St John's C of E Primary School

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The Baroque trumpet - Henry Purcell 31.10.22

Henry Purcell ( 1659 – 1695) was an English composer. His style of music is called Baroque. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers. 


When he was a child, he sang for the Chapel Royal which means he sang for the King. When his voice broke (this is when a boys voice goes lower), he couldn’t sing the treble line anymore and so was given the job to look after the king’s instruments. When he was 17, he was made organist of Westminster Abbey. He wrote mostly sacred (religious) music and composed things for the Royal family. Two of his anthems (choir songs) were written for the coronation of King James II. 


Here is a piece of music written for the funeral of Queen Mary. It has been written for four trumpets with slides – these are original brass instruments. If you look closely, they don’t have any valves like you would see on a modern trumpet.  


A very well-known piece of music that Purcell wrote is called ‘sound the trumpet’. It is a duet for two singers and doesn’t actually have a trumpet playing! This arrangement has a counter tenor (a male voice that sings quite high) with a trumpeter playing the other vocal part. 


The trumpeter Alison Balsom explains....What is a baroque, or natural, trumpet? 

“Some people might not even think it looks like a trumpet,” Alison says. “But this is what trumpets used to look like. 

“It doesn’t play all the notes of the scale, it has no valves, and trumpeters have to make all the notes just with their lips. 

“What is sometimes a bit deceiving with the natural trumpet is that it has these holes, so it looks like a recorder – it looks like these will make the notes. But in fact, they don’t do that, they help with the tuning and put it more closely in line with what our modern ears [are used to].” 

Purcell - Canzona / Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (Funeral Sentences) Z. 860

ALISON BALSOM - Sound the Trumpet (Royal Music of Purcell & Handel)

Introducing the Baroque Trumpet with Alison Balsom | Classic FM