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Roger Bowers

Roger Bowers

Emeritus Reader in Music


Roger Bowers retired from his position as University Reader in Medieval and Renaissance Music in 2005, but remains active in research and publication.

He obtained a Ph.D. from the School of Fine Arts and Music, University of East Anglia, in 1975, and became a Research Fellow in the Department of Music, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, in 1977. He took up his erstwhile position at Cambridge University in 1978, and from 1991 to 1993 enjoyed a Research Readership awarded by the British Academy.

His interests – comprehensively represented in his book English Church Polyphony: Singers and Sources from the Fourteenth Century to the Seventeenth (1999) – encompass all manner of aspects of the complex interactions between the composition of music in England, the nature of the forces which the Church and social elites saw fit to furnish for its performance, and the political and religious considerations applied by those whom the musicians were constrained to serve and please. He also works on music in northern Italy around 1600, and on certain abiding problems of transcription, especially the understanding of the finer points of the notation of music composed between c.1500 and c.1630.

His immediate endeavour lies in completing a volume to be entitled Mantua and Monteverdi: the Mass, Motets and Vespers of 1610.

Key Publications


English Church Polyphony: Singers and Sources from the Fourteenth to the Seventeenth Century (Aldershot, 1999). [This volume contains re-prints of         items marked ** below, updated with supplementary material: xii + 354 pp.]    

In preparation

Mantua and Monteverdi: the Mass, Motets and Vespers of 1610.

Other Publications

(to 01 April 2014)

Contributed Chapters

eleven descriptions contributed to Cambridge Music Manuscripts 900 – 1700, ed. I. Fenlon (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 44-135 passim.

** ‘The cultivation and promotion of music in the household and circle of Thomas Wolsey’, in Cardinal Wolsey: Church, State and Art, ed. S.J. Gunn and P.J. Lindley (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 178-218.

** ‘Music and Worship, to 1642’, in A History of Lincoln Minster, ed. D. Owen (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 47-76.

** ‘The liturgy of the cathedral and its music, c.1070-1642’, in A History of Canterbury Cathedral, ed. P. Collinson, N. Ramsay and M. Sparks (Oxford, 1995), pp. 408-50.

** ‘To chorus from quartet: the performing resource for English church polyphony, c.1390-1559’, in English Choral Practice, 1400-1625, ed. J. Morehen (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 1-47. [Also 'Key evidence', Musical Times, 138 (1997), pp. 5-10, in part a response to a review of this item.]

 ‘The music and musical establishment of St George's Chapel in the fifteenth century’, in St George's Chapel, Windsor, in the late Middle Ages, ed. C. Richmond and E. Scarff, Historical Monographs relating to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, no. 17 (Windsor, 2001), pp. 171-214.

‘The vernacular litany of 1544 during the reign of Henry VIII’, in Authority and Consent in Tudor England. Essays presented to C.S.L. Davies, ed. G.W. Bernard and S.J. Gunn (Aldershot, 2002), pp. 151-78.

‘The musicians and liturgy of the Lady Chapels of the monastery church, c.1235-1540’, in Westminster Abbey: the Lady Chapel of Henry VII, ed. T. Tatton-Brown and R. Mortimer (Woodbridge, 2003), pp. 33-57.

‘Monteverdi at Mantua, 1590-1612’, in The Cambridge Companion to Monteverdi, ed. J. Whenham and R. Wistreich (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 53-75.

‘Liturgy and music in the role of the chantry priest’, in The Medieval Chantry in England, ed. J.M. Luxford  and J. McNeill, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 164 (2011), pp. 130-56.

‘Ecclesiastical or domestic? Criteria for identification of the initial destinations of William Byrd’s music to religious vernacular texts’, in Richard Turbet, William Byrd: a Research and Information Guide, 3rd edn (New York and London, 2012), pp. 134-60.

In the press         

‘The reform of the choir of Salisbury Cathedral, c.1450-1549’, in Late Medieval Liturgies Enacted: The Experience of Worship in Cathedral and Parish Church, ed. Sally Harper, P.S. Barnwell, and Magnus Williamson (Aldershot: forthcoming, Ashgate, 2014).

‘Chapel and choir, liturgy and music, 1444-1644’, in King’s College Chapel 1515-2015. Art, Music and Religion in Cambridge, ed. Jean Michel Massing and Nicolette Zeeman (London: forthcoming, Harvey Miller, 2014).

