Text and tune: an introduction

‘Music . . . the exaltation of poetry.  Both of them may excel apart, but sure they are most excellent when they are joyn’d’ (Henry Purcell). The primary hallmark of excellence in vocal music, whether sacred or secular, is the depth of poetic unity between words and music. Arguably, it is the quality of the relationship between tune and text that is likely to be the most effective in quickening the emotions of both performer and listener and, in the case of sacred vocal music, of engendering a spiritual experience during worship. Whether the work is large-scale or small-scale, participatory or performed, if matched with the right text the result can be, as Brian Wren* notes,...

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