Christe Qui Lux (IV)

Robert White

edited:Alistair Dixon
  Cat. 0084     Christe Qui Lux First Page
  Genre: Hymn  
  Liturgical Use: Compline Lent  
  Vocal Disposition: SATBarB  
  Price: £2.25  

No record of Robert White’s birth exists but he was possibly the son of the London organ builder. also named Robert White. On the award of his Batchelor of Music from Cambridge on December 13th 1560 the Grace Book records that he had been a student of music for ten years.  If White was in his early to mid twenties at this point a birth date of c.1536-8 is possible. In 1561, White succeeded Christopher Tye as organist of Ely cathedral and in 1565 he married Ellen Tye, presumably Christopher Tye’s daughter. He stayed at Ely for four years and then took up an appointment at Chester for a year or two. Finally, he moved to London and became Master or the Choristers at Westminster Abbey in 1569. He died of the plague in 1574 leaving his wife and three children.

In the Use of Sarum Christe qui lux es et dies is the hymn at Compline from the first Sunday of Lent, and daily thereafter until Passion Sunday. (At other times of year the Compline hymn is one of six others including, famously, Te Lucis Ante Terminum). White would have been exposed to the Use of Sarum as a young man during the Marian revival of 1554—1559. He, or a patron, was evidently very taken with Christe qui lux since he left no fewer than four versions. All are alternatim settings, where the even numbered verses are set to polyphony leaving the odd numbered verses in their unaltered plainchant form.

Following the models established by Tallis and Sheppard a generation earlier, White keeps the chant as a cantus firmus in either the treble or tenor part and weaves his polyphony in the remaining four voice parts.

If not actually by St Ambrose, the text is certainly from that school, and dates from no later than the sixth century. The form is that of so many early hymns: a four line iambic tetrameter.


Christe qui lux es et dies,
Noctis tenebras detegis,
Lucisque lumen crederis,
Lumen beatum praedicans.

Precamur sancte domine,
Defende nos in hac nocte,
Sit nobis in te requies,
Quietam noctem tribue.

Ne gravis somnus irruat,
Nec hostis nos surripiat,
Nec caro illi consentiens,
Nos tibi reos statuat.

Oculi somnum capiant,
Cor ad te semper vigilet,
Dextera tua protegat
Famulos qui te diligunt.

Defensor noster aspice,
Insidiantes reprime,
Guberna tuos famulos,
Quos sanguine mercatus es.

Memento nostri domine
In gravi isto corpore,
Qui es defensor animae,
Adesto nobis domine.

Deo patri sit gloria,
Ejusque soli filio,
Cum spiritu paraclyto,
Et nunc et in perpetuum. Amen.

Christ, who art the light and day,
You drive away the darkness of night,
You are called the light of light,
For you proclaim the blessed light.

We beseech you, Holy Lord,
Protect us this night.
Let us take our rest in you;
Grant us a tranquil night.

Let our sleep be free from care;
Let not the enemy snatch us away,
Nor flesh conspire within him,
And make us guilty in your sight.

Though our eyes be filled with sleep,
Keep our hearts forever awake to you.
May your right hand protect
Your willing servants.

You who are our shield, behold;
Restrain those that lie in wait.
And guide your servants whom
You have ransomed with your blood.

Remember us, O Lord,
Who bear the burden of this mortal form;
You who are the defender of the soul,
Be near us, O Lord.

Glory be to God the Father,
And to his only Son,
With the Spirit, Comforter,
Both now and evermore. Amen.


Christchurch Ms Mus.  984-988 no. 38.

All four of White’s settings of Christe qui lux survive in the Christchurch source as numbers 3, 4, 5 & 38.

Editorial Procedures and Conventions 

Clefs and signatures: The original clefs and signatures are indicated in the prefatory staves.
Note values and barring:
Note values have been kept at the original values. Bar lines have been inserted according to the imperfect (but unsigned) mensuration employed in the source.
Transposition: The pitch has been left unaltered enabling performance by soprano. alto, tenor, baritone and bass.
Ligatures Ligatures are indicated with square brackets over the notes.
Voice designations and ranges:
The editorís voice designations are given after the prefatory staves. The ranges of each part are indicated at the pitch of the modern edition.
Accidentals given in the source are shown within the stave.

Accidentals which are implied by the rules of musica ficta are provided editorially above the note.
Text and Underlay: Text underlay given explicitly in the source is shown in a normal typeface. Editorial repetitions indicated in the source by the sign ij are shown in serif italics. Where no indication of verbal repetition is given in the source the editor’s suggested underlay is shown in italicised sans-serif font

Notes on Performance

Although written for the Lady Mass, this setting of the Kyrie could be used in conjunction with English festal mass settings where a polyphonic Kyrie is preferred to a troped planchant Kyrie.

Click here to see the first page: