Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Shepherd School of Music
“Grave, solemn, & fitted to devotion”: Anglican Church Music 1688 – 1727
Monday, April 3, 2017
to 1:00 PM
2233 Alice Pratt Brown Hall
My thesis explores how English church composers between 1688 and 1727 engaged with the wide-spread religious and cultural objective for moderation and tolerance, in order to avoid repeating the destructiveness of seventeenth-century religious division between Catholics, Anglicans, and Nonconformists. Sermons written around the turn of the eighteenth century are particularly valuable because they illustrate this moderate temperament, and a number of them also defend and support Anglican sacred music, which had been a highly divisive issue in the seventeenth century.
For English church composers to have their music approved of and accepted, preachers and writers cautioned them to avoid imitating French and Italian-style secular music, which was decried as the “theatrical style,” and encouraged them to maintain, in the words of William Croft (1678 – 1727), the “Solemnity and Gravity of what may properly be called the Church-Style.” There were two methods that composers used to attain the grave and solemn style: the first was choice of text, where they favored penitential psalms, or selectively chose mournful verses from non-penitential psalms; the second was the cultivation of a distinctive style that avoided text painting, but emphasized syllabic setting, slower tempos, and the repetition of mournful words within anthem movements for ensembles of voices.