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21 minutes ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

Even experienced / trained singers don’t fit very well into these categories. Most men are baritones and most women mezzos and have to be shoe-horned into bass or tenor, contralto or soprano. Which does rather make one wonder why the categories developed in the first place ....

“Most men are baritones” is a reason to suppose that Tudor choral pitch was pretty close to A440. I can’t remember now which contemporary writer noted that “the commonest [adult male] voice is Tenor” which would equate to a modern baritone.

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2 hours ago, innate said:

“Most men are baritones” is a reason to suppose that Tudor choral pitch was pretty close to A440. I can’t remember now which contemporary writer noted that “the commonest [adult male] voice is Tenor”

Possibly he was a Welshman! Having made my generalisation, I have to admit that tenors are much commoner here than in England (genuine tenors, not just highish baritones).

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5 hours ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

The case of Goss's Praise, my Soul is interesting.

It was originally published in two versions (Brown-Borthwick Supplemental Hymn and Tune Book, 1869).

The first version is in D and sets five unison verses, each with a different accompaniment. This reflects the tradition where hymns and metrical psalms were sung in unison, with the organist varying the accompaniment (including the harmonies) for each verse. S.S. Wesley's A Selection of Psalm Tunes: Adapted Expressly to the English Organ with Pedals (1842) is a good example, and later in the nineteenth century Stanford was praised for the artistry with which he did this sort of thing in accompanying undergraduate hymn singing in Trinity College chapel.

The second version is in E and is "Arranged for Four Vocal Parts" (possibly by the composer, as the harmonies do not correspond with those of any of the five unison verse accompaniments). This is clearly the basis for the harmony version we sing today for verse 2, though with some differences. A footnote states, "This Tune, as harmonised for four voices, is transposed to E, as the key of D would be too low for the basses." Does this suggest that singing in harmony perhaps encouraged the adoption of higher keys in hymn books? It's worth noting that the keys in Wesley's Selection, intended to accompany unison singing, are on the lower side compared with e.g. the Standard Edition of Ancient and Modern (tho' higher than we might prefer today).

(Incidentally, of Goss's five unison accompaniments three are those printed in modern hymn books; the one for verse 2 has been supplanted by the harmony version, and the one for "Frail as summer's flower we flourish" has been discarded along with that verse. If anyone wants to revive them, Brown-Borthwick is available via Google Books.)

Yes, very interesting.  It seems that Goss's tune appeared in the third edition published in 1869 (according to WorldCat).  I was aware of the "Frail as summer's flowers" verse since Goss's manuscript of it was reproduced many years ago in The Musical Times, but I did not know that it had ever been published. (The verse is included in the Baptist Hymnal, 1900, but it uses the four-part harmonisation of the tune). I had always assumed that Goss's tune had been part of Hymns Ancient and Modern ever since the first edition, but that evidently isn't the case. The early editions only have 'Alleluia dulce carmen' (indexed, prior to 1875, under the name 'Benediction'). There was a major expansion of A & M in 1875, but that still didn't include Goss's tune. I wonder when it was incorporated?

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2 hours ago, innate said:

“Most men are baritones” is a reason to suppose that Tudor choral pitch was pretty close to A440. I can’t remember now which contemporary writer noted that “the commonest [adult male] voice is Tenor” which would equate to a modern baritone.

Peter Le Huray's Music and the Reformation in England, 1549-1660 quotes Archbishop Laud asking the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury in 1634 to ensure that the choir did not have too many tenors "which is an ordinary voice". Charles Butler's The Principles of Musik in Singing (1636) describes the tenor as 'neither ascending to any high or strained notes, nor descending very low, it continues in one ordinary tenor of the voice and therefore may be sung by an indifferent voice." Le Huray concluded from these remarks that the tenor was the commonest voice.  Dr Andrew Johnstone of Trinity College, Dublin, pretty much settled the Tudor pitch debate with his 2003 Early Music article "'As it was in the beginning': organ and choir pitch in early Anglican church music", which suggested strongly that organ pitch was (at least reasonably) standard at one-and a-third semitones above A=440 and that the Tudor countertenor, tenor and bass voices were nothing more than what we call tenor, baritone and bass. Simon Ravens and Andrew Parrott have independently and comprehensively disposed of any notion that there was a falsetto voice in Tudor England—Alfred Deller and Michael Tippett have a lot to answer for there. Decades ago the late David Wulstan pointed out the stability of the voices ranges of Tudor church music throughout the sixteenth century as being evidence of a stable church pitch. He was undoubtedly right, even if the actual pitch he advocated (a minor third above A=440) is no longer credible. Secular pitch may well have been a different matter.

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1 hour ago, Vox Humana said:

...  ...  I was aware of the "Frail as summer's flowers" verse tune [Praise my Soul] since Goss's manuscript of it was reproduced many years ago in The Musical Times, but I did not know that it had ever been published. (The verse is included in the Baptist Hymnal, 1900, but it uses the four-part harmonisation of the tune). I had always assumed that Goss's tune had been part of Hymns Ancient and Modern ever since the first edition, but that evidently isn't the case. The early editions only have 'Alleluia dulce carmen' (indexed, prior to 1875, under the name 'Benediction'). There was a major expansion of A & M in 1875, but that still didn't include Goss's tune. I wonder when it was incorporated?

“Frail as summer’s flowers” was included in the Australian hymnal “With One Voice” (first English edition, Collins, 1979) and I duly played it at a church where we used that rather fine collection - which did not, however, widely catch on, and in our case was replaced by ‘Common Praise’.  As you say, “Frail as summer’s flowers”, verse four, is set to the same harmonisation as verse two.  Out of interest, I checked S S Wesley’s ‘The European Psalmist’, (1872) but neither words nor music of “Praise my Soul” were included.

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17 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

I had always assumed that Goss's tune had been part of Hymns Ancient and Modern ever since the first edition, but that evidently isn't the case. The early editions only have 'Alleluia dulce carmen' (indexed, prior to 1875, under the name 'Benediction'). There was a major expansion of A & M in 1875, but that still didn't include Goss's tune. I wonder when it was incorporated?

It's in the unlucky 1904 edition. That seems to be its first appearance. It's not in Steggall's 1889 supplement to the 1875 edition (the "First Supplement").

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