Consort Music: Pavan and Galliard

Pavan and Galliard

Consort Music

Small ensembles known as consorts or English consorts were the predominant mode of instrumental ensemble music making in the 16th and 17th century England.   An ensemble of like instruments, for example viols or lutes, was known as a "whole consort" while an ensemble of instruments from different families, strings, lutes and or winds, was called a "broken consort".  This form of music making was quite popular at court, and at the houses and manors of the well to do.

The music was not based on popular or folk music for the most part, rather were written by professional composers.   The musical forms of the time included dances, sung ayres, fantasias, cantus firmus settings, and variation sets.  Many of the ideas worked out in compositions for consort would be incorporated into later Baroque chamber music.  

English Consort music is now generally classified as composed in four eras, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Caroline, and later 17th century.  

Late Renaissance and Early Baroque dances

While it is reasonable to assume a vibrant folk dance culture in the period, there is not much in the way of documentation, rather what we know about Renaissance dance comes to us from published texts by dancing masters, and composers working in the courts and homes of the wealthy throughout Europe.

While a range of dance styles exist, they tend to fall into two categories:  

Slow dances of processional nature and fast showy dances. These types of dances were meant for pairs of dancers.   Line or circle dances were typically called Branles.  

By the Elizabethan era it became popular to pair a slow dance with a fast dance. The Pavan and Galliard pairing became the predominant dance pairing, with many of these paired sets penned by leading composers of the era.

The idea of slow/fast dance pairings continued into the Baroque with the combinations of Allemande/Courente and then Sarabande/Gigue.  Eventually these parings would become incorporated into the semi-standardized form which is recognized as the Baroque Dance Suite.  

Pavan and Galliard

The rhythm of the Pavan is a slow four beat.  Traditionally the Pavan is viewed as a processional, accompanying the entrance of the company or dancers into the hall, or dancing space.  Originating in Italy, some sources equate the title as a variation on "from Padua".  Other sources credit the title to the Italian word for "Peacock" ie. "pavona".  The movements of the dance were meant to show off one's elegance, grace, wealth, and style.  

The Galliard, from the French word for "young gallant" or "youthful energy", is a fast dance in triple meter.  It is danced with sections of dancers passing by one another (cinq-pas), and in stationary sections where complicated footwork may be expressed.  These complicated steps ere often performed by the men in front of the women as a display of strength, agility, and creativity.   As steps were mastered the cinq-pas was replaced with a "Volta" or "Lavolta" where the man would lift the woman in the air and execute a turn-a move often viewed as risque in some period ballrooms, but popular in Elizabeth's court.

Often the thematic material of the music of the Pavan was reflected in the Galliard, but examples exist of independently composed parings.

Here is a fine example of an English Consort and dancers performing a Pavan & Galliard by Anthony Holborne:

See more examples of the Pavan and Galliard, and further writing on the dances here:

More Links:


Pavan, pp. 600-601, Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Fifth Ed. Vol. III

Galliard, pp. 532-533, Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Fifth Ed. Vol. VI

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