Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Heaven Singing: Music in Early English Religious Drama

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Heaven Singing: Music in Early English Religious Drama

Article excerpt

Richard Rastall, The Heaven Singing. Music in Early English Religious Drama, vol. I (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer; Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 1996). xxi + 422 pp ISBN 0-85991-428-3. 5500.

It seems appropriate to begin this review of Richard Rastall's book by explaining a mystery. The book's dedication, `To the original Wednesday Lunch-timers', in fact refers to a group of scholars, all colleagues of Rastall at the University of Leeds, who in the 1970s began meeting each week to discuss their common interest in medieval drama. Ideas about how to advance its study were mooted as the contents of the Tupperware were unpacked and cups of coffee circulated. This convivial collaboration was happy in more senses than one, for from it has issued some of the most important work on early drama to be seen on this side of the Atlantic in recent years. The Heaven Singing makes a fitting companion to the collective achievement of the scholars whom it celebrates.

Its scope is impressive. Rastall's task has been to explore the wide musical spectrum of early English drama. In eight chapters he discusses the nature of the evidence and considers the problems attendant upon its interpretation. Chapter 1 sets the parameters of his study. In chapter 2 is examined the internal literary evidence for music in the plays, and in chapter 3 are analysed the (few) pieces of notated music that have survived. …

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