During the initial play-through of the first iteration of my edition with the full ensemble it became clear that the extended range of the organ parts as transcribed in MS Drexel 5469, particularly at the low end of the bass register, meant that they could not be played in their entirety using the ‘modern’ keyboard (with a range from F to d''') with which the St Teilo organ is fitted, designed to render ‘at pitch’ performances, and selected due to the absence of transposition indicators in the organ score. Use of the historical keyboard, with a range from C to a'', however, matched the range of the organ parts perfectly, resulting in the organ sounding a fourth higher than notated pitch (see Figure 2). With the instrumentalists also adopting firstly this up-a-fourth transposition to meet the organ, and then, presuming they are pitched a tone lower than the absolute pitch of the organ, a further up-a-tone transposition, the resultant tessitura is lifted out of the extreme low end of the register of both the cornett and sackbut and brought into line with ranges we might expect to encounter in writing for these instruments based on continental and English sources. Figure 3 compares the ranges of the organ lines of Loosemore’s Verse with ranges from other repertoire, showing how closely each organ line corresponds with the range of the instruments for which the piece was written, once these primary and secondary transpositions are applied. Despite questions remaining about the type of sackbut for which Loosemore’s writing was intended (a tenor instrument is required for the scenario I propose here, whilst a bass is needed to perform the Hingeston pieces, for example), this comparison shows that, through practical experimentation based on the fixed pitch of the cornetts and the technical specifications of the organ, a workable and musically satisfying solution can be found to performing this piece. This scenario, in which instruments and organ are pitched a tone apart, with a primary transposition of a fourth higher, might be referred to as the ‘Christ Church scenario’, but given the similarly high pitch of the King’s College instrument of the early seventeenth century, could also represent performance practices from Loosemore’s own institution. A recording of Loosemore’s Verse using this scenario can be heard here, and the subsequent application of these parameters to Coprario’s Verse is discussed in more detail below.
Despite the apparent neatness of this solution, one issue remains unresolved in this interpretation of our written artefact in this instance, namely the approach to transposition required for the choral pieces amongst which the Coprario and Loosemore verses are found. As mentioned above, no transposition signifiers occur in MS Drexel 5469 as they often do in similar sources of the period,1 but if Loosemore had played his accompaniments for choral music as written, the organ would have sounded a fourth higher than his choir could reasonably have expected to sing. In order to match the choir pitch, Loosemore would have had to transpose the choral pieces, presumably, as Bunker Clark suggests, ‘by imagining the appropriate clefs in place of the written ones’.2 This leaves two transposition schemes at play: one for accompanying singers, in which the organist transposes down a fourth or up a fifth to meet choir pitch, and one for accompanying instrumentalists, in which the instrumentalists effectively transpose up to meet the organ, either at sight or by using transposed parts. Such a two-scheme approach is not without precedence in Italian sources of the early seventeenth-century in this respect. Lodovico Viadana’s Cento Concerti Ecclesiastici, published in Venice in 1605 contains the following rubric beneath a setting of Fratres ego enim, for soprano or tenor solo and organ: ‘when playing this concerto with cornetto, the organist should play a fourth higher, like this’.3 A musical incipit follows that gives the opening three bars of the bass line a fourth higher than in the main body of the print. Viadana is instructing his organist not to employ the usual down-a-fourth transposition implied by the chiavette clefs when playing with cornett here, just as Loosemore, in order to render a performance of these two instrumental verses in the manner I propose, would have played his organ score exactly as written. The bewildering array of sight transpositions English organists of this period were expected to be able to carry out is a testament to their musicianship,4 but perhaps when playing with winds in this context they might have been allowed a moment of respite.