IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 603: The Education of Boy Singers in Religious Institutions, I

Tuesday 12 July 2005, 11.15-12.45

Organiser:Susan Boynton, Department of Music, Columbia University
Moderator/Chair:Susan Boynton, Department of Music, Columbia University
Paper 603-aA Ministry in Music: The Singing Boys of English Parish Churches in the Late Middle Ages
(Language: English)
Roger D. Bowers, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Liturgy, Music
Paper 603-bThe 'Maîtrises' at the Collegiate Churches of St Géry and Ste Croix in Cambrai
(Language: English)
Bruno Bouckaert, Fund for Scientific Research, KU Leuven / Alamire Foundation, KU Leuven
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Liturgy, Music
Paper 603-cFurther Investigations towards a Biography of Thomas Mulliner
(Language: English)
Jane Flynn, Notre Dame Sixth Form College, Leeds
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Liturgy, Music

Abstract Paper -a: By the end of the fifteenth century in England the splendours of early Tudor polyphonic music, sung by a specialist ensemble of boys and men under a professional Cantor, were to be heard not only in the finest secular collegiate churches and household chapels of royalty and the aristocracy, but also in the greatest of the urban parish churches eventually numbering, by 1547, perhaps around one hundred. Parish churches used service books of the cathedral Uses, and so were constantly confronted with rubrics which appointed the pueri chori, or choriste, to sing certain chants and execute certain liturgical actions. Consequently, in any city or town sustaining a flourishing grammar school, the parish churches had long engaged groups of boys, trained by the parish clerk, not only to help to serve at high mass, but also to form a choir to sing the plainsong of festal matins and vespers helped out by any chantry priests there might be, who were obliged by canon law to attend the quire service on such occasions. From the 1460s onwards the most ambitious churches began to employ polyphonic music at these services. There is no single parish church whose archives yield a complete account of this very expensive manner of elaborated worship; however, judicious amalgamation of the evidence from six well documented churches does yield a credible picture probably common to all. The initial step was the appointment of a professional musician to a newly created office of Cantor; in many instances, this job also subsumed that of senior parish clerk, the erstwhile amateur leader of the music. The existing singing boys were now trained by the Cantor to sing polyphonic music; a handful of skilled singing men were employed to lead and give direction to the chorus of amateur clerics (mostly chantry priests), and in some cases impressive repertories of elaborate polyphony were created for use at service.
The pattern of services so distinguished was not random or locally determined, but modelled directly on that already cultivated by the ensembles of trained singers, secular men and boys, employed at some of the greater English monasteries. The parish church singing boys were in no sense professional choristers; rather, they were ordinary day pupils of the local grammar school, who lived at home with parents or guardians but also had a job of work to do in church (in return for which, the church paid their grammar school fees). In consequence, by 1547 the country was relatively well populated with adult men who in childhood had been thoroughly trained in music, by whom the musical arts were kept alive in the domestic environment after the Reformation ended their use in church.

Abstract Paper -b: not yet supplied

Abstract Paper -c: Iin my dissertation of 1993, I devoted a chapter towards a biography of Thomas Mulliner, a clerk at Magdalen College in 1557-58, who compiled a book of music (during the early 1560), that was attested by the London musician and playwright John Heywood, his teacher. Heywood (and therefore also Mulliner) had professional connections with the musicians at St Paul’s Cathedral and their master, Sebastian Westcott, and with members of the Merchant Tailor Guild, in addition to musicians at Court. In 1564 Heywood, a Roman Catholic, left England and Mulliner became modulator organorum at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. This paper expands Mulliner’s biography using recently published archival research into his circle of Roman Catholic colleagues and friends.