Whitgift: The Tudor Choir Book | Convivium Records International
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The Tudor Choir Book

Ronny Krippner, Croydon Minster Choir of Whitgift School, English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble

  • Catalogue
  • Composer
  • Conductor
    Ronny Krippner
  • Choir
    Whitgift School
  • Ensemble
  • Organ
    Tom Little
  • Violone
    Uri Smilansky
  • Players
    Gawain Glenton, Conor Hastings, Nicholas Perry, Catherine Motuz, Emily White, Tom Lees, Andrew Harwood-White, Adrian France
  • Photgraphy
    Mike Cooter
  • Engineering
    Adaq Khan
  • Mastering
    Adaq Khan
  • Producer
    Andrew King
  • Creative Dir
    John Bevan
  • Exec Producer
    Adrian Green


Ronny Kippner, Director of Choral Music at Whitgift School, directs the Croydon Minster Choir of Whitgift School and the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble (ECSE) for the new album ‘Tudor Choir Book’ released on Convivium Records.

The album was recorded this year at Croydon Minster, with whom Whitgift School enjoys a long and successful music partnership.

The album includes rare recordings of Tudor instrumental items by Coperario, Bassano and Ferrabosco, captured on period instruments, as well as choral greats from Tallis, Batten, Morley and Phillips, performed by the Croydon Minster Choir of Whitgift School and ECSE, directed by Ronny Krippner.


The advent of metrical psalters was mainly, although not exclusively, the trademark of the Protestant church. The Renaissance historian, Dr Jonathan Willis, argues that:

“Metrical Psalmody was a purely optional activity which found a place in the church because of its genuine popular nature […] In attempting to facilitate congregational psalmody, the cathedrals had begun to negotiate for themselves a new religious dynamic, and a new role in English society.”

These psalms were therefore intended to be sung by the choir and the congregation, very much like hymns today. In 1566, a stock of metrical psalters – probably the newly-published Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter of 1562 – was purchased for Canterbury Cathedral, and two of the Psalms on this record were taken from that very same edition, including the well-known Genevan melody to Psalm 100. The orchestral arrangement of the latter is particularly well known today and was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Another metrical psalm, which caught Vaughan Williams’ attention early on in his career, was Thomas Tallis’ Phrygian melody to Psalm 2, published in 1567 in Archbishop Parker’s Psalter. This wonderful modal tune was the inspiration for Vaughan Williams’ iconic work, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, written in 1910.

Adrian Batten (1591–1637) was organist, singer and composer at Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral. His Short Communion Service is surprisingly plain and simple in style, yet full of grace and dignity. This was probably to please evangelical sensibilities who wished liturgical music to be “modeste and destyncte”, able to be “playnelye understanded, as if it were read without singing” (Royal Injunctions of 1559).

Another reason for the simple homophonic style of Batten’s setting could be the low status of the service of Holy Communion itself within the Anglican Church at that time. In 1563, for instance, the celebrations of communion were reduced to one a month at Canterbury Cathedral and were usually “dry”, meaning that they ended after the creed.

The contrast between Batten’s simple Communion setting and Thomas Morley’s First Service is plain to hear, as Morley’s composition is poles apart from the simplicity prescribed by Archbishop Cranmer a generation earlier. Morley (1577–1602), who was organist at St Paul’s Cathedral and a pupil of William Byrd, displays a real mastery of counterpoint and melodic writing in both his Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. The Royal Injunctions of 1559 not only encouraged simple evangelical music, but also catered for the “comforting of such as delyte in musicke”, and allowed for “the best sorte of melody and musicke that maye be convenientlye devysed.” This sort of statement is typical for the Anglican via media in regards to music; both plain and more elaborate styles were deemed acceptable.

However, being a publicly-practising Roman Catholic in England at that time was not acceptable, and, for this reason, Peter Philips (1561/62– 1628) was forced to leave his home country and settle in Brussels, where he was organist to the chapel of Albert VII, Archduke of Austria.

Philips was an extremely prolific composer, whose sacred choral output was intended for Roman Catholic worship and, as a result, set to Latin texts – which made performances in Protestant England impossible. Bow Down Thine Ear is a contrafactum (text substitution) for Philips’ madrigal Cantai mentre of 1596, possibly arranged by one of Philips’ English colleagues, such as Thomas Morley.

The Chapel Royal were probably the most prodigious poachers of musical talent in the English Renaissance. In 1597, when Nathaniel Giles (1558–1633) was made Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, he was granted a warrant to:

“take suche and so many children as he… shall thinke meete”, in order that the Chapel “should be furnished well with singing Children”.

These extreme chorister recruitment measures ensured high-quality music-making for the Chapel Royal, and enabled it to play a key role in nurturing English church music.

