anthem [ultimately from antiphon], short nonliturgical choral composition used in Protestant services, usually accompanied and having an English text. The term is used in a broader sense for
and for the Latin motets still used occasionally in Anglican services. A full anthem is entirely choral, while a verse anthem includes parts for solo singers. The anthem arose in the Anglican Church, as the English counterpart of the Latin motet, through the work of Christopher Tye (c.1500–1573), Thomas Tallis, and William Byrd (1543–1623). Early anthems were often in the style of Latin motets, sometimes being merely an English text set to well-known motets. In the late 17th cent. composers such as Henry Purcell and John Blow, under Italian influences, wrote verse anthems with several movements, as in cantatas. George F. Handel's anthems, in the tradition of the full anthem, are, like those of Purcell and Blow, too elaborate for ordinary church use. Since the 19th cent. extracts from oratorios, masses, passions, etc., are commonly used as anthems, but these pieces are not anthems in the original sense of the term.
See M. B. Foster, Anthems and Anthem Composers (1901, repr. 1970); W. L. Reed and M. J. Bristow, ed., National Anthems of the World (1988).