Christopher Gibbons


English composer and organist. He was the second son, and first surviving child of Orlando Gibbons.

As a child, Gibbons sang in the Chapel Royal under the direction of Nathaniel Giles. Gibbons probably studied initially with his. After his father's early death in 1625, Gibbons moved to Exeter to live, for a short period, with his uncle, and father's eldest brother, Edward Gibbons who was also a well-regarded church musician in London and Master of the Choristers at Exeter Cathedral.

In 1638, Gibbons, by then already a noted organist and Gentleman Chorister of the Chapel Royal and Westminster Abbey, succeeded organist Thomas Holmes at Winchester Cathedral. However, the English Civil War - which began in earnest in 1641 - lead to a suppression of Church music, and put an end to Gibbons' position. He fought for the Royalist cause but after the war moved to London where he lived from late in 1651 to his death in 1676. Worthy of mention is his work with respected contemporary Matthew Locke on the masque or quasi-opera Cupid and Death in 1653 - it is one of the few works from this period that still exists in full score. From 1653 until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Gibbons made his living primarily as a music teacher and, more occasionally, as a composer of incidental music for the restricted theatres of Commonwealth London. Christopher Gibbons was one of the few Royalist musicians not to flee England for the safety of the continent during the Interregnum.

With the return of Charles II to the English throne, Gibbons, in part because of his loyalty to the crown, was immediately welcomed into the artistic fold of the new court and, with church music again flourishing, was reinstated as a Gentleman and Organist of the Chapel Royal. He subsequently became one of Charles' most important post-Interregnum composers, teachers and musical advisors.

Gibbons was well-known and influential in the later part of his life (1660-1676) - he is recorded several times in Samuel Pepys' diaries - and importantly (given his direct link to the musical tradition of the Elizabethan period) he was responsible for the nurturing of several great Restoration composers including Blow, Humfrey and, most significantly, Henry Purcell. His music is little known - and few examples exist of any - but it is as a teacher and up-holder of the English musical tradition - before the almost thirty year interruption to it by those socio-economic and cultural struggles that culminated in the English Civil War - that secures for him a substantial role in the rebirth of English music, particularly church music, during the second half of the 17th century.

A Partial Christopher Gibbons Discography |  IVM:England Through 1635 | The Research Periods | Home

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