Added to tentative evidence for the original performance context of the instrumental works in MS Drexel 5469, and evidence of the type of cornett which may have been involved in their performance, use of a reconstructed Tudor organ during the research workshop added a further layer of performance practice considerations to my attempts to reconstruct these pieces, eventually proving pivotal to the research process. During the workshop, I had the use of the St Teilo organ, an instrument built by Martin Goetze and Dominic Gwynn for the Experience of Worship project between 2010 and 2011.1 The organ has the following stops:


I          Open metal principal 5' (Cg# in front)

II         Open metal principal (c ­– a'')

III        Open metal octave

IV        Open metal octave

V         Open metal fifteenth

VI        Stopped wood diapason 10' (full compass)2


Described as ‘a piece of creative archaeology’ by the team responsible for its commissioning, two principal pieces of historical evidence informed the construction of the St Teilo instrument – a soundboard discovered at Wetheringsett in Suffolk and a set of specifications for an instrument at Holy Trinity, Coventry dating from 1526 – and it’s construction is further informed by work on two previous reconstructed instruments built for the Early English Organ Project at what is now considered to be English Quire-pitch (Q) of a'=473.3 The St Teilo organ is pitched at a'=465, a more accessible version of Q chosen to facilitate playing with other instruments built at the modern standardisation of Renaissance ‘high pitch’. The organ is tuned in a modified meantone tuning after Arnolt Schlick’s Spiegel der Orgelmacher, published in Speyer in 1511. The implications of this choice of temperament are discussed in more detail below.


The instrument is effectively in F, pitched a fourth higher than ‘singing’ pitch, but with an additional fold-down ‘modern’ keyboard enabling use of the instrument in both its native 5' pitch and in modern 8' C. The key compass of the historical keyboard of the reconstructed instrument is 46 notes, C to a'', matching the number of grooves in the Wetheringsett soundboard, and the specifications in the Coventry document. Despite the fact that these sources date from a full century before the repertoire in question here, developments in organ building in England stagnated considerably during the second half of the sixteenth century, with a notable lack of investment in organ building and repair in cathedrals and churches under Elizabeth I.4 From the beginning of the seventeenth century, the archives show an increase in activity in this area, and the rise of the Dallam family of organ builders who were to be responsible for many innovations in pre-Civil War English organs can be traced back to this time. However, despite developments in voicing and the eventual addition of second divisions, the transposing system persisted until the 1660s, making the St Teilo instrument a useful research tool when investigating practices in use during the first half of the seventeenth century.


Many performance practice issues surround the use of the transposing organ in the context of a wider ensemble, be it of voices or instruments. In order to mitigate the discrepancy in pitch between the organ and choir, for example, an organist of the seventeenth century would have used a system of clef substitution to transpose at sight when accompanying choirs, playing a fourth lower than notated pitch on the 5' stop, or a fifth higher than notated on the 10' stop. In some cases, organ accompaniments are notated a fourth apart from their corresponding vocal sources to accommodate the high pitch of the organ and use a particular combination of clefs to indicate the need to transpose to the organist. These considerations are explored in detail by Andrew Johnstone and J. Bunker Clark,5 but the most important aspect to note here is that MS Drexel 5469 contains none of the transposition signifiers (chiavette clef combinations, transposition rubrics) that would imply anything other than an ‘at pitch’ or ‘as written’ performance, the implications of which only became clear once practice-led work began. In addition, when considering issues of transposition in the wider ensemble, any transposition in the organ is in addition to primary transposition of a fourth or fifth, and that designating a transposing organ the labels Q or mezzo punto, as in Figure 1, is simply for convenience.


4. The St Teilo Organ

The St Teilo Organ, built by Martin Goetze and Dominic Gwynn, pictured in St Teilo's Church, National Museum of Wales. Photograph courtesy of Dominic Gwynn.