Early Modern Chant Reform in Regional Contexts: The Low Countries, ca. 1400–1700

12 March 2024, 4.30 PM - 12 March 2024, 6.00 PM

Victoria’s Room

Speaker: Henry Drummond

In this talk, I will consider the reform of early modern liturgical chant in the Low Countries, with a focus on the Premonstratensian order. I will document the state of Premonstratensian chants and the varying degrees of inconsistency that prompted the order’s commissioning of chant reformer Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers (ca. 1632–1714) to publish his Antiphonarium Praemonstratense (1680). While surviving documentary evidence attests to the Premonstratensians’ frustrations with their repertory, most of these records do not point to specific ways in which their chants fell short. I will therefore address the context behind reform through both official dicta of the order’s administrators and Low Countries chant sources, which are themselves part of a longer history of chant adaptation. The diversity of textual and melodic interpretations in these sources paints a picture of inconsistency and revision before 1680. By analysing older Premonstratensian sources that were adapted to match Nivers’s reforms, I show how his new antiphoner was received and understood. While the order commissioned the 1680 antiphoner as part of a wholesale recalibration of the Premonstratensian liturgy, later editors of older manuscript antiphoners occasionally misunderstood or ignored his contributions in the sources they were meant to update. Some scribes also exercised considerable autonomy, using unorthodox chant melodies and notations that offer indications of regional performance practices. Together, these strands of evidence point to chant’s fluidity, where despite calls for regulations both texts and melodies were adapted to suit local circumstances.


Following doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, Henry T. Drummond joined the KU Leuven and Alamire Foundation as an FWO Senior Postdoc. His research covers early modern musical reform, devotional music, and digital humanities. He has published articles in numerous journals including the Journal of Musicology, Medium Ævum, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association and Music Analysis, and his first monograph is forthcoming with Oxford University Press under the New Oxford History of Music series.

Edit this page