains contributions from William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and John Bull.  Mary Jane Newman has recorded on harpsicord the works contained in the Parthenia and the CD is available at BNQ.  Click for availability.




Orlando Gibbons

Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625): Almighty and Everlasting God

Orlando Gibbons, the youngest son of an illustrious family of musicians, was appointed a gentleman of the Chapel Royal by James I and seems to have been made senior organist just before his death from small pox in 1625.  Orlando Gibbons, not J.S. Bach, was the favourite composer of Glenn Gould:  "Ever since my teen-age years his music has moved me more deeply than any other sound experience I can think of."  Read about Orlando Gibbons and listen to some of his music.


Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould’s [BNQ] recording of Byrd and Gibbons can be obtained on request on a vinyl disc at BNQ.  Click for availability.  Of course, one can purchase it on CD just about anywhere.



Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)  [BNQ]: A Verse of Three Parts; Above the Stars My Saviour Dwells; Fancy


Thomas Tomkins studied under William Byrd as a youth and dedicated a madrigal to him.  Tomkins served as sub-organist in the Chapel Royal under Orlando Gibbons and succeeded him as chief organist in 1625.  Read about Thomas Tomkins and listen to some of his music.




John Bull

John Bull (1562-1628), whose work was published with Byrd and Gibbons in Parthenia, also served as a gentleman of the Chapel Royal.  Read about his bizarre and interesting life and listen to some of his music.