This Is the Record of John

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"This Is the Record of John" is a verse anthem written by the English composer Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625). It is based on a text from the Gospel of John in the Geneva Bible and is a characteristic Anglican-style composition of its time. "John" (whose record is being told) refers to John the Baptist. The piece is divided into three sections, each beginning with a verse for solo contratenor (more like a modern tenor, but often now sung by a countertenor[1]) followed by a full section (consort of voices), echoing words of the verse. The singers are usually accompanied by organ: a viol consort is another possibility, although it is debatable how frequently viols would have been used in Jacobean services.[2]

"This Is the Record of John"
Verse anthem by Orlando Gibbons
Orlando Gibbons.jpg
Portrait of Orlando Gibbons
GenreAnglican church music
Written1600s: England
TextJohn 1:19-23
LanguageEarly Modern English
Based onGospel of John


This 'verse-anthem' was written at the request of William Laud, who was President of St John's College, Oxford from 1611-1621; the St John to whom college is dedicated is John the Baptist. It was written for the college chapel, and presumably received its first performance there.[3] The text forms one of the readings for Advent.

According to Morris,[4] the earliest known extant manuscripts of the anthem date from the 1630s, a decade after Gibbons' death. They are located at major English cathedrals and chapels, as far from Oxford as Durham, suggesting that the anthem enjoyed wide use when first written. It is included in a number of modern publications, including the Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems (OUP, 1978).[4]


The original text comes from John 1:19 - 23. Gibbons uses the text of the Geneva Bible; it is very similar to that found in the Authorized Version, but (for example) AV has "one crying" in the third stanza, where the Geneva Bible (and Gibbons) have "him that crieth". The text concerns the prophecy of John the Baptist foretelling the coming of Jesus.


  1. This is the record of John,
    when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him,
    Who art thou?
    And he confessed and denied not, and said plainly,
    I am not the Christ.
  2. And they asked him, What art thou then? Art thou Elias?
    And he said, I am not.
    Art thou the prophet?
    And he answered, No.
  3. Then said they unto him,
    What art thou? that we may give an answer unto them that sent us.
    What sayest thou of thyself?
    And he said, I am the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
    Make straight the way of the Lord.


  1. ^ Smith (2013). "Obituary: John Whitworth, countertenor". Gramophone. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  2. ^ Morehen (1978). "The English Consort and Verse Anthems". Early Music. 6 (3): 381–385. doi:10.1093/earlyj/6.3.381. JSTOR 3125808. accessed via JSTOR, subscription required
  3. ^ "History". St John's College Oxford. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b Morris, Christopher (1978). The Oxford book of Tudor anthems: 34 Anthems for Mixed Voices. Oxford: Music Department, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0193533257. This publication uses a broad definition of Tudor and includes music from the reign of James I.

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