Lost and found: the English choral tradition

In a new book review, Michael White outlines a history of how the English choral tradition was disrupted by the English Reformation and reconstructed in the 1900s, partly through Catholic influence:

On Christmas Eve, the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols will be broadcast from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and listeners throughout the world will think how wonderful it is that, in these crazy times […] the great English choral tradition carries on: soothing, consoling, with the same exquisite beauty that it’s cultivated since the Middle Ages.

The idea is an attractive one, but not quite true. And this book tells you in no uncertain terms how far from the truth it is.

The review is on-line at the Catholic Herald.

2 comments

2 Replies to “Lost and found: the English choral tradition”

  1. The English are very good at inventing tradition where it has been missing for a while – think the Choral tradition, Percy Dearmer, Royal ceremonial. The point is that it neither comes from nowhere nor slavishly follows precedent.

    The English ecclesiastical choral tradition is a case in point – it looks back to the glories of the older, wider tradition, yet successfully builds on it.

    Perhaps there is a lesson here for us in the Church when we think about the recovery of our liturgical practice?

  2. My initial reaction is – what about the Three Choirs Festival? That seems to have endured. On the other hand, the Barchester Chronicles begin with the tribulations of the Cathedral Precentor, and I don’t recall any mention of a choir, perhaps I should look again..

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