Event—Public Programming

Voices of Reform: Early Modern Religious Music

Gradual, Mexico, 17th century

Gradual, Mexico, 17th century

Gradual, Mexico, 17th century

The expanding print industry of the sixteenth century strongly contributed to the religious and social upheaval that defined the Reformation. The printed materials that circulated widely in Europe included musical books for the laity. Like the written word, music had the power to promote new thinking, and its expressive devices could be used more effectively than regular speech. The Newberry's outstanding collection of early modern musical sources bears witness to the shifts in religious thinking persuasively communicated in retooled musical styles.

Schola Antiqua has prepared selections from several Newberry books that testify to the religious dynamism of the sixteenth century and beyond. At its core the program emphasizes the accessibility of sacred music, no longer relegated to the talented few of a chapel choir. This was music for all to sing, and sometimes even popular melodies were tapped to propagate new religious messages. Further, the use of the vernacular is also strongly in evidence, a deliberate subduing of the pre-supposed superiority of the Latin language in sacred music.

This program, "Voices of Reform," offers a diverse set of musical items emblematic of the nascent and blurred confessional divisions of the period. In commemoration of the quincentennial of Luther’s Reformation, Schola Antiqua offers his iconic congregational melody “Ein feste burg” as well as his creedal hymn “Wir gleuben all an einen Gott,” both with complex harmonizations by Luther’s collaborator, Johann Walther. The program also contains three metrical psalms, a signature musical style flowing from Calvinist theology. The most intricately-crafted works on the program are two five-voice pieces from William Byrd’s Psalmes, sonets, & songs of sadnes and pietie of 1588. Byrd is a fascinating figure as a recusant Catholic working under the firmly Anglican auspices of Queen Elizabeth I.


Selections from the The Psalms of David Set in French Verse (Pseaumes de David: mis en rime francoise), 1562

  • Marot, Psalm 23: “My God nourishes me” ("Mon Dieu me pait”)
  • Marot, Psalm 25: “To you my God” (“A toy mon Dieu”)
  • Theodore Beza, Psalm 98: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (“Chantez à Dieu nouveau cantique”)

Selections from Sacred Songs (Geistliche Lieder), 1580

  • Introit for the feast of Ascension: “Ye Men of Galilee” (“Viri Galilaei”)
  • Introit for the feast of Ascension: “The Lord of our salvation” (“Der Herzog unser Seligkeit”)
  • Martin Luther, Psalm 46: “God, our refuge and strength” (“Deus noster refugium & virtus”), or “A Mighty Fortress” (“Ein feste Burg”); third verse harmonization by Johann Walther

Selections from Songs of the Latin Church for Sundays and All Feast Days (Cantiones ecclesiasticae latinae, Dominicis et festis diebus), 1545

  • Gospel reading, Matthew 21:1-9
  • Creedal hymn: “We all believe in one God” (“Wir gleuben all an einen Gott”), Luther, 1524, third verse harmonization by Johann Walther

Selections from The Pious Lark with her Coin-Box (La pieuse Alouette avec son tirelire), 1619-21

  • Chanson spirituelle: “Make me my very sweet Jesus” (“Fais moy mon tres-doux Iesus”), on the popular air “Since Heaven wills it thus” (“Puis que le Ciel veut ainsi”)
  • Polyphonic rondeau for four voices: “Where are you going?” (“Ov va tu?”)

Selection from A Song for the Landsknecht (Ein lied für die landsknecht gemach), 1546

  • “Ah, Charles, you mighty man!” (“Ach Karle grosmechtiger Man”)

Selection from Mexican Choirbooks, vol. 4, 17th-18th century

  • Hymn for the Virgin Mary: “Hail, star of the sea” (“Ave maris stella”)

Selections from William Byrd, Psalmes, sonets, & songs of sadnes and pietie, 1588

  • “O Lord, How Long Wilt Thou Forget”
  • “Why Do I Use My Paper, Ink, and Pen”

Artistic Director: Michael Alan Anderson

Singers: Stephanie Culica, Laura Lynch, Stephanie Schoenhofer, Matthew Dean, Keith Murphy, Matthew Schlesinger, Woo Chan “Chaz” Lee, and Michael Hawes.

Listen to a range of compositions reflecting the diverse vocal manifestations of early modern music on our Voices of Reform digital project page.

This program is supported by a grant from the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany.

This performance is part of Religious Change, 1450 - 1700, a multidisciplinary project exploring how religion and print made the medieval world modern. The project is generously supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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