Thursday, August 26, 2004

A cappella Origin Confusion

According to The Harvard Dictionary of Music Fourth Edition edited by Don Randel, the term a cappella pertains to choral music without instrumental accompaniment. I found it interesting that the word a cappella is derived from the word chapel, and until the 19th century, a cappella was applied only to sacred choral music. Although a cappella pertains to choral music without instrumental accompaniment, Grove Music Online states that “In 17th- and 18th-century Germany ‘Kapelle’ could mean either the singers and organist of a church, or the singers and instrumentalists of a court”. So if the term a cappella was used in 17th and 18th century Germany to describe singers with instrumentalists, then it seems odd to me that it is now used to describe choral music without accompaniment.