Proceedings of Themed Conferences 

** ‘Obligation, agency and laissez-faire: the promotion of polyphonic composition for the Church in fifteenth-century England’, in Music in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Patronage, Sources and Texts, ed. I. Fenlon (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 1-19.

** ‘The performing ensemble for English church polyphony, c.1320-1390’, in Studies in the Performance of Late Mediaeval Music, ed. S. Boorman (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 161-87.

‘Aristocratic and popular piety in the patronage of music in the fifteenth-century Netherlands’, in The Church and the Arts, ed. D. Wood, Studies in Church History, 28 (1992), pp. 195-224.

‘Early Tudor courtly song: an evaluation of the Fayrfax Book (BL, Additional MS 5465)’, in The Reign of Henry VII, ed. B. Thompson, Harlaxton Medieval Studies, v (Stamford, 1995), pp. 188-212.

‘Proportioned notations in Banchieri’s theory and Monteverdi’s music’, in Performing Practice in Monteverdi’s Music, ed. R. Monterosso (Cremona, 1995), pp. 53-92.

‘The almonry schools of the English monasteries, c.1265-1540’, in Monasteries and Society in Medieval Britain, ed. B. Thompson,  Harlaxton Medieval Studies, vi (Stamford, 1999), pp. 177-222.

‘An early Tudor monastic enterprise: choral polyphony for the liturgical service’, in The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism, ed. James G. Clark (Woodbridge, 2007), pp. 21-54.    

In the press:              

‘A study in manuscript transmission: error, amendment, and divergence in John Taverner’s “Meane Mass”’, The Peterhouse Part-Books, ed. S. Mandelbrote (Ashgate, forthcoming).

Journal Articles

** ‘Some observations on the life and career of Lionel Power’, Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 102 (1975/76), pp. 103-27.

 ‘The performing pitch of English fifteenth-century polyphony’, Early Music8 (1980), pp. 21-8, with subsequent correspondence in Early Music, 9 (1981), pp. 73-5.

‘Further thought on Early Tudor pitch’, Early Music, 8 (1980), pp. 368-75. (with M. Bent) ‘The Saxilby Fragment’, Early Music History, 1 (1981), pp. 1-27.

‘Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 47-1980’ and ‘London, Public Record Office, MS LR 2/261’, in P. Lefferts and M. Bent, ‘New sources of English fourteenth-century polyphony’, Early Music History, 2 (1982), pp. 281-94, 332-6. (with A. Wathey)

‘New sources of English fourteenth- and fifteenth-century polyphony’, Early Music History, 3 (1983), pp. 123-73. (with A. Wathey) ‘New sources of English fifteenth- and sixteenth-century polyphony’, Early Music History, 4 (1984), pp. 297-346.

** ‘The vocal scoring, choral balance and performing pitch of Latin church polyphony in England, c.1500-58’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association112 (1987), pp. 38-76.

 ** ‘Fixed points in the chronology of English fourteenth-century polyphony’, Music & Letters, 71 (1990), pp. 313-35; with postscript, Music & Letters80 (1999), pp. 269-70.

‘Some reflection upon notation and proportion in Monteverdi’s Mass and Vespers of 1610’, Music & Letters, 73 (1992), pp. 347-98; with subsequent correspondence in Music & Letters, 74 (1993), pp. 491-5 and Music & Letters, 75 (1994), pp. 149-54.

** ‘The musicians of the Lady Chapel of Winchester Cathedral Priory, 1402-1539’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 45 (1994), pp. 195-222.

‘Proportional notations in Monteverdi’s Orfeo’, Music & Letters, 76 (1995), pp. 149-67.

‘The Chapel Royal, the first Edwardian Prayer Book, and Elizabeth I's                      Settlement of Religion, 1559’, The Historical Journal, 43 (2000), pp. 317-44.

‘The playhouse of the Choristers of Paul's, c.1575-1608’, Theatre Notebook,           54 (2000), pp. 70-85.

 ‘An “aberration” reviewed: the reconciliation of inconsistent clef-systems in Monteverdi's Mass and Vespers of 1610’, Early Music, 31 (2003), pp. 527-38.

‘Guillaume de Machaut and his canonry of Reims, 1338-1377’, Early Music   History, 23 (2004), pp. 1-48.

