'A Holding, Uniting-Constant Friend': The Organ in Seventeenth-Century English Domestic Music

Force, David Robert Stuart (2019). 'A Holding, Uniting-Constant Friend': The Organ in Seventeenth-Century English Domestic Music. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000107d4


This thesis presents an investigation into the nature and use of the consort organ in English secular instrumental music of the seventeenth century with a view to informing present-day performance practice. Whilst the English string consort repertoire has been widely studied from the perspective of the viol and violin, the role of the organ and organist has remained neglected. This study seeks to redress this through the examination of manuscript sources, contemporary writing and extant instruments to illuminate a variety of performance practice issues. The development and organology of the instrument is considered, focussing particularly on the distinctive methods of construction and voicing that were designed to enhance the instrument’s role in playing with string ensembles. The contexts of chamber music at the court, in domestic establishments, and in theatres, choir schools and music meetings are examined from the perspective of the consort organ. Manuscript sources, contemporary historical sources and the consideration of extant instruments in relation to their original locations and associated repertoire are interrogated for performance practice information. The role of the consort organist, from both a musical and sociological standpoint, is also discussed with reference to contemporary sources. The findings reveal that seventeenth-century usage of the organ differed from present-day practice in relation to a number of key areas including pitch, temperament, registration and expression, and that the organist’s role encompassed a wide range of skills that are rarely explored in modern performances or editorial realisations. The study concludes that a revised approach to the use of the consort organ in present-day performance of the seventeenth-century English consort repertoire is required.

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