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Seventeenth-century Dutch public top singers of Europe

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

NIJMEGEN – New research suggests that the average Dutch citizen must have been singing aplenty from a repertoire that included a very wide range of songs. People knew the lyrics by heart (many were illiterate in those times), although there were many songbooks and music sheets in circulation as well. Nowhere in 17th century Europe was the choice of songbooks as great as in the Netherlands, noted Natascha Veldhorst who wrote the book ’Zingend door het leven.’ The Dutch republic excelled both in selection as well as in press run numbers. They also put lyrics to music by composers such as Monteverdi and Marenzio. The songbooks appeared in different forms. Veldhorst pointed to the contemporary practice of putting lyrics to music for weddings, anniversaries and other festive occasions as an example of a widespread tradition in centuries gone by. Singing was a good way to combat loneliness and melancholy, notes the researcher, who surveyed numerous songbooks but also studied paintings featuring song and music.