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CHAPTER 26
MUSIC IN ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND:
EARLY VOCAL MUSIC
THE RENAISSANCE IN ENGLAND
• The Renaissance arrived late to England (about
1560) but stayed longer (until about 1620). The
heyday of the English Renaissance thus extends
only slightly more than the life of William
Shakespeare (1564-1614).
King Henry VIII
The English Renaissance, and the Elizabethan Age, was preceded by
the rule of her father King Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547). Henry
employed fifty-eight musicians and owned several hundred musical
instruments. He could play, dance, sing, and even compose. Among
the thirty-five secular pieces attributed to him is Pastyme with Good
Companye
The beginning of Henry’s Pastyme with Good Companye, a fine example of an
English partsong—a strophic song with English text intended to be sung by
three or four voices in a predominantly homophonic music style and with lively
rhythms.
HENRY VIII AND CHURCH REFORM
• As the consequence of his attempts to secure papal
sanction of a divorce in 1528, Henry VIII did away
with the Catholic Church in England and in its place
established the Church of England (now called
Anglican Church in England and Episcopal Church
in the United States). By 1547 religious people in
England were of one of three persuasions: recusant
Catholics, Anglicans, and Puritans (those who
wanted a more austere Protestant religion in
England). The newly reformed Anglican
service consisted of Morning Prayer (a
compression of Matins and Lauds), Mass, and
Evensong (a similar compression of Vespers and
Compline).
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
• For most of the second half of the sixteenth
century England was ruled by a remarkable
woman, Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603). Elizabeth
studied architecture, mathematics, astronomy,
geography, French, Italian, Latin, and even Greek.
She also played the virginal (a small harpsichord)
and athletically danced the galliard into her 60s.
A portrait of Princess Elizabeth Tudor
at the age of thirteen
She holds a book, and
another rests on a
lectern, both prominently
displayed to symbolize
Elizabeth’s extraordinary
capacity for learning.
RELIGIOUS MUSIC UNDER ELIZABETH
• The English chapel followed the rites of the Church
of England (Anglican Church). At the same time,
Elizabeth was tolerant of Puritan music and
musicians, as well as Catholic music and musicians.
THOMAS TALLIS
• Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585), the most renowned
musician of the royal chapel early in Elizabeth’s
rule, wrote a variety of music that, depending on
the piece, was suitable for the Catholic, Anglican,
or Puritan service. In 1567 Tallis provided eight
brief, syllabic compositions that could accompany
an English verse translation of the Psalter by
Bishop Matthew Parker—one setting for each of the
eight church modes. This was simple, unadorned
music appropriate for either the Anglican or Puritan
church.
The beginning of Thomas Tallis’s
setting of Psalm 2
Here Tallis has taken the old Gregorian psalm tone for the Phrygian
mode (mode 3) and placed it in the tenor voice. In later
arrangements of Tallis’s psalm, the tune is placed in the soprano
voice. It is still known today from a beautiful setting by Ralph
Vaughan Williams, his Fantasy on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.
Three versions of the text of Psalm 2 with Matthew Parker’s
translation into rhyming English verse in the middle
Ps. 2: Latin of Vulgate Bible
Quare fremuerunt gentes,
et populi meditati sunt inania?
Astiterunt reges terrae,
et principes convenerunt in unum,
adversus Dominum,
et adversus Christum ejus.
Ps. 2: Parker’s translation,
Why fum’th in sight the Gentiles spite,
in fury ragging stout?
Why tak’th in hand the people fond,
vain things to bring about?
The kings arise, the Lords devise,
in counsels met thereto,
against the Lord with false accord,
against his Christ they go.
Ps. 2: King James Version
Why do the heathen rage
and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord, and against his
Anointed.
WILLIAM BYRD
• When Tallis died in 1585, his place as the
preeminent composer of the Elizabethan age was
assumed by William Byrd (1543-1623). Byrd
remained true to his Catholic faith, protected by
Queen Elizabeth, in an increasingly anti-Catholic
country. For the Catholic service, celebrated
clandestinely, he wrote Masses for three, four, and
five voices, respectively. Byrd also composed lute
ayres, consort ayres, music for solo lute, solo
keyboard, and viol consort, as well as a large body
of religious music for the Anglican Church.
THE ANTHEM
• The anthem was the musical staple of the Anglican
Church. An anthem is a sacred vocal composition,
much like a motet but sung in English, in honor of
the Lord or invoking the Lord to protect and
preserve the English king or queen. An anthem
might be sung at Morning Service, the Anglican
Mass, or Evensong, as well as at any occasion of
state.
BYRD REFASHIONS PSALM 21 TO SERVE IN AN ANTHEM
FOR QUEEN ELIZABETH
Psalm 21, verses 1, 2, and 4:
The King shall joy in thy strength, O Lord.
Thou hast given him his heart’s desire,
and hast not withholden the request
of his lips.
He asked life of thee, and thou gavest in him,
even length of days for ever and ever.
Byrd’s text in honor of Elizabeth (c1570):
O Lord, make thy servant, Elizabeth our
Queen to rejoice in thy strength;
Give her her heart’s desire,
and deny not the request of
of her lips.
But prevent [protect] her with thine everlasting
blessing,
and give her a long life, ev’n for ever and ever.
Amen.
THE STYLE OF BYRD’S ANTHEMS
• Byrd’s anthems are similar in style, in the most
general way, to the learned, imitative polyphony
created by Catholic composers on the Continent at
this time, among them Lassus and Palestrina.
• Like other English composers of this period, Byrd
makes use of the English cross (false) relation
—the simultaneous or adjacent appearance in
different voices of two conflicting notes with the
same letter name.
A section of Byrd’s anthem O Lord, make
thy servant, Elizabeth
The English cross relationship (see asterisks) occurs because good
voice leading requires to the soprano voice to have a B flat and the
alto voice, simultaneously to sing a B natural.
AMEN CADENCE
• Another special feature of English church music at
this time is the preference for a lengthy Amen
cadence—an emphatic conclusion to a psalm
provided by the old Hebrew word for “and so be it.”
The Amen cadence traditional makes use of a
plagal cadence (a term drawn from the Greek
word plagalis, meaning “derived from” or “not
direct.” The plagal cadence is a IV-I chordal
movement with the bass in root position falling
down by the interval of the fourth.
The Amen cadence
with which William Byrd concludes his anthem O Lord, make thy servant, Elizabeth