Ensemble Hesperi

Hesperi Voices

A specially curated concert celebrating the famous Battle of the Organs at the Temple Church, featuring a glorious selection of verse anthems and chamber music by two luminaries of the English Baroque: Henry Purcell and his older contemporary John Blow. Mary-Jannet Leith of Ensemble Hesperi explains:

"Following the church’s refurbishment by Christopher Wren in the early 1680s, a dispute arose as to which of two leading organ builders of the day, Bernhard Smith and Renatus Harris, should furnish the church with a new instrument. The Benchers of Middle Temple had a strong preference for Smith, but those of Inner Temple favoured the challenger, Harris. In a matter of months, the two men erected two organs at opposite ends of the church, and, for over two years, they vied with each other, inviting the most celebrated players of the day to showcase their craftsmanship. As the Inns struggled to choose a winner, a fierce rivalry developed, and each builder strived to outdo the other, rumours of sabotage never far away.

Our programme features music by the winning organists, Henry Purcell and John Blow, whose virtuosity on Smith’s instrument astonished the crowds who gathered to hear them play. Generously supported by the Continuo Foundation, this programme will launch the Hesperi Voices alongside an expanded band of period instrumentalists, presenting rarely performed verse anthems with strings and recorders by both Blow and Purcell. Alongside these, the core ensemble will perform two instrumental works, including a sonata published posthumously by Purcell’s widow Frances, and sold at Temple Change. To bring the story to life, the concert will also feature spoken excerpts from historical narratives of the organ battle itself, and from the archives of the Inner and Middle Temples."


John Blow 
The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel

Henry Purcell
Rejoice in the Lord always, Z. 49

Henry Purcell
Ten Sonatas in Four Parts: Sonata 1 in B minor, Z. 802

John Blow
Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle?

Henry Purcell
Celestial music did the gods inspire, Z. 322

John Blow
Trio Sonata in A Major

John Blow
And I heard a great voice

75 minutes (without interval)


Generously supported by the Continuo Foundation.

Venue: Temple Church
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