Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Having heard music by the Quadriga Consort, Francine asked about the possibility of a connection between the words concert and consort. It turns out that in a limited sense, there is. But first let’s distinguish between two nouns with identical spellings and some overlapping meanings.
Consort1 came from the Latin consors, a partner or colleague. It moved through several meanings:
· companion, mate, or colleague
· a ship sailing in company with another
· a husband or wife
· the spouse of a king or queen (Prince-consort Albert)
· mated animals
Consort2 meant, variously, a fellowship or partnership, a society, and agreement or accord. There was a musical sense, which begins to answer Francine’s question. First of all, it meant harmonious voices or instruments. It evolved into a company of musicians. In our time, it refers to a company of musicians that specializes in Renaissance or Baroque music—so-called Early Music.
It is thought that the musical word consort arose as a mistake. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was an erroneous representation of the French concert and the Italian concerto. From the mid-1600s onward, the musical performance was spelled concert.
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