Archbishop John Whitgift (1530–1604) The anthem God, Which As On This Day, based on the Collect for Whit Sunday, shows Giles as a most competent composer of choral music, written in the English verse anthem style.

It is difficult to assess fully the quality of sacred music written during John Whitgift’s time as Archbishop. The poor survival rate of manuscript sources from that period may prevent us from ever having a complete understanding of the choral output of cathedral composers in particular. Willis argues that:

“the Elizabethan period cannot accurately be described as a period either of stasis or decline for cathedrals. Rather, it was a period of evolution, of accommodation with the priorities of the new Protestant national church, and of the negotiation of a liturgical and ceremonial practice which balanced the requirements of the state with the desires of the community that lived within its precincts, and the wider community that worshipped there.”

Although he is not exclusively commenting on the state of music in the English Church, it is reasonable to apply Willis’ comment to the state of church music in cathedrals at that time.

Two of the instrumental items recorded on this CD (Bassano’s Fantasia and Ferrabosco’s Exaudi Deus) are taken from partbooks known as Fitzwilliam 734, which used to belong to the cornett and sackbut players in the employ of James I.

It is possible that Fantasias of that
style served as ceremonial music at Canterbury Cathedral and would have certainly added to the sense of occasion during Whitgift’s regular visitations as Archbishop.

Ronny Krippner

Ronny Krippner is Organist and Director of Choral Music at Croydon Minster and Whitgift School (London).

Born in Bavaria, Ronny is in the unique position of having been formed in both the German and British choral traditions. He studied organ playing and improvisation with Prof. Franz-Josef Stoiber at the Hochschule für Kirchenmusik

in Regensburg, while at the same time working as Assistant Choirmaster of the Regensburger Domspatzen” (“Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows”), Regensburg Cathedral’s famous boys’ choir. After graduating, Ronny went to Exeter University to take his master’s degree (M.A.) in “English Cathedral Music” whilst singing in the Cathedral Choir as a Choral Scholar. Building on these twin musical foundations, he went on to take up various organist posts, including St George’s Church Hanover Square in London.

Being fascinated from an early age by organ improvisation, Ronny has made this a specialism. Finalist in the prestigious Organ Improvisation Competition in St Albans in 2009, he won two Prizes in the International Organ Improvisation Competition in Biarritz in the same year. From 2010–2013, he was Specialist Lecturer for Organ Improvisation at Birmingham Conservatoire and Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London.

Ronny has recorded several CDs of organ and choir music and has frequently been heard performing on television and radio, both in Germany and the UK. He has given organ recitals in Germany, Holland, Belgium, the UK, USA, Mexico and Australia.

The Croydon Minster Choir of Whitgift School

Croydon Minster is deeply rooted in the Anglican choral tradition and boasts over 70 singers in its four choirs: the Choir of Boys & Men, the Girls’ Choir, the Choral Scholars and Lay Clerks.

There are five choral services each week during term time, as well as regular concerts throughout the year. All choirs have toured, broadcast and recorded – the most recent record being Carols from Croydon Minster.

Over the years, the Minster has developed strong links with Whitgift School, and the School has now become a major part of the Minster’s rich choral programme. More than half of the Minster boy choristers attend Whitgift School where they receive a Minster Chorister Scholarship.

Whitgift also provides postgraduate Organ and Choral Scholars, as well as professional Lay Clerks, to sing regularly with the Minster Boys’ Choir, enabling the Minster to run a busy schedule of cathedral-style choral services.

The Croydon Minster Choir featured on this record comprises the Choristers, Choral Scholars and Lay Clerks of Whitgift School.

The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble

The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble is a virtuoso period instrument group with a host of distinguished recordings to its name. As well as giving regular recitals in its own right, ECSE collaborates with leading vocal ensembles such as Cantus Cölln, I Fagiolini, Alamire and many others. In addition to regular appearances at major festivals such as York, Brighton, Dartington, Cheltenham and the BBC Proms, the group is in regular demand as a recording ensemble. In 2015, the group collaborated with Alamire on a disc entitled The Spy’s Choirbook (Obsidian), winner of the 2015 Gramophone Award for Early Music. ECSE’s longstanding relationship with I Fagiolini has also led to numerous discs, including the monumental Striggio mass in 40 parts Missa ecco si beato giorno (which scooped both the Gramophone Award for Early Music 2011 and the Diapason d’Or), and another super-size recording of music by Gabrieli and Viadana entitled 1612 Italian Vespers. April 2017 saw yet another large-scale disc: Monteverdi – The Other Vespers (Decca Classics).

When not performing with ECSE, the group’s members can be seen playing with other leading early music ensembles such as Il Giardino Armonico, L’Arpeggiata, La Fenice, Concerto Italiano, Concerto Palatino, The Taverner Consort, The Gabrieli Consort and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Its members also perform at the gloriously re-constructed Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s Bankside.

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