Chains of Gold: rhetoric and performance in the verse anthem

1 March 2013 - 2 March 2013

CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT


Gavin Alexander  (Faculty of English / Christ's College)

Geoffrey Webber (Faculty of Music)

John Rink (Faculty of Music)

Richard Rex  (Faculty of Divinity)


Conference summary

This conference aims to open up a new level of inter-disciplinary research into the verse anthem, a uniquely English, post-Reformation musical form, employed not only for church and domestic use but also in response to major national events. The verse anthem flourished at a time of rapid development in literary, musical, and religious practice; in these areas, recent work has been showing the importance of an understanding of rhetorical theories and practices, for example in connection with the preaching of sermons. The aim of this conference is to discover how this research might shape our approach to performing and listening to the verse anthem, also taking into account recent research on early singing styles which has yet to have much impact on how the repertoire is performed today either in church or concert performance. The conference will establish a four-way conversation between musicologists, historically-informed performers (including members of the professional viol consort Fretwork and singers from the many excellent College choirs that perform this repertoire regularly), literary scholars, and historians of the church, bringing together an entirely new group of people currently working on the same slice of English culture in the late 16th and early 17th centuries but from different perspectives.  It will aim to explain why, as the Elizabethan composer Thomas Morley put it, the verse anthem was able "to draw the hearer, as it were, in chains of gold by the ears to the consideration of holy things". 



Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH),  the Faculty of Music, the Faculty of English and the Faculty of Divinity, all University of Cambridge.


Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance:


Location : CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Date : 1 & 2 March 2013

1 March 2013


9.00 - 9.45


9.45 - 10.00

Welcome and Introduction

10.00 - 11.15

Session 1: The Verse Anthem
Chair: Dr David Skinner

  • Dr John Milsom: William Hunnis and the early history of the "verse anthem"
  • Andrew Parrott: Instruments and the verse anthem in church performance  

11.15 - 11.30 


11.30 - 12.45

Session 2: The Verse Anthem (continued)
Chair: Dr Francis Knights

  • Dr Roger Bowers: Chapel, church and parlour: the locale of the verse anthem and sacred domestic consort, c.1590-1625
  • David Pinto: Orlando Gibbons and the consort anthem: sources and context 

12.45 - 13.30


13.30 -14.45

Session 3: The Rhetoric of Words and the Rhetoric of Song
Chair: Prof. John Kerrigan

  • Dr Gavin Alexander: Poetics, rhetoric, and the voices of the verse anthem
  • Dr Katrin Ettenhuber:The rhetoric of religious listening

15.00 - 16.15

Session 4: Sermons, Preaching, and Music
Chair: Dr Sophie Read

  • Dr Arnold Hunt on sermon delivery and musical performance
  • Professor Peter McCullough: A Sermon would have an Antheme of course: Performance, Metadrama, and Metaphor in the Jacobean Chapel Royal

16.15 - 16.45


16.45 - 18.00 

Session 5: Singing the Verse Anthem
Chair: Dr Edward Wickham

  • Dr Geoffrey Webber: 'And he answered, No': assessing the modern performance history of the verse anthem
  • Dr John Potter: Historical singing style: can it be done? What's the point?

18.00 - 18.30

General Discussion




Buffet Dinner at Caius College


2 March 2013


9.15 - 10.45

Workshop 1: Soloists and Organ (venue: Queens' College chapel)

  • Led by John Potter and Bill Hunt, with student singers. Organist: Silas Wollston
  • Tomkins, Know you not
  • Gibbons, Behold, thou hast made my days


Master-class for student viol players with members of Fretwork (venue: CRASSH)

10.45 - 11.30

Coffee at CRASSH

11.30 - 13.00

Workshop 2: Soloists and Viols

  • Led by John Potter and Bill Hunt, with members of Fretwork and student singers
  • Tomkins, O God, the heathen
  • Gibbons, This is the record of John

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 16.00

Workshop 3: Soloists, Chorus and Viols

  • Led by John Potter and Bill Hunt, with members of Fretwork and student singers
  • Byrd, Look and Bow Down
  • Gibbons, We praise thee, O Father

16.00 - 16.30


16.30 - 17.30

Concluding discussion