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Old Hall Manuscript

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Biography

The Old Hall Manuscript (British Library, Additional MS 57950) is the largest, most complete, and most significant source of English sacred music of the late 14th and early 15th centuries, and as such represents the best source for late Medieval English music. The manuscript somehow survived the Reformation, and formerly belonged to St. Edmund’s College, a Roman Catholic school located at Old Hall Green (hence its name) in Hertfordshire. It was sold to the British Library after an auction at Sotheby’s in 1973.

The manuscript contains 148 compositions overall, 77 that are written in score rather than in separate parts. Most of the pieces are settings of parts of the ordinary of the Mass, and are grouped by section, in other words: the settings of the Gloria are together, as are the settings of the Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Between these grouped settings are some motets and pieces related to the conductus.
The Old Hall Manuscript was compiled in the early 15th century, probably over a period of about 20 years. The hands of several copyists are identifiable, and some of them may be those of the composers themselves. Recent research has suggested that work on the manuscript ended with the death of Thomas, Duke of Clarence, in 1421, a somewhat later date than was previously suggested. This date allows the fitting into the chronology of the latest piece in the manuscript

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