Monday, January 28, 2013

From Byrd to Britten: Special Summer Study Opportunity

From Dr Sharon Paul, a wonderful conductor at the University of Oregon:

[Please consider] ..." an extraordinary opportunity to study choral music in London this summer. I will be teaching a course called “From Byrd to Britten: A Survey of British Choral Music” from July 24 to August 14. This is available to graduate and undergraduate students from any college throughout the country [may also be open to auditors?- P.C.]. Every subject we study will be enhanced with excursions to relevant historic sites and attendance at concerts. Imagine singing madrigals in a preserved Tudor home, visiting Handel’s house, studying Evensong music and then attending a service at Westminster Abbey or Kings College Cambridge, or attending Britten centenary concerts at the BBC Proms!"

You can find more information from AHA International at you are welcome to e-mail Sharon ( for further information.

At the Proms!

Sharon has also given me the syllabus for the course, read below after the overview- it's great stuff plus there are plenty of tour activities as well- you won't just be stuck in a classroom studying John Blow!


Professor Sharon J. Paul is Director of Choral Activities and Chair of Vocal and Choral Studies at the University of Oregon. She will lead this inspiring three-week program exploring the rich history of English choral music. The course will consist of weekday class meetings, daytime and evening concert attendances, and excursions to relevant historic sites throughout London. We shall travel outside London to the historic cities of Lincoln and Gloucester, each associated with the glories of the English choral past.

This course is open to all students with a minimum sophomore standing, and ideal for undergraduate and graduate music students. The seminar will include lectures, class discussions, listening assignments, singing, journal writing, attendance at concerts, and frequent excursions.

Dr. Sharon Paul

 TITLE: From Byrd to Britten: A Survey of British Choral Music
Instructor: Sharon J. Paul
Contact Hours: 48 hours in class, plus excursions/concerts
Language of Instruction: English


London provides the backdrop for a survey course exploring highlights from Britain’s rich history of music for choir. From the 16th-century English madrigal through Benjamin Britten’s brilliant contributions to the choral canon, students will explore British choral music through listening, lecture, singing, concert attendance, and excursions to relevant historic sites.

By the end of the seminar, students will have increased their knowledge of British choral music, and possess an appreciation for the wealth of British choral repertoire available for future study.

Lecture; discussion; student presentations and projects; listening assignments; student written reflections; concert attendance; excursions to relevant historic sites

Students will be graded in the following areas:
Written assignments: 30%
Presentation: 15%
Projects: 25%
Final exam: 20%
Class participation: 10%

Graduate students enrolled in MUS 688 must complete two additional writing assignments.

Unit 1: The English Madrigal
Having been familiar with the Italian madrigal from publications and manuscripts, as well as from traveling musicians, the English interest in the genre expanded after two important publications. In 1588 Nicholas Yonge published a collection of Italian madrigals translated into English (Musica Transalpina), and in 1590 Thomas Watson published, Italian Madrigals Englished, which featured translations of Marenzio madrigals. In this course we will trace the birth of the English madrigal, from its Italian inspirations to its mature English style, studying major madrigalists such as Weelkes, Wilbye, and Morley, while also exploring lesser-known madrigal composers. Students will study the English madrigal through singing, viewing partbooks and manuscripts, studying iconography, and visiting extant Tudor sites.

Unit 2: William Byrd & Thomas Tallis: Music and Politics
William Byrd and Thomas Tallis flourished as musicians during turbulent religious changes in England; both composers created music for the Catholic Church as well as for the Anglican Service. Students will be able to visit sites where Byrd and Tallis worked, such as the cathedral in Lincoln where Byrd served as organist and Master of the Choristers, and St. Mary-at-Hill in London, where Tallis served as organist and singer. In addition we will visit venues key to the musical and political shifts that took place in England late in the 16th century.

Unit 3: Highlights of the Baroque Era: Purcell & Handel
The Baroque era in England produced a considerable number of choral masterpieces. Our survey will feature two composers’ contributions to the English choral canon: Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel.

Considered a musical prodigy, Purcell began tuning the organ at Westminster Abbey when he was only fifteen years old, and he became one of the organists at age twenty. A prolific composer who died in his thirties, our survey will focus on Purcell’s anthems, motets, and odes.

Handel spent a considerable amount of his career in London. The class will visit his former home (now the Handel House Museum), along with the Foundling Museum, originally a home for abandoned children founded in the 18th century. Handel served as a Governor and benefactor for the Foundling Hospital, which is now home to the Gerald Coke Handel Collection. We will explore the British Library’s collection of music by both Purcell and Handel.

Unit 4: English Service Music
Music composed for the Anglican Church Service has become an integral part of choral repertoire. Our seminar will explore music composed for Matins and Evensong, Holy Communion, and the Burial Service, from composers such as Purcell, Tomkins, Byrd, Stanford and Howells. We will have the opportunity to attend services at Westminster Abbey in London and King’s College in Cambridge.

Unit 5: Celebrating Benjamin Britten’s Centenary
The year 2013 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth – what an extraordinary time to be in London! Our class will attend numerous concerts of Britten’s music, exploring repertoire ranging from chamber music to large-scale masterpieces.

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