English Church Polyphony: Singers and Sources from the 14th to the 17th Century, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

English Church Polyphony

Singers and Sources from the 14th to the 17th Century, 1st Edition

By Roger Bowers


368 pages

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Hardback: 9780860787785
pub: 1999-04-22
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The theme of the essays in this volume is the identification of the resources which between c.1320 and 1642 the English church saw fit to provide for the performance of the music of its liturgy. Individual essays describe the music and the choirs of Canterbury and Lincoln Cathedrals, Winchester Cathedral Priory and the private chapel of Cardinal Wolsey, while the personnel of the chapels of Edward III, the Black Prince and John of Gaunt emerge from study of the texts of compositions of the 14th century. From the alignment of contemporary musical and archival sources there arises a web of conclusions relating to the size of ensemble, vocal scoring and sounding pitch envisaged by its composers for English church polyphony of the period c.1320-1559. These essays thus encompass the two most profound of the revolutions to which the music of the English church was subject at this period: the inauguration and widespread adoption of choral polyphony in the years c.1455-85 and the liturgical and doctrinal Reformation of 1547 to 1563.


'…the writing is extremely clear and the book is strongly recommended.' Early Music Review, No. 52 'His volume opens with three famous essays that are the very basis of recent thought about vocal ensembles and pitch…the volume ends with three essays that will always stand as classics….' Early Music '…this is an enthralling book…An impressive feature of the book is the wealth of documentary evidence and bibliographical references….' Cathedral Music, No. 1 ’All in all this is a most impressive collection of twenty years of scholarship, and comes highly recommended to all students of English music and church history alike.’ Journal of Ecclesiastical History 'This volume represents the major contribution of a Cambridge archival scholar who has notably enriched our knowledge of English church music (and other fields).' Anglican and Episcopal History

Table of Contents

Contents: Church polyphony c.1320-1558: Performance and Notation: The performing ensemble for English church polyphony, c.1320-1390; To chorus from quartet: the performing resource for English church polyphony, c.1390-1559; The vocal scoring, choral balance and performing pitch of Latin church polyphony in England, c.1500-1558; Choirs and their Music from the Middle Ages to the Civil Wars: Canterbury Cathedral: The liturgy of the cathedral and its music, c.1075-1642; The musicians of the Lady Chapel choir of Winchester Cathedral Priory, 1402-1539; Lincoln Cathedral: Music and worship to 1640; The cultivation and promotion of music in the household and orbit of Thomas Wolsey (c.1489-1530); Composition and Employment in Cathedral and Household Chapel: Fixed points in the chronology of English 14th-century polyphony; Some observations on the life and career of Lionel Power; Obligation, agency and laissez-faire: the promotion of polyphonic composition for the church in 15th-century England; Index.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at Michael.Greenwood@informa.com

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
MUSIC / General