O clap your hands together by Orlando Gibbons c.1610
One of Gibbons grandest works: O clap your hands is a contrapuntal masterpiece. Its relentless rhythmic drive picks up the spirit and carries it through some deliciously dramatic exchanges between the groups of voices. Who couldn’t love the shouts of joy at “O sing praises.” Exuberance by a master of early english music.
This glorious chorus was sung at The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey in 1953.
Here is Orlando Gibbons’ O Clap Your Hands Together as sung by the Oxford Camerata.
Orlando Gibbons left a treasure trove of music written specifically for the Anglican church. On May 17 of 1622 Gibbons and his close friend William Heyther received doctorate degrees from Oxford University. To celebrate this occasion Orlando Gibbons composed his jubilant full anthem O clap your hands.
O clap your hands gives full vent to Orlando Gibbons’ mature skill as a composer. Within its complexities lies a catalog of compositional techniques from the Tudor period.O clap your hands is a full eight-voiced English Cathedral choir anthem which exploits all the textures that enables without soloists. It’s absolutely bloody marvellous!
The text is from the joyous Psalm 47 plus a full doxology (Gloria patri). Gibbons never fails to delight his Gibbonites with this slowly expanding opening through the musical void he has created. And then at the first mention of the Lord’s name there is a sudden cutting through. A trick that Radiohead would later fully exploit. Just remember where you heard it first. Further in we come to The passage claiming God’s place as “great King” which features lively triple-meter cross-rhythms, followed by still chords reflecting the submission of us humble folk before the majesty of the power greater than ourselves aka God. Much of the second half gloriously exploits the contrast between the two sections of the choir. The four decani voices answering the cantori. O clap your hands Reaches a climactic moment as the voices claim God as “highly exalted.” The concluding text sees classic Orlando Gibbons placing a central message within a multicoloured vacillating vocal tapestry. Ruddy marvellous!