Choral music – what is it?

Choral music is defined as music performed by a group of singers, a choir, with or without accompaniment. The accompaniment may be provided by any instrumental combination from a solo piano through to a full orchestra. Choral music is by definition polyphonic that is consisting of two or more autonomous vocal lines. Generally, choral music is associated with religious performance from hymns and psalms to oratorio. But there are other forms of music that are equally choral, including opera and operetta, madrigals, spirituals, musicals and Barber Shop, among other secular compositions.

The Trust’s particular interest as set out in its Objects is the promotion of choral and musical performance within the ecclesiastical tradition. While the Trust is not wholly restricted to this genre, given the personal interests of the Trustees, the influence of founders and others, it is inevitable that the Trust will direct its activities principally toward composition and performance of music which is religiously based.


In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the heritage of choral music is exceedingly rich. It is known that choral music was performed prior to the Reformation in the sixteenth century. However at that time, much of the choral music that has survived was greatly influenced by the Roman Catholic Church and was European in style. Following the Reformation, choral music in the UK was significantly influenced by Thomas Tallis. William Byrd was a student of Tallis. They were the revolutionaries who engineered the move away from plainsong, the chanting frequently associated with the monasteries. One of William Byrd’s students was Thomas Morley. It was Morley who was responsible for the introduction of English composed madrigals, a musical form borrowed from the Italian composers of the day. The “modern” musical idiom was introduced and flourished. 

Morley, Byrd and Tallis were followed by others including notably Henry Purcell in the seventeenth century, and a little later Wesley, Handel, Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Howells and so many more.

An invitation to Readers

We have left this section short and brief. This is to facilitate a future development whereby any Reader may provide their individual contribution. The Reader is invited to contribute to a fuller history by submitting a paragraph or two on any section of the history of choral music in the UK, a composer, a century or similar topic. Anecdotal contributions of the Reader’s own experiences will be especially welcome. Over time, the Web Editor will weave these contributions into a broader history. The Web Editor will decide whether the contribution should appear in the history itself or should be placed on a Contributor’s Notice Board, accessed through the website. We hope that the Notice Board will flourish and that you will enjoy the experience of a “living” website.

Readers note : And I saw a new heaven – Bainton – Virtual Performance