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Welsh music history


Vol. 4, 2000

Middleton's household chapel : church music on the Welsh border in the seventeenth century /

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Middleton's Household Chapel:
Church Music on the Welsh Border
in the Seventeenth Century
A consequence of the social structure existing in Britain in the early
part of the seventeenth century, as had long been the case, was that
musicians were often dependent on the patronage either of the
church or of the upper classes. This article considers the establish-
ment of a choral foundation at the private chapel of Chirk Castle in
north-east Wales, the home of the Member of Parliament for
Denbighshire, Sir Thomas Myddleton (1586-1666; Plate 1, p. 124),
and the repertoire found in the recently-discovered partbooks and
organbook associated with him. In addition to the patronage exer-
cised by the Myddletons, close links also existed between the choral
foundation within the private chapel of Chirk Castle and the Parish
Church of St Giles, Wrexham.
The five music manuscripts associated with Chirk comprise a set of
four partbooks (New York Public Library, MS Mus. Res.*MNZ
(Chirk)), and a supporting organbook (Och MS Mus. 6, hereafter
referred to as MS 6). The manuscripts are important on a number of
counts: they illustrate the repertory of a provincial choral establish-
ment during the seventeenth century; they bring to light several items
unique to Chirk; they serve to provide alternative readings or fill
lacunae for pieces also found in other sources; and they raise issues
of performance practice, particularly with regard to pitch and the
phenomenon of the transposing organ.
1 Chirk Castle and its private chapel
Chirk Castle is located close to the English border, within the old
county boundary of Denbighshire. Built in 1282, it was one of a
series of castles constructed along the border to uphold the conquests
of Edward I. It later passed through the hands of several influential
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