 ‘Claudio Monteverdi and sacred music in the household of the Gonzaga Dukes of Mantua, 1590-1612’, Music & Letters, 90 (2009), 331-71.

 ‘“The high and lowe keyes come both to one pitch”: inconsistent clef-systems in Monteverdi’s vocal music for Mantua’, Early Music, 39 (2011), 531-45.

 ‘The Cathedral Church of S. Maria del Fiore, Florence: two depictions of musical performance at festal High Mass, c.1590 and 1637’, Early Music (forthcoming).            

‘Of Milan, and Monteverdi: the cappella of the household of the last Sforza duke and of the Spanish Governors, c.1521-1625, Music and Letters (forthcoming)

Electronic Publications

The Story of the Church in England. I: The Parish Church (interactive DVD), ed. Dee Dyas (Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York, 2010): 
1066-1534: Daily Life and Worship.

  • ‘The later medieval liturgy’.
  • ‘The church service in practice: clergy and laity’.
  • ‘Music: the polyphony of the church service’.

1534-1689: Worship.

  • ‘Music, c.1534-1625’.

The Story of the Church in England. II: Cathedrals and Monasteries (interactive  DVD), ed. Dee Dyas (Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York, 2013):


  • c.1066-1538:    ‘Worship, Liturgy and Music’. 
  • 1534-1645:       ‘Worship, Liturgy and Music’.


Shorter Articles and Contributions

(with L.S. Colchester and A. Crossland)  The Organs and Organists of Wells Cathedral (Wells, 1974).

 ‘A Commentary on the text and a translation’ contributed to M. Bent, ‘Rota Versatilis: towards a reconstruction’, Memorial Essays to R. Thurston Dart, ed. I. Bent, (London, 1982), pp. 86-88.

 ‘The Lady Chapel and its musicians, c.1210-1559’, in Winchester Cathedral: nine hundred years 1093-1993, ed. J.  Crook (Chichester, 1993), pp. 247-56. [This is an item condensed in part from Section IV (1994) above.]

‘Latin and English Music of John Sheppard’: insert (3,850 words) for CD by Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford. NI 5480, Nimbus Records Ltd (1996).

 'Robert Carver (1487/8 - c.1568) at Scone and Stirling', Early Music Review48 (March 1999), pp. 8-10.

 review-article of Whenham J., Monteverdi: Vespers, 1610, in Music & Letters, 80 (1999), pp. 108-13.

 ‘The Prayer Book and the musicians, 1549-1662’, Cathedral Music (April 2002), pp. 36-44 (a lecture, c.10,000 words, offering a radically novel interpretation of the history of sacred music in England at this period), with subsequent correspondence, Cathedral Music (April 2003), pp. 54-5.

‘Five into four does go: the vocal scoring of Ockeghem’s Missa L’homme armé’, Early Music, 31 (2003), pp. 262-4.

review-article of Kurtzman J., The Monteverdi Vespers of 1610: Music, Context, Performance, in Music and Letters, 85 (2004), pp. 257-269.

‘More on the Lambeth Choirbook’, Early Music, 33 (2005), pp. 659-64.

‘Of 1610: Claudio Monteverdi’s Mass, motets and vespers’, The Musical Times, 151 (Autumn 2010), pp. 41-6.

‘Chains of (rehabilitated) gold’, Early Music Review, 159 (April 2014), pp. 10-17.  

Dictionary and Encyclopaedia Articles

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie (London, 1980): eighteen articles (superseded by 2nd edn: see below).

‘Chapel Royal’ and ‘Choir, Chorus’ in The Oxford Companion to Music, ed. G. Norris (Oxford, 1983) [revised text in The Oxford Companion to Music, ed. A. Latham (Oxford, 2002)].

‘Browne, John’, ‘Lambe, Walter’ and ‘Ludford, Nicholas’, in Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons, ed. C.S. Nicholls (Oxford, 1993), pp. 93-4, 384-5, 416-17.


‘Choirs, Choral establishments’ and ‘Organ’ in Medieval England: an Encyclopedia, ed. P.E. Szarmach, M.T. Tavormina and J.T. Rosenthal (New York and London, 1998), pp. 179-81, 565-7.

‘Cooke, John’ and ‘Chapel Royal’, in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2nd edn, 27 vols (Kassel, 1994-2007).

