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[ultimately from antiphonantiphon
, in Roman Catholic liturgical music, generally a short text sung before and after a psalm or canticle. The main use is in group singing of the Divine Office in a monastery.
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], short nonliturgical choral composition used in Protestant services, usually accompanied and having an English text. The term is used in a broader sense for "national anthems" and for the Latin motets still used occasionally in Anglican services. A full anthem is entirely choral, while a verse anthem includes parts for solo singers. The anthem arose in the Anglican Church, as the English counterpart of the Latin motet, through the work of Christopher Tye (c.1500–1573), Thomas TallisTallis or Tallys, Thomas,
c.1510–1585, English composer, who served the royal household, from c.1537 to his death, as organist.
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, and William ByrdByrd, William,
1543–1623, English composer, organist at Lincoln Cathedral and, jointly with Tallis, at the Chapel Royal. Although Roman Catholic, he composed anthems and services for the English Church in addition to his great Roman masses and Latin motets.
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 (1543–1623). Early anthems were often in the style of Latin motets, sometimes being merely an English text set to well-known motets. In the late 17th cent. composers such as Henry Purcell and John Blow, under Italian influences, wrote verse anthems with several movements, as in cantatas. George F. Handel's anthems, in the tradition of the full anthem, are, like those of Purcell and Blow, too elaborate for ordinary church use. Since the 19th cent. extracts from oratorios, masses, passions, etc., are commonly used as anthems, but these pieces are not anthems in the original sense of the term.


See M. B. Foster, Anthems and Anthem Composers (1901, repr. 1970); W. L. Reed and M. J. Bristow, ed., National Anthems of the World (1988).



a nonliturgical religious choral composition, English in origin, that is set to a biblical text. The anthem, which is similar to the motet or cantata, has been sung in England since the mid-16th century, when prominent composers in the genre were T. Tallis, W. Byrd, and O. Gibbons. Famous examples of the anthem may be found in the works of H. Purcell and G. F. Handel. There are two types of anthem: the full anthem, written primarily for chorus, and the verse anthem, in which the chorus is supplemented by additional voices, usually a solo voice or duet. Anthems are sometimes accompanied by an orchestra or an organ.


1. a song of loyalty or devotion, as to a nation or college
2. a musical composition for a choir, usually set to words from the Bible, sung as part of a church service
3. a religious chant sung antiphonally