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Music from early 16th c. England, by Fayrfax, Cornysh, Newark, Henry VIII among others.



With Maria Cristina Kiehr and Tore Denys (soloists)


“The world is upside down!”, announced Fayrfax in his 3-part musical miniature. This apocalyptic vision must have resounded in Thomas More’s mind, as he translated Fayrfax’s song into Latin (Dii melius).


Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521), became one of the leading composers of the Early Tudor Period, and one among many who portrayed existential criticism in their English compositions at the turn of the 16th century. The young Thomas More (1478-1535) was reportedly a music lover, but had pursued a career as a lawyer, and thus, had other resources to show his disappointment with the ‘Old World’: he denounces that rulers were becoming more and more authoritative, ministers kept proposing unconstitutional laws, the rich were becoming richer, the poor even poorer.


In his emblematic ‘Utopia’ published in 1516 (Louvain) and completed in 1518 (Basel), the English humanist did not only create a ground-breaking piece of literature. but also created a work that would influence modern societies to an unprecedented extent. More’s book serves as a critic of pre-Reformation society in Europe, and offers in contrast a unique vision of an ideal society, a fictive non-existent island influenced by the discoveries of the New World.


In Utopia, he also describes the roles of music in ideal society, preceding the baroque concept of union between words and musical composition, aspect that can be traced to the little known pre-Reformation secular works by Newark, Cornysh and the early Anglican songs of the Lumley Books.


In this programme, a new composition of the Utopian Hymn based on the Utopian poems in the Basel 1518 edition is presented.

Music and Texts by and around Thomas More's "Utopia" (1516)


or When the Worlde was Upsyde Down

Line-up: 6-8 Musicians

- 2-4 vocal soloists

- fiddle

- lute

- viol

- organetto

- organ/ claviorgan






- Social Utopias

- New World

- Humanism in England

- Pre- and Early Reformation

- Henry VII, Henry VIII

- Thomas More














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Mother and Child, Genurt Marias, Salzbur

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