 The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London, 2000):

sole authorship: ABYNDON, Henry; AMBROSE, John; APPLEBY, Thomas; BROWNE, John; BLICH, Richard; BRAMSTON, Richard; BRYGEMAN, William; DRIFFELDE; EDWARDS (i); GARNESEY; HAMPTON, John; HOLYNBORNE; HUCHYN, Nicholas; JONES, Robert (i); KNYGHT, Thomas; LONDON (i), II: Music at Court: 1. the CHAPEL ROYAL (beginnings to 1558: 1250 words); MARTYN, Edward; MASON, John; MERICOCKE, Thomas; MORECOCK, Robert; PASCHE, William; PROPORTIONAL NOTATION (2800 words); PROWETT, Stephen; SAMPSON; SYGAR, John; TAVERNER, John (life: 1500 words); TUDER, John; WESTCOTE, Sebastian; WYDOW, Robert.

joint authorship: ARCHIVES AND MUSIC; COOKE, J.; DYGON, John; OKELAND, Robert; PEARCE, Edward; RASAR, William; WHYTBROKE, William.  

 The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. C. Matthew and B. Harrison, 60 vols (Oxford, 2004):

 a) in print: ASHWELL, Thomas; BARCROFT, George; BROWNE, John; CARVER, Robert; CHAPPINGTON, John; CORNYSH, William I (c.1430-1502) and William II (c.1455-1521) (2000 words); COSTELEY, Guillaume; COWPER, Robert; DYGON [alias WYLDEBORE], John; FARRANT, Richard (1000 words); HORWOOD, William; LAMBE, Walter; LLOYD, John; PARSONS, Robert (1000 words); PASHE, William; PERROT, Robert; PHILLIPS, Robert; POWER, Lionel; TAVERNER, John (3200 words); TESTWOOD, Robert (1000 words); WATERHOUSE, George; WESTCOTE, Sebastian (1400 words); WHITE [alias WHYTE], Robert [with WHITE, Matthew, and WHITE, William] (1800 words); WHYTBROKE, William; WILKINSON, Robert; WYDOW, Robert.

b) in electronic format: ‘Composers of the Eton Choirbook’ (1750 words).

Unpublished Dissertation (doctoral)


‘Choral institutions within the English Church: their constitution and development, c.1340-1500’, Ph.D. dissertation, University of East Anglia,  1975 (available for consultation through the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM)). 

Reviews (incorporating substantial scholarly content)



des Prez, Gombert, Obrecht, la Rue (Pro Cantione Antiqua): Early Music, 8 (1980), pp. 255-7.

Taverner (Taverner Choir); Sheppard (The Sixteen): Early Music, 17 (1989), pp. 276-82.  

Machaut (Hilliard Ensemble): Early Music, 18 (1990), pp. 489-91.


Wathey A., Music in the royal and noble households in late medieval England, in Music & Letters, 73 (1992), pp. 638-41.

Wright C., Music and ceremony at Notre Dame of Paris, 500-1500, in Plainsong and Mediaeval Music, 1 (1992), pp. 93-6.

Leech-Wilkinson, D., Machaut’s Mass: an Introduction, in Music & Letters, 74 (1993), pp. 54-9.

Caldwell J., The Oxford History of English Music I: from the beginnings to c.1715, in Music & Letters, 74 (1993), pp. 269-73.

Brown A. and Turbet R. eds, Byrd Studies, in Early Music, 21 (1993), pp. 114-15.

Ashbee A. and Lasocki D., A biographical dictionary of English court  musicians, 1485-1714, in Early Music, 27 (1999), pp. 481-3. 

Harley, J., Orlando Gibbons and the Gibbons family of musicians, in Early Music, 28 (2000), pp. 613-14

Woods Preece, I. (ed. S. Harper), 'Our awin Scottis use': music in the Scottish church up to 1603, in Early Music, 29 (2001), pp. 644-6.

Hyun-Ah Kim, Humanism and the Reform of Sacred Music in Early Modern  England. John Merbecke the Orator, and The Booke of Common Praier  Noted (1550), St Andrews Studies in Reformation History (Aldershot, 2008),  in Catholic Historical Review, 96 (2010), pp. 561-3.


Robert Fayrfax I: O bone Iesu, ed. R. Bray, Early English Church Music, 43 (2002): Early Music, 32 (2004), pp. 471-3.

