Revision GCSE

Long Answer Question 3 – Purcell

This is the third question in a series of Long Answer Questions for GCSE Music. If you haven’t completed Question 1 or Question 2 then please do check out those blog posts. This question is going to focus on Purcell and his GCSE Music Set Work “Music for a While”.

Purcell & Handel

This particular question is going to compare the Purcell set work with ‘The Trumpet Shall Sound” from Handel’s Messiah.

You can listen to both of these pieces of music online using your streaming service or through the Youtube Links below:

For the Handel video you need to go to 38 seconds and start there. I would encourage you to listen to both of these pieces in their entirety. However for the purpose of the question we are only considering the first 90 seconds.

Sheet music can often be found online at You may like to go and look at the more of Handel’s Messiah on that website. Please use your anthology for the Purcell set work.

Here is a copy of the music required for The Trumpet Shall Sound


Purcell composed “Music for a While” in 1692 and it is an example of an Early Baroque Vocal Piece.

Handel Composed his famous Oratorio Messiah in 1741, quiet a few years after Purcell who died in 1695. Whilst these piece are both from the Baroque period, there may be some key differences to spot for this Question.

In order to understand the context we need to know a little bit about the composers but also a little bit about the history of music from this period of time. I won’t provide a potted history here but here are some questions to guide your research:

  • What was happening in 1692 & 1741 that might have affected the music making?
  • Where in society was music seen, heard & performed in 1692 & 1741?
  • What were the key features of music in 1692 & 1741?
  • Can you explain what the word Baroque means?
  • What other composers were writing music at the same time? Listen to some of their famous works.


  • What instruments are used in this piece?
  • What role do they have?
  • How do the instruments work with the singer?
  • Do the instruments used point to the period in music history?
  • How doe you think the use of Instrumentation change between the two pieces?
  • What similarities in the use of instrumentation can be seen in these pieces?


  • What is Tonality?
  • What Tonalities are used by the composers?
  • How do the pieces differ in terms of their tonality & why?
  • What does the Tonality tell us about the period in music history?

Long Answer Question Tips

A Long Answer Question is likely to be about 350 words long – but this is not official or from the exam board. That is just something that I am telling my students as a guide.

The most important thing to always remember is to compare & contrast the two pieces. This creates a discussion in the writing. Also it is crucial to address the elements that are in the question, in this case Instrumentation & Tonality.

it is also important to always say WHY something happens or is used in a piece. In this question, why are the instruments used in the way they are used. Why is the Tonality minor in the Purcell set work. The Why is crucial as it shows that greater level of understanding. Simply pointing out key features will not access all of the marks for OA4.

The Question

As usual you can download the question sheet here:

I hope that this question gets you thinking about the Purcell set work and also some Handel Wider Listening.

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