Reinforcing archaism : the role of musical settings in the history and meaning of the Book of Common Prayer

  • Ian Richard Sexton

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is more than four hundred and fifty years old and part of the very fabric of Anglicanism throughout the world. It has a vast catalogue of musical repertory, both in the form of settings of the text of the BCP, but also settings of other sacred texts used at BCP services. This music achieved an archaic personality from the early days of the BCP, but many later periods in the life of the Established Church have engendered and even promoted this archaic personality quite conspicuously. Musical archaism, in turn, has supported the formal, conservative and archaic personality of the BCP and its practice more generally. At times, there has even been a model of increased archaism in the BCP where there is music, when compared to where there is none. Other notable facets to the BCP that are fashioned by its music include a patriarchal, hierarchical and antiphonal identity, all of which have strong connexions with archaism. A number of circumstances in the historical story of the BCP have given rise to archaic practice. These include the Reformation; the Marian exiles and the metrical psalter; the influence of English stage music on writing for the Established Church; consciously archaic publishers such as Greene and Boyce; the Ecclesiological Movement (or the Cambridge Camden Movement) and the Tractarian Movement (or the Oxford Movement) and their systematic archaic and antiphonal schemes. The archaic nature of the Tudor words of the Prayer Book is a continuous and increasing feature of the BCP from about the time of the Restoration onwards. Finally, there is a Prayer Book ethos, spirit, or myth, that is provoked by all these ingredients. It is to be found in the BCP to this day, particularly in quires and places where they sing.
Date of Award30 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorIan Campbell Bradley (Supervisor) & Michael Ferguson (Supervisor)


  • The Book of Common Prayer
  • Archaism
  • Anglican music
  • Quires and places where they sing
  • Interregnum
  • Music of the Marian exiles
  • Perichoresis
  • Myth and ritual
  • Patriarchy
  • Deification
  • Church of England
  • 1549
  • Cranmer
  • 1662
  • Music of the Prayer Book
  • Merbecke

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 28th September 2025

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