Thursday, April 30, 2015

Progressive Album Rock and Henry VIII's Six Wives

Please note: this may be the only hard rock seventies post in connection with Henry VIII I'll ever make!

My husband and I are spinning more discs. He has visited a couple of the record stores here in Wichita and purchased several long-playing, 33-1/3, vinyl records. Earlier this week he bought Rick Wakeman's 1973 album, The Six Wives of Henry VIII for me, at my request:

Rick Wakeman was the keyboard artist for the English rock band Yes (in the 1970s, 1990's and 2000's). He is also a solo artist (with quite a back up group on this album). The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a 1973 studio album, inspired by Wakeman's reading of Nancy Brysson Morrison's The Private Life of Henry VIII. As he says in the liner notes:

The album is based around my interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. Although the style may not always be in keeping with their individual history, it is my personal conception of their characters in relation to keyboard instruments.

It is indeed a personal interpretation!

My husband and I listened it to it and you can sample it here. Wakeman does not recreate the musical style of sixteenth century England in these musical interpretations. They are sometimes melodic, but there are jazzy and even soulful sections in the compositions. The album presents the wives out of chronological order and it's interesting to note that the wife to whom Henry was married the longest gets the shortest musical treatment:

1. Catherine of Aragon (3:45)
2. Anne of Cleves (7:50)
3. Catherine Howard (6:36)
4. Jane Seymour (4:44)
5. Anne Boleyn (Incl "The day thou gavest Lord is ended") (6:31)
6. Catherine Parr (7:00)

The back cover includes brief biographies for each of the wives in their proper chronological order with commonly accepted portraits and the inside fold of the album shows the layout of his keyboards. Wakeman played all his keyboards in the studio and also went to St. Giles-without-Cripplegate, an historic London church, the play the organ for the Jane Seymour track. Among the historical figures associated with the church are John Foxe, John Milton, Lancelot Andrewes, St. Thomas More, John Bunyan, Ben Jonson, Oliver Cromwell, and Daniel Defoe!

In the Anne Boleyn composition, Wakeman included the hymn tune. St. Clement, for "The day thou gavest the Lord is ended" a popular Anglican hymn:

The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended
The darkness falls at thy behest;
To thee our morning hymns ascended
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank thee that thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren 'neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never
Like earth's proud empires, pass away;
Thy Kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all thy creatures own thy sway.

More about the hymn and its composition here.

In 2009, Rick Wakeman performed an expanded version with a section dedicated to "The Defender of the Faith" at Hampton Court Palace in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession to the throne. More about that event here.

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