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Tonic Sol-fa

The system of learning the notes of the musical scale to syllables has a long history going back at least to Guido d’Arezzo in the 11th century (see ‘Ut queant laxis’*), but the modern Curwen system originates in a meeting of friends of the Sunday School Movement in Hull in 1841. The Revd John Curwen (1816-1880) was urged to bring out a simple method of learning to read music. He based his system on that of Miss Sarah Ann Glover (1785-1867) whose work he had seen in Norwich and on that of John Pike Hullah*. Curwen’s work became known from 1852 onwards through articles and public lectures and demonstrations in England and Scotland. He changed the Glover notation and by 1857 had perfected his...

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