The following is an outline of the history of Western classical music. Although "Western" and "classical" are inexact terms, they do name a reasonably coherent musical tradition that stretches from the Dark Ages to the present day. The descriptive texts will not delve deeply into matters of musical meaning or technique; the purpose of the outline is to give you a basic working familiarity with different periods and styles.
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The history of choral music in the Western Classical tradition might be seen as a dialogue between sacred and secular art, between scripture and musical innovation, or between the human voice and other instruments. From the hypnotic unison singing of Gregorian chant, to the complex polychoral style of the Venetian school through to the secular cantatas of the 20th century, there is a dizzying wealth of music to discover. During the latter part of the medieval period, a style of vocal music called organum evolved out of Gregorian chant. With multiple, independent parts, this was arguably the first example of polyphonic vocal music in Europe, laying the groundwork for the choral music of the Renaissance era. Increased interaction between vocalists and instrumentalists burgeoned as the late Renaissance bled into the early Baroque period. Meanwhile, as the seventeenth century progressed, Henry Purcell would continue to develop verse anthems. His anthem My heart is inditing of a good matter was composed in honour of King James II, and you can watch Vox Luminis perform that work among others of the era here. A discussion of choral music in the Baroque era would be amiss without mention of Vivaldi, a composer perhaps best known for his concerti but who also composed a large body of sacred choral works. Indeed, he wrote four settings for the hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo alone, the most famous of which is the Gloria in D , performed here by the French chamber ensemble Le Concert Spirituel.
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Choral music , in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans from the medieval era to the present, or popular music repertoire. Most choirs are led by a conductor , who leads the performances with arm and face gestures. A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus. The former term is very often applied to groups affiliated with a church whether or not they actually occupy the choir and the second to groups that perform in theatres or concert halls, but this distinction is far from rigid. Choirs may sing without instrumental accompaniment, with the accompaniment of a piano or pipe organ , with a small ensemble e. The term choir has the secondary definition of a subset of an ensemble; thus one speaks of the "woodwind choir" of an orchestra, or different "choirs" of voices or instruments in a polychoral composition. In typical 18th- to 21st-century oratorios and masses , chorus or choir is usually understood to imply more than one singer per part, in contrast to the quartet of soloists also featured in these works.