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Music for a Royal Newlywed Christmas

Many of you were awake at weird hours on Saturday to watch a Royal Wedding. I kind of wanted to make a joke about how Henry VIII liked royal weddings so much he had six of them. It did make me think about the music of royal weddings, though. In the one on Saturday, we heard Thomas Tallis’ If Ye Love Me, which is a wonderful example of the “to every syllable a distinct note” rule that Protestant Edward VI put into effect during his reign so that the common people could understand the lyrics – none of that fancy Popish Latin Polyphony for Edward. Nope, clear lyrics that people could understand were the order of the day.

But what about other weddings? We don’t have any official wedding music playlists from any of the Tudor weddings, but The Sixteen released this disc in 2006, called Philip & Mary: A Marriage of England and Spain. I think that it’s appropriate to listen to right now, as two countries are joined together again in marriage. The disc itself is not wedding music, but instead it imagines a Christmas mass just after the wedding of Mary Tudor and Philip of Spain, when Mary was convinced she was pregnant.

The music at that 1554 mass is unknown, but the director of the Sixteen, Harry Christophers, selected a mix of English and Spanish music to represent the two cultures. The Sixteen is not completely authentic in the way they perform the music – they use women instead of boy singers – but the sound is exquisite, and it’s a wonderful introduction for anyone to learn more about the music of the Renaissance.

This was a period when England was returning to the Catholic fold under Mary, and composers like Tallis were given full reign to go back to writing the way they had under Henry VIII, when the mass was still in Latin. The music selected for this album refers to kings, childbirth, and other timely ideas for Mary.

The one piece that is thought to have been written for this actual event is the Missa Puer Natus from Tallis. It’s a seven part piece, that seems to float above you. Parts of the work have been lost over the years, but by listening to what remains we get a sense of what that ceremony would have been like.

So if you’re looking for new music this week, take a listen to this disc (here’s the Spotify link), and listen in the spirit of marriage and weddings. What do you think about it? I’d love to know in the comments!