Voices of Reform


Welcome to 'Voices of Reform,' a site that presents items reflecting the diverse vocal manifestations of early modern sacred music.

The expanding print industry of the sixteenth century was a strong contributor to the religious and social upheaval that defined the Reformation. Among the printed materials that circulated widely in Europe were 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 efficaciously than regular speech. The Newberry Library’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 it. At the core of the selections included in the program is an emphasis on 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.

In commemoration of the quincentennial of Luther’s Reformation, we offer 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 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.

--Michael Alan Anderson, Artistic Director, Schola Antiqua of Chicago

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

Selections from Sacred Songs (Geistliche Lieder), 1580

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

Selected images: Cantiones ecclesiasticae latinae [...]

Selections from The Pious Lark with her Coin-Box (La pieuse Alouette avec son tirelire), 1619-1621

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

*Please note that the pages appear here in the order that they appear in the physical book, and so do not correspond to the order of the performed music. (Leaves 2 and 5 were interchanged when the book was bound.)

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

Explore Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 5 and Volume 6 of the Mexican Choir Books.

Selections from William Byrd, Psalmes, Sonets, & Songs of Sadnes and Pietie, 1588

Selected images: Psalmes, sonets, & songs of sadnes and pietie, made into musicke of fiue parts

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