Elizabethan Era

The Tudors Era

Jacobean Era

Music Madrigals Definition and Songs



During the Tudor period, while there was a gulf between the lifestyles of the rich and poor, there was one thing that everyone could enjoy regardless of their status, and that was music. For the poor it was Tudor church music that they were able to enjoy. For the wealthy there was the music which was especially composed for the enjoyment of the royal court.

Madrigal Music Definition

Music in 1500's was very different to the music that we listen to today. The madrigal is something particularly Tudor in creation and can be defined as a love poem set to music. A madrigal employed the use of only one or two instruments in its basic form. This is different in form and style to the Tudor ayre, which was the more typical form of Tudor church music and could feature a range of musical instruments as well as many voices.

Types of Tudor Church Music

The emergence of the new form of music known as the madrigal signalled that England was becoming more sophisticated in its musical tastes. The new madrigal was more in keeping with the musical style of our continental cousins in Europe. The madrigal reached its peak of popularity in the early 1500's and church music as a whole was greatly enjoyed. Aside from the madrigals which were played, there were also ayres or airs played in churches as well as more traditional sacred musical forms such as hymns.

Music in 1500's

Music from the Tudor period is described as being a choral polyphony, which simply means there is more than one part for a voice to sing. Polyphonic madrigals for example would feature the words of the love poem sung by different voices, either in harmony or in a round. Many of the hymns that were composed during the 1500's are still sung by choirs and congregations in the Church of England Today.

Famous Tudor Composers and Musicians

The two names which were behind much of the Tudor church music that was written and played at the time are Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. They were both composers and musicians and both very talented at their art. Another composer of the time was William Blitheman, he was the organist in the Chapel Royal for Queen Elizabeth I.

He composed a great deal of church music as well as virginal music. The chief English composer at the time was a man by the name of Orlando Gibbons. Not only was he organist within the Royal Chapel he also went on to be the organist within Westminster Abbey, an incredibly prominent role. He is known to have created a wealth of choral music as well as hymns and sacred music for the church. He is also the composer of a number of anthems.

Music to accompany the new prayer book of the time was composed by John Mundy who was the organist of St George's in Windsor, he sang as well as composed. It is testament to the talent of these individuals that many of their hymns are still sung today.

   
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