|Composer:||Samuel Webbe (1782)|
|Incipit:||55432 16551 76554|
Also known as:
MELCOMBE was first used as an anonymous chant tune (with figured bass) in the Roman Catholic Mass and was published in 1782 in An Essay on the Church Plain Chant. It was first ascribed to Samuel Webbe (the elder; b. London, England, 1740; d. London, 1816) and named MELCOMBE in Ralph Harrison's Sacred Harmony (1791), the first of many Protestant hymnals to contain this popular Roman Catholic tune. The tune title refers to Melcombe Regis, the northern part of Weymouth in Dorsetshire, England, made famous through frequent visits by King George III (1738-1820).
Webbe's father died soon after Samuel was born without providing financial security for the family. Thus Webbe received little education and was apprenticed to a cabinet maker at the age of eleven. However, he was determined to study and taught himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and Italian while working on his apprenticeship. He also worked as a music copyist and received musical training from Carl Barbant, organist at the Bavarian Embassy. Restricted at this time in England, Roman Catholic worship was freely permitted in the foreign embassies. Because Webbe was Roman Catholic, he became organist at the Portuguese Chapel and later at the Sardinian and Spanish chapels in their respective embassies. He wrote much music for Roman Catholic services and composed hymn tunes, motets, and madrigals.
Webbe is considered an outstanding composer of glees and catches, as is evident in his nine published collections of these smaller choral works. He also published A Collection of Sacred Music (c. 1790), A Collection of Masses for Small Choirs (1792), and, with his son Samuel (the younger), Antiphons in Six Books of Anthems (1818).
MELCOMBE has a steady rhythmic structure and a lot of stepwise intervals. The original setting had one dotted rhythm in the third phrase, which is deleted in many hymnals, including the Psalter Hymnal. The harmony borrows from Webbe's original bass line and from William H. Monk's (PHH 332) harmonization of MELCOMBE for Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). Sing this tune in two long lines, with a small pause at the end of the first to allow a breath before singing the second.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988