Anglican church music
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Anglican church music is music that is written for liturgical worship in Anglican church services.
Almost all of it is written for choir with or without organ accompaniment. The choir typically uses “SATB” voices (soprano or treble, alto or counter-tenor, tenor, and bass), though in many works some or all of these voices are divided into two for part or all of the piece; in this case the two halves of the choir (one on each side of the aisle) are traditionally named decani (or 1, for the higher voice) and cantoris (or 2, for the lower voice). There may also be soloists, usually only for part of the piece. There are also works for fewer voices, such as those written for solely men’s voices or boys’/women’s voices.
Many more recent works were written for, or dedicated to, one of the many famous cathedral or collegiate choirs of England.
The chief musical forms are:
- Preces and responses — sung antiphonally by the priest (or a lay cantor) and choir
- Psalms — sung to Anglican chant by the choir or congregation
- Service settings — choral settings of the ordinary of the Eucharist, and canticles
- Anthems or motets
- Hymns, usually for congregational use
In all but the smallest churches the congregation was until recently confined to the singing of hymns. Over the past half century or so efforts have been made to increase the role of the congregation and also to introduce more “popular” musical styles in the evangelical and charismatic leaning congregations. Not all churches can boast a full SATB choir, and a repertoire of one-, two- and three-part music is more suitable for many parish church choirs, a fact which is recognised in the current work of the Royal School of Church Music.
Anglican churches also frequently draw upon the musical traditions of other Christian denominations. Works by Catholic composers such as Mozart, Lutherans such as Bach, Calvinists like Mendelssohn, and composers from other branches of Christianity are often featured. This is particularly the case in music for the Mass in Anglo-Catholic churches, much of which is taken from the work of Roman Catholic composers.