December 12, 2007

Anthem (in music)


A choral setting of a religious or moral text in English, usually for liturgical performance. The term is derived from Antiphon. In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer the anthem was formally acknowledged as an extra at the end of Matins and Evensong in the Church of England. Early anthems, from c1550 (by Tye, Tallis and others), are in four parts, predominantly imitative in note-against-note counterpoint. A significant development c1600 was the ‘verse’ style, in which verses for solo voices with instrumental accompaniment (normally organ) alternated with choral passages. This paralleled the Concertato development abroad. Byrd's Easter anthem, Christ rising again, illustrates it at its best. Distinguished among his younger contemporaries were Morley (who considered it his task ‘to draw the hearers... to the consideration of holy things’) and later Tomkins, Weelkes and Gibbons, who gave the anthem even greater dramatic impact.

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