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A consort in musical terms, was a small instrumental - and sometimes vocal – musical ensemble that flourished in England before about 1700. It can also be extended to the music itself. The word was borrowed from the Italian “concerto”, which at that time had much the same meaning.

Any group of instruments of that day can be covered by the term, either disparate or made up of a number of the same instrument. Songs for solo voice with one of these ensembles (usually of viols) was a “consort song”. William Byrd was the leading composer of this form of song, which flourished particularly between 1575 and 1625.

In other contexts, a consort is a companion or marriage partner. The husband or wife of a monarch or aristocrat is sometimes known as a consort. For example, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is a prince consort, as the husband of the British Queen Elizabeth II.


“Oxford Companion to Music”

