This conference aims to open up a new level of inter-disciplinary research into the verse anthem, a uniquely English, post-Reformation musical form, employed not only for church and domestic use but also in response to major national events. The verse anthem flourished at a time of rapid development in literary, musical, and religious practice; in these areas, recent work has been showing the importance of an understanding of rhetorical theories and practices, for example in connection with the preaching of sermons. The aim of this conference is to discover how this research might shape our approach to performing and listening to the verse anthem, also taking into account recent research on early singing styles which has yet to have much impact on how the repertoire is performed today either in church or concert performance. The conference will establish a four-way conversation between musicologists, historically-informed performers (including the professional viol consort Fretwork and singers from the many excellent College choirs that perform this repertoire regularly), literary scholars, and historians of the church, bringing together an entirely new group of people currently working on the same slice of English culture in the late 16th and early 17th centuries but from different perspectives. It will aim to explain why, as the Elizabethan composer Thomas Morley put it, the verse anthem was able "to draw the hearer, as it were, in chains of gold by the ears to the consideration of holy things".
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