Henry Purcell is considered one of England’s foremost composers, particularly noted for his contributions during the revival of church music in the aftermath of the English Civil War. Embracing a style influenced by European and operatic elements championed by Italian composers like Claudio Monteverdi, Purcell infused his compositions with a sense of freedom and drama. While maintaining the intimacy of chamber performance, his works feature solos, duets, and intricate, florid lines that depart from the more rigid polyphony of earlier eras.
Amidst the German bombings of England in 1940, Herbert Howells composed his setting of Psalm 122, O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. Howells himself was displaced from his bombed residence, alongside his family. Throughout this tumultuous period, Howells crafted numerous pieces reflecting on themes of conflict, adversity, and the pursuit of peace. Notably, this anthem stands out for its simplicity and the subdued drama, centering its focus on the tranquil invocation of "peace be within thy walls.”