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Singing music from 1500 to 1900: style, technique, knowledge, assertion, experiment

Proceedings of the National Early Music Association International Conference, in association with the University of York Music Department and the York Early Music Festival

  • Edited by John Potter and Jonathan Wainwright
  • Technical advisor and web co-ordinator: Christopher Leedham


The essays presented on this website are re-workings of papers presented at the National Early Music Association conference held in the Music Department of the University of York on 7–10 July 2009. (For the conference details see Conference schedule) The ‘call for papers’ set the themes for the conference:

‘The widespread acceptance of historically-informed performance practices have transformed our understanding of instrumental music over the last half-century; but Monteverdi, Bach, Handel, Mozart and Rossini are still usually sung in conventional operatic style, clashing with the more informed style heard from the theatre pit. We invite contributors to consider evidence for vocal techniques and styles of the period and how such knowledge can enhance and invigorate current performances. Possible topics include: voice production; intonation; volume and auditoria; style and ornamentation; deportment; vibrato. The conference promises to be controversial, with opportunities for debate and networking. Questions to be tackled include: Is it possible for early specialisms, classical and contemporary styles to be compatible in the same voice? Balance between words and music. What can we learn from “non-classical” vocal techniques, such as jazz, barbershop, folk, world music and pop? Amplification?’

The conference, which included workshops, demonstrations, and concerts as well as papers, was stimulating and enjoyable and led to some important new perspectives on singing. In order to publish the material relatively quickly and efficiently the decision was made to present the proceedings as a web publication rather than in the traditional book format. The editors have not attempted to regularize or copy-edit the presentations in the traditional manner and nor have they attempted to remove any differences of opinion, for distinct approaches are considered valuable. The editors are grateful to the contributors for their efficiency and goodwill in providing their texts for this web publication.

John Potter
Jo Wainwright