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A Short History of English Church Music by Erik Routley, Eric Routley, Lionel Dakers

By Erik Routley, Eric Routley, Lionel Dakers

Starting from the medieval interval to the current day, it is a short background of church track because it has constructed in the course of the English culture. defined as "a speedy journey", it presents a large old survey instead of an in-depth research of the topic, and likewise predicts most likely destiny tendencies.

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To these we can add private collections using texts other than that of the official Psalter, like those of Hunnys and Leighton (not to mention the ineffable versification of The Acts set to music by Christopher Tye back in 1553 or the equally crude Psalter version by Archbishop Matthew Parker for which Tallis wrote his celebrated series of eight tunes, about 1560). It is easily demonstrable the puritans liked chamber music and had little use for sociable music or for concert music (even of such a kind as was available then).

And this was to a large measure the secret of Byrd's success: for on Tallis's death (1585) the licence remained with Byrd, and under it he proceeded to put out several series of works which have become acknowledged as masterpieces: the two series of Cantiones Sacrae (1575, revised 1589, and 1591: 61 pieces in all), the Gradudia (1605, 1607, 78 items including the three mentioned above), the English anthems in two series (1589, 1611), the Short and Great Services, and other service music. Byrd was an avowed Catholic sympathizer; his wife was cited for the technical offence of recusancy (refusing to conform to the new anglican settlement) in 1577 and he himself was so cited in 1586; but neither of them was ever punished for what brought several Catholic priests to the fate of martyrdom.

Such an injunction can be interpreted positively or negatively—either 'let us have music and keep it modest' or 'virtually all music is immodest and indistinct'—according to the critic's temperament. It was not long before the sterner voice was heard criticizing popish ceremonies as conducted in the Queen's private chapel: the Dean of St Paul's (Nowell) made that point in a sermon in 1563 and the Queen exercised the royal prerogative of telling him to talk about something else or be silent. She had, anyhow, her own political reasons at that time for not appearing to be too violently anti-Catholic.

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