On Easter Sunday 1043 Edward the Confessor was crowned during Mass in Winchester Cathedral the music sung during that Mass has come down to in the book known as 'the Winchester Troper' which now resides in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College Cambridge (MS 473). The book consists of chant which went beyond the standard Gregorian repertory which began to be composed for use in the English usage as a result of the reforms to English liturgical usage initiated by Bishops Dunstan (of Glastonbury and Canterbury), Oswald (of Worcester and York), and Æthelwold (of Abingdon and Winchester). Of these three reformers Bishop Æthelwold was the strictest and most radical. He dismissed the clergy of Winchester Cathedral who had been responsible for celebrating The Liturgy and replaced them with Benedictine monks. His intention was that they would supplement the standard Gregorian Chant with new types of composition to the greater glory of God.
Æthelwold's reforms succeeded brilliantly the monks he appointed to Winchester concentrated their creative efforts on several different types of music:
- Tropes which incorporate new passages into existing chants.
- Sequences which consisted of entirely new songs comprised of structured prose and melody.
- Melody alone, sung after the Alleluia at Mass.
- Polyphonic enhancements of existing chants.
It's arguable that Æthelwold's reforms represent the birth of distinctively English Church music. The troped Kyrie (Miserere domine) which you can hear below is – so far as I know, the only polyphonic proper troped English Kyrie to have survived the ravages of more than nine centuries.
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