Nicholas Ludford II: Five- and Six-part Masses and Magnificat, ed. D. Skinner, Early English Church Music, 46 (2005): Early Music, 35 (2007), pp. 639-41.


Ephemera (incorporating substantial scholarly content)

Inserts for recordings

‘Aeterne laudis lilium’: Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge.  Alpha ACA 546, Abbey Recording Co. (1985).

‘Music of Christopher Tye’: Cambridge University Chamber Choir.  GAM CD519, Gamut Classics Ltd. (1990).

‘Sacred songs of William Byrd’: Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge. LAMM 086D, Lammas Records (1996).

Invited lectures and conference papers (as yet unpublished)

(to 01 January 2014)

1993. ‘Pupil and Master: William Byrd and Sebastian Westcott at St Paul’s Cathedral, c.1551-5’ (21st Annual Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Music, University of Wales, Bangor). 

1993. ‘Imitators of the Tudor Chapel Royal: the promotion of sacred music in the households of the English aristocracy, 1485-1572’ (Royal Musical Association Study Day, University of Southampton).

1998. ‘The making of a protestant princess; the up-bringing of the Lady Elizabeth, 1533-53’ (Biennial Reformation Studies Colloquium, Wadham College, Oxford).

2002. ‘Gifts fulfilled for masses denied: two clauses of the will of King Henry VIII’ (Biennial Reformation Studies Colloquium, University of Exeter). 

2002. ‘King Henry VIII and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle: his chantry, tomb, and testamentary bequests, 1547-1565’ (Maurice and Shelagh Bond Memorial Lecture, St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle).      

2003. ‘Realising sacred music of the Tudor and Jacobean eras in performance’ (Annual Conference of the Cathedral Assistant Organists’ Association, York Minster)

2004. ‘Notational constraints on the composition of English fourteenth-century cantus firmus polyphony: a rationale for reclefment and contrasting signatures’ (Graduate Colloquium on Medieval Music, All Souls’ College, Oxford).

2005. ‘Mensuration, proportion and word-setting in the music of Tomàs Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611)’ (Graduate Colloquium, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford).

2005. ‘A ministry in music: the singing-boys of the English parish churches in the later Middle Ages’ (International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds).

2005. ‘The apprenticeship of William Byrd: St Paul’s Cathedral, the Chapel Royal, and Lincoln Cathedral, c.1551-1572’ (conference: ‘The Music of William Byrd’, Duke University, Durham NC, U.S.A.). 

2006. ‘Hearing Heaven: the creation of the choir in Late Medieval England’ (Graduate Colloquium, University of Virginia, Charlottesville VA, U.S.A.); also 2007: Graduate Colloquium, University of Exeter).

2007. ‘The benefactions of Henry VIII to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle:              Henry’s children and Henry’s will’ (conference: ‘Partners both in Throne and Grave: Lessons in the Tudor Monarchy of Queens Mary and Elizabeth’, University of Southampton).

2008. ‘Polyphonic voices in the English parish church, c.1460-1560’ (36th Annual Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Music, University of Wales, Bangor);

also (revised) 2008: conference ‘Worship, Music and Liturgy in Early Modern England’, A.H.R.C. Early Modern Worship Network, University of Durham.

2008. ‘Lay participation in the liturgy of the pre-Reformation parish church in England, and its Reformation extinction’ (conference ‘Sites of Change in Reformation England’, University of Warwick); also (revised) 2008: Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference, St Louis MO, U.S.A.  

2009. ‘Degrees in Music: the early years, 1461-1540’ (public lecture, University of Cambridge 800th anniversary celebration: Lower Library, Caius College).

2009. ‘Henry VIII and the salvation of English church music, 1509-1590’ (Henry VIII Quincentenary Lecture, Peterborough Cathedral).

2013. ‘Chapel, church and parlour: the locale of the verse anthem and sacred domestic consort, c.1590-1625’ (conference: ‘Chains of Gold: Rhetoric and Performance in the Verse Anthem’, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities,  University of Cambridge).

2013. ‘Music in a Metropolis: London and Westminster, 1528’ (public lecture, 125th anniversary conference of the Plainsong and Mediæval Music Society, York Minster).

2013. ‘The psalms in English musical composition, c.1540-1625’ (conference: ‘Psalm Culture and the Politics of Translation’, Queen Mary University of London). 

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