Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music


Roger Bowers, Choral Institutions within the English Church:- Their constitution and development 1340 – 1500 (PhD, University of East Anglia, 1975)

PDF Download Links

Chapters 1 – 3 (21.5 MB) | Chapter 4 (25.5 MB) | Chapter 5 (23.7 MB) | Chapter 6 (22.2 MB) | Appendices (18.5 MB)

These PDFs are made up of images of the original dissertation. They have been scanned using optical character recognition and should therefore be searchable within Adobe Acrobat. This process is not perfect, however, so an electronic search of the documents should not be considered exhaustive.

This text of this dissertation is offered to DIAMM users with much diffidence and reserve, for it is old material now much compromised by change and decay. The research by which it is informed was conducted between 1969 and 1972; it was presented for examination in 1975 and, unsurprisingly, significant elements of its content have been superseded by better work undertaken subsequently by others. Nevertheless, most of its substance remains unpublished, and perhaps there are parts of it which still have value, arising not least from its endeavour to offer cover of its subject-matter that eschewed selectivity in favour of an approach that was comprehensive and all-embracing.

Insofar as the detailed content of this dissertation has been superseded by
further work of my own (much of it published in books and journals of
non-musicological character), readers are invited to consult any of the
publications appearing on the list downloadable here, which is complete up to 1 January


[Taken from ‘Introductory:’] This thesis deals with the history of English
liturgical choirs between the years 1340 and 1500. It seeks to enlighten the
history of pre-Reformation English church music by relating to it the history of
the personnel to whom its performance was entrusted. In the period of 160 years
which is covered, the forces available to perform liturgical and religious music
in England experienced an eventful history. In the first place, the number of
choral establishments which already existed in 1340 was greately expanded not
only by a steady stream of wholly new collegiate and other foundations, but also
by the adoption of musical responsibilities by existing religious institutions
which previously had shown no particular enthusiasm for music. Further, the
constitution and composition of liturgical choirs, and the functions and duties
expected of their various members, underwent far-reaching modifications over the
time. As one period succeeded another, the statutes of new establishments
reflected changing conceptions of what constituted the idea (or best practical)
force for performing the church music of its time; to which older-established
instutinos had either to adapt the composition of their own personnel, or get
left behind. This research seeks to expose and clarify the nature of these
successive modifications, and to offer explanations for why they were found

Table of Contents

  • Part 1. Introductory
    • 1.1 Scope, context and parameters of study
    • 1.2 Method and organisation of research
    • 1.3 Some unavoidable omissions
    • 1.4 Previous work in this field of research
    • 1.5 Acknowledgements


  • Part 2. The choral institutions in 1340
    • 2.1 The requirements of the liturgy
    • 2.2 Collegiate churches
      • 2.2.1 Colleges of prebendal canons
        • 2.2.1.A The secular cathedrals:- the choral
        • 2.2.1.B The secular cathedrals:- the direction of
          the music and services
        • 2.2.1.C Other colleges of prebendal canons
      • 2.2.2 Colleges of chantry priests
    • 2.3 Hospitals
    • 2.4 University colleges
    • 2.5 Household chapels
      • 2.5.1 The Chapel Royal
      • 2.5.2 Household chapels of the lay and spiritual
    • 2.6 The monasteries
    • 2.7 The choirs and the performance of polyphonic music
  • Part 3. 1340 – 82: The growth of royal and aristocratic patronage
    • 3.1 Royalty and aristocracy as patrons of church musicians
    • 3.2 New collegiate foundations 1340-82
      • 3.2.1 The choral forces of the foundations
      • 3.2.2 St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, 1361-85
    • 3.3 The household chapels of teh lay and spiritual magnates
      • 3.3.1 The Chapel Royal
      • 3.3.2 Other household chapels
  • Part 4. 1382 – 1425: Lollardy and the establishment backlash
    • 4.1 The Lollard assault
    • 4.2 The Establishment reaction
      • 4.2.1 New collegiate foundations 1382-1426
      • 4.2.2 The expansion of household chapels
      • 4.2.3 The response at the old-established cathedrals and
    • 4.3 The genesis of the lay clerk
      • 4.3.1 Newly-founded colleges
      • 4.3.2 Established collegiate churches
      • 4.3.3 Household chapels
      • 4.3.4 The contribution of the lay clerks
    • 4.4 The multiplication of choristers
    • 4.5 Musical priorities and innovations
      • 4.5.1 The influence of patrons
      • 4.5.2 Musical competence in the order of priorities
      • 4.5.3 The contribution of the choristers
      • 4.5.4 The cultivation of the votive antiphon
      • 4.5.5 The use of the organ
    • 4.6 The response of the monasteries
      • 4.6.1 The monks’ choirs
      • 4.6.2 The Lady Chapel choirs
    • 4.7 The cultivation of polyphonic music
  • Part 5. 1425 – 60:- Consolidation
    • 5.1 Developments in the music of the church 1425-60
    • 5.2 The choirs between 1425 and 1460
      • 5.2.1 New and refounded choral institutions
      • 5.2.2 The secular cathedrals
      • 5.2.3 Household chapels
      • 5.2.4 Monastic Lady Chapel choirs


    • 5.3 The cultivation of polyphonic music
      • 5.3.1 The incidence of polyphonic music
      • 5.3.2 Provision for the performance of polyphonic
      • 5.3.3 The incidence and deployment of choral polyphony
    • 5.4 The contribution of the choristers and their instructor
      • 5.4.1 The optimum number of choisters
      • 5.4.2 The expansion of the choristers’ contribution to the
        conduct of the services
      • 5.4.3 The role and status of the post of Instructor of the
      • 5.4.4 The rationale of the employment of boys in choir
    • 5.5 The organist
      • 5.5.1 The introduction of the post of organist
      • 5.5.2 The use of the organ at service
  • Part 6. 1460-1500 :- The demands of teh composers – choral polyphony, the
    florid style and the treble voice

    • 6.1 The comopsers and the choirs
    • 6.2 The expansion of the vocal texture and compass of polyphonic

      • 6.2.1 The texture and performing pitch of 15th century
      • 6.2.2 The introduction of treble and bass voices into
        composed polyphony
      • 6.2.3 The adoption of full choral polyphony by the
    • 6.3 The effects on teh choirs of musical developments

      • 6.3.1 New foundations, 1460-1500
      • 6.3.2 The modernisation of old-established choral
      • 6.3.3 The search for a balanced chorus
    • 6.4 The training of choristers
      • 6.4.1 The provision of specialist instructors
      • 6.4.2 The duties of the Instructors of the Choristers
      • 6.4.3 The streamlining of the post of Instructor
    • 6.5 The role of the gentlemen of the choir
      • 6.5.1 The cultivation of choral polyphony
      • 6.5.2 The provision of expert singers
    • 6.6 Conclusion