In the 19th century, a renewed interest in Renaissance polyphony coupled with an ignorance of the fact that vocal parts were often doubled by instrumentalists led to the term coming to mean unaccompanied vocal music. A cappella could be as old as man itself.
Research suggests that singing and vocables may have been what early humans used to communicate before the invention of language. A cappella music was originally used in religious music, especially church music as well as anasheed and zemirot. Gregorian chant is an example of a cappella singing, as is the majority of secular vocal music from the Renaissance.
The madrigal , up until its development in the early Baroque into an instrumentally-accompanied form, is also usually in a cappella form. The Psalms note that some early songs were accompanied by string instruments, though Jewish and Early Christian music was largely a cappella;  the use of instruments has subsequently increased within both of these religions as well as in Islam. The polyphony of Christian a cappella music began to develop in Europe around the late 15th century AD, with compositions by Josquin des Prez.
By the 16th century, a cappella polyphony had further developed, but gradually, the cantata began to take the place of a cappella forms.
Recent evidence has shown that some of the early pieces by Palestrina, such as what was written for the Sistine Chapel was intended to be accompanied by an organ "doubling" some or all of the voices. Other composers that utilized the a cappella style, if only for the occasional piece, were Claudio Monteverdi and his masterpiece, Lagrime d'amante al sepolcro dell'amata A lover's tears at his beloved's grave , which was composed in ,  and Andrea Gabrieli when upon his death it was discovered many choral pieces, one of which was in the unaccompanied style.
Five of Schutz's Historien were Easter pieces, and of these the latter three, which dealt with the passion from three different viewpoints, those of Matthew , Luke and John , were all done a cappella style.
This was a near requirement for this type of piece, and the parts of the crowd were sung while the solo parts which were the quoted parts from either Christ or the authors were performed in a plainchant.
In the Byzantine Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches , the music performed in the liturgies is exclusively sung without instrumental accompaniment.
Bishop Kallistos Ware says, "The service is sung, even though there may be no choir In the Orthodox Church today, as in the early Church, singing is unaccompanied and instrumental music is not found. Praise ye the Lord. Certain high church services and other musical events in liturgical churches such as the Roman Catholic Mass and the Lutheran Divine Service may be a cappella, a practice remaining from apostolic times.
Many Mennonites also conduct some or all of their services without instruments. Sacred Harp , a type of folk music , is an a cappella style of religious singing with shape notes , usually sung at singing conventions. Opponents of musical instruments in the Christian worship believe that such opposition is supported by the Christian scriptures and Church history. The scriptures typically referenced are Matthew ; Acts ; Romans ; 1 Corinthians ; Ephesians ; Colossians ; Hebrews , ; James , which show examples and exhortations for Christians to sing.
There is no reference to instrumental music in early church worship in the New Testament, or in the worship of churches for the first six centuries. Christians who believe in a cappella music today believe that in the Israelite worship assembly during Temple worship only the Priests of Levi sang, played, and offered animal sacrifices, whereas in the church era, all Christians are commanded to sing praises to God.
They believe that if God wanted instrumental music in New Testament worship, He would have commanded not just singing, but singing and playing like he did in the Hebrew scriptures. Instruments have divided Christendom since their introduction into worship. They were considered a Roman Catholic innovation, not widely practiced until the 18th century, and were opposed vigorously in worship by a number of Protestant Reformers , including Martin Luther — ,  Ulrich Zwingli , John Calvin —  and John Wesley — Those who do not adhere to the regulative principle of interpreting Christian scripture, believe that limiting praise to the unaccompanied chant of the early church is not commanded in scripture, and that churches in any age are free to offer their songs with or without musical instruments.
Those who subscribe to this interpretation believe that since the Christian scriptures never counter instrumental language with any negative judgment on instruments, opposition to instruments instead comes from an interpretation of history. There is no written opposition to musical instruments in any setting in the first century and a half of Christian churches 33— AD.
Toward the end of the 2nd century, Christians began condemning the instruments themselves. Since "a cappella" singing brought a new polyphony more than one note at a time with instrumental accompaniment, it is not surprising that Protestant reformers who opposed the instruments such as Calvin and Zwingli also opposed the polyphony. Some Holiness Churches such as the Free Methodist Church opposed the use of musical instruments in church worship until the midth century.
The Free Methodist Church allowed for local church decision on the use of either an organ or piano in the Conference before lifting the ban entirely in The Reformed Free Methodist Church and Evangelical Wesleyan Church were formed as a result of a schism with the Free Methodist Church, with the former retaining a cappella worship and the latter retaining the rule limiting the number of instruments in the church to the piano and organ.
While worship in the Temple in Jerusalem included musical instruments 2 Chronicles — , traditional Jewish religious services in the Synagogue, both before and after the last destruction of the Temple, did not include musical instruments  given the practice of scriptural cantillation.
