Date: August 2016
Creator: Irving, John Wells
Description: By considering sixteenth-century English chorister training, modern singers of Renaissance vocal music are informed of the practical and academic demands unique to Elizabethan musicians and audiences. Clauses in relevant choirmaster contracts provide an insight into pedagogical expectations of teachers and their choristers. Studies included plainchant, grammar, Latin, rhetoric, improvisation, poetry, morality, instrumental instruction on organ and viols, and composition. For those not associated with cathedrals and collegiate chapels, Thomas Morley outlined the educational sequence of his teacher's generation in his 1597 publication, "A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke." Morley presented education as discourse between students and teacher, and covered the fundamentals of singing, improvisation, and composition. With the digitization of and online access to Renaissance performing sources, present-day performers can readily examine the design of sixteenth-century manuscript and printed partbooks. Performance practice recommendations can be gleaned from the physical nature of the music that once equipped the Renaissance chorister with the visual means necessary for expression. Combined with principles of chorister training, this project suggests learned choices in pronunciation, tone, intonation, phrasing, pitch, text underlay, musica ficta, rhetoric, and expression for the prima pars of William Byrd's middle period motet, "Tristitia et anxietas."
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries