1st Edition

Church Music and Protestantism in Post-Reformation England Discourses, Sites and Identities

By Jonathan Willis Copyright 2010

    'Church Music and Protestantism in Post-Reformation England' breaks new ground in the religious history of Elizabethan England, through a closely focused study of the relationship between the practice of religious music and the complex process of Protestant identity formation. Hearing was of vital importance in the early modern period, and music was one of the most prominent, powerful and emotive elements of religious worship. But in large part, traditional historical narratives of the English Reformation have been distinctly tone deaf. Recent scholarship has begun to take increasing notice of some elements of Reformed musical practice, such as the congregational singing of psalms in meter. This book marks a significant advance in that area, combining an understanding of theory as expressed in contemporary religious and musical discourse, with a detailed study of the practice of church music in key sites of religious worship. Divided into three sections - 'Discourses', 'Sites', and 'Identities' - the book begins with an exploration of the classical and religious discourses which underpinned sixteenth-century understandings of music, and its use in religious worship. It then moves on to an investigation of the actual practice of church music in parish and cathedral churches, before shifting its attention to the people of Elizabethan England, and the ways in which music both served and shaped the difficult process of Protestantisation. Through an exploration of these issues, and by reintegrating music back into the Elizabethan church, we gain an expanded and enriched understanding of the complex evolution of religious identities, and of what it actually meant to be Protestant in post-Reformation England.

    Contents: Introduction; Part I Discourses: 'A lawdable science': the cultural significance of music in early modern England; Church and music in Elizabethan England. Part II Sites: Musical provision in the Elizabethan parish church; Music and the Elizabethan cathedrals. Part III Identities: Educating the masses: pedagogy, propaganda, and Protestantism; Music and community in Elizabethan England; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.


    Dr. Jonathan Willis is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow and Lecturer in Early Modern History at the department of history, University of Birmingham, UK.

    '... Church Music and Protestantism is a learned and thought-provoking book... those expecting a detailed, meticulously researched monograph will be pleased.' Journal of Anglican and Episcopal History 'This is a truly exciting, ground-breaking book that discusses church music in the post-Reformation period in the round... Jonathan Willis displays amazing erudition whilst also providing a compelling read... This is thus a fascinating book that sheds light on many aspects of life in early modern England, far more than one might suppose from the title.' Ecclesiology Today 'Two features of the book stand out. First, Willis uses an exceptional range of sources: churchwardens’ accounts, ballads, and contemporary polemical, theological and educational works. Secondly, the prose has flashes of genuine wit and elegance. Above all, it is important to note that a short review cannot do justice to the nuances of his arguments and the careful way in which he responds to existing scholarship by historians and musicologists alike. Willis has completely altered the way in which we must think and write about Elizabethan church music.' History