This prohibition has been relaxed in many Reform and some Conservative congregations. Similarly, when Jewish families and larger groups sing traditional Sabbath songs known as zemirot outside the context of formal religious services, they usually do so a cappella, and Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations on the Sabbath sometimes feature entertainment by a cappella ensembles.
During the Three Weeks musical instruments are prohibited. Many Jews consider a portion of the day period of the counting of the omer between Passover and Shavuot to be a time of semi-mourning and instrumental music is not allowed during that time.
The popularization of the Jewish chant may be found in the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo , born 20 BC. Weaving together Jewish and Greek thought, Philo promoted praise without instruments, and taught that "silent singing" without even vocal chords was better still. The shofar is the only temple instrument still being used today in the synagogue,  and it is only used from Rosh Chodesh Elul through the end of Yom Kippur. The shofar is used by itself, without any vocal accompaniment, and is limited to a very strictly defined set of sounds and specific places in the synagogue service.
The A Cappella Choir was "the first permanent organization of its kind in America. An a cappella tradition was begun in by F. Melius Christiansen , a music faculty member at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Olaf College Choir was established as an outgrowth of the local St. John's Lutheran Church , where Christiansen was organist and the choir was composed, at least partially, of students from the nearby St.
Olaf campus. The choirs typically range from 40 to 80 singers and are recognized for their efforts to perfect blend, intonation, phrasing and pitch in a large choral setting. Movements in modern a cappella over the past century include barbershop and doo wop.
Many a cappella groups can be found in high schools and colleges. There are amateur Barbershop Harmony Society and professional groups that sing a cappella exclusively. Although a cappella is technically defined as singing without instrumental accompaniment, some groups use their voices to emulate instruments; others are more traditional and focus on harmonizing. A cappella styles range from gospel music to contemporary to barbershop quartets and choruses.
A cappella music was popularized between the late s and the early to mids with media hits such as the — TV show The Sing-Off and the musical comedy film series Pitch Perfect. In the s, several recording groups, notably The Hi-Los and the Four Freshmen , introduced complex jazz harmonies to a cappella performances. The King's Singers are credited with promoting interest in small-group a cappella performances in the s. There also remains a strong a cappella presence within Christian music, as some denominations purposefully do not use instruments during worship.
Examples of such groups are Take 6 , Glad and Acappella. Arrangements of popular music for small a cappella ensembles typically include one voice singing the lead melody, one singing a rhythmic bass line, and the remaining voices contributing chordal or polyphonic accompaniment. A cappella can also describe the isolated vocal track s from a multitrack recording that originally included instrumentation.
In , an artist by the name Smooth McGroove rose to prominence with his style of a cappella music. A cappella has been used as the sole orchestration for original works of musical theatre that have had commercial runs Off-Broadway theatres in New York City with 99 to seats only four times.
The first was Avenue X which opened on 28 January and ran for 77 performances. The musical style of the show's score was primarily Doo-Wop as the plot revolved around Doo-Wop group singers of the s. It was directed by Glenn Casale with original music and lyrics by Ben Schatz. The a cappella musical Perfect Harmony , a comedy about two high school a cappella groups vying to win the National championship, made its Off Broadway debut at Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre on 42nd Street in New York City in October after a successful out-of-town run at the Stoneham Theatre, in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
Set primarily in the New York City subway system its score features an eclectic mix of musical genres including jazz, hip hop, Latin, rock, and country. In Transit incorporates vocal beat boxing into its contemporary a cappella arrangements through the use of a subway beat boxer character.
Beat boxer and actor Chesney Snow performed this role for the Primary Stages production. In December , In Transit became the first a cappella musical on Broadway. Barbershop music is one of several uniquely American art forms. A cappella. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History.
Men's Choir A Cappella. Can't Help Falling in Love. Beginner Notes. Don't Worry, Be Happy. Ukulele Leadsheet. The Sound of Silence. God On The Mountain. Lynda Randle. Over the Rainbow. Judy Garland. The Longest Time. Billy Joel. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.
The Manhattan Transfer. Pitch Perfect. Julie Gaulke. The Beatles. Scholars once thought all "chapel style" music written before the s was performed a cappella, but modern research has revealed that instruments might have doubled or substituted for some voices back then. Today a cappella describes a purely vocal performance.
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The Holly and Ivy Girl. Find Your Program. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Nearer, My God, To Thee. Newest Sheet Music, A Cappella. Sad to A Cappella reviews of people that paid the previous one time purchase which has apparently been voided since they changed the terms to a monthly subscription as well Deke Sharon sought to bring a cappella into the musical mainstream, popularizing a more pop format for the music, as well as helping to contribute to a standardization of a cappella performance through the founding of CASA. Some Holiness A Cappella such as the A Cappella Methodist Church opposed the use of musical instruments in church worship until the midth century.
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