chorale

/keuh ral", -rahl", kaw-, koh-; kawr"euhl, kohr"-/, n.
1. a hymn, esp. one with strong harmonization: a Bach chorale.
2. a group of singers specializing in singing church music; choir.
[1835-45; < G Choral, short for Choralgesang, trans. of L cantus choralis choral singing; see CHORAL]

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Metrical hymn tune associated in common English usage with the Lutheran church in Germany.

From early in the Reformation, chorales were to be sung by the congregation during the Protestant liturgy. The words of the Lutheran chorales were often Latin plainsong hymn texts translated into the vernacular. The melodies were often borrowed from secular song and therefore displayed great melodic and structural simplicity. In modern times the chorale is considered to be a musical setting, usually polyphonic (multivoiced), of a traditional religious text.

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      metrical hymn tune associated in common English usage with the Lutheran church (Lutheranism) in Germany. From early in the Reformation, chorales were to be sung by the congregation during the Protestant liturgy. Unison singing was the rule of the reformed churches, both in Germany and in other countries. Early polyphonic (multivoiced) versions may have been intended for a choir singing only the melody while the full version was played on the organ. In later polyphonic arrangements the melody shifted gradually to the treble line from its original position in the tenor.

      The words of the Lutheran chorales were often Latin hymn texts translated into the vernacular. The melodies were often borrowed from secular song and therefore displayed great melodic and structural simplicity. Martin Luther's (Luther, Martin) own versions were often more irregular than the polished versions that later predominated.

      The earliest large collection of such melodies was the Geystliches Gesangk-Buchleyn (1524), edited by Johann Walther with a preface by Luther. From that time, the technique of chorale writing expanded and many collections were published. Luther's own compositions include “Ein' feste Burg” (“A Mighty Fortress”) and “Vom Himmel hoch” (“From Heaven High”), of which he certainly wrote the words and almost certainly wrote or adapted the music.

      Prominent in the development of the chorale in the 16th century were Michael Weisse, Philipp Nicolai, composer of the celebrated “Wachet auf!” (“Wake, Awake”), and Melchior Vulpius. Active in the 17th century were Johann Hermann Schein and Johann Crüger (Crüger, Johannes). Crüger edited the first editions of Praxis Pietatis Melica, a collection of tunes first published in 1644.

      More complex chorale settings came from Johan Eccard (Eccard, Johannes) and Michael Praetorius (Praetorius, Michael). Eccard's chorale settings are virtually brief motets, and Praetorius was one of the first systematic arrangers in polyphonic style of tunes from earlier sources (Musae Sioniae, 1610). For these and for later German hymnody, see hymn.

      In the passions and cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Bach, Johann Sebastian), the chorale appears as a richly harmonized hymn tune in which the congregation is expected to join with the choir. Bach's chorales are strictly choral arrangements of well-known hymn tunes adorned with elaborate harmony; he never composed an original chorale.

      In modern times the chorale is considered to be a musical setting, usually polyphonic, of a traditional religious text. The melody may be either a traditional tune, such as a hymn, or composed especially for the text. Alternatively, a chorale may set a traditional text in a traditional tune.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • chorale — is derived from German Choral(gesang) and means a stately hymn tune. In AmE it also means a choir or choral society. The final e was added to reinforce the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable (kǝ rahl); compare locale and morale …   Modern English usage

  • chorale — ► NOUN 1) a simple, stately hymn tune, or a composition consisting of a harmonized version of one. 2) chiefly US a choir or choral society. ORIGIN from Latin cantus choralis …   English terms dictionary

  • chorale — or choral [kə ral′, kəräl′] n. [< Ger choral (gesang), choral (song), hymn] 1. a hymn tune, esp. in the Lutheran service, with a simple melody and rhythm 2. a choral or instrumental composition based on such a tune 3. a group of singers; choir …   English World dictionary

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  • chorale — Choral Cho ral, chorale chorale, n. (Mus.) A stately hymn tune; a simple sacred tune, sung in unison by the congregation, used mostly in Protestant (especially Lutheran) churches; as, the Lutheran chorals. [Sometimes written {chorale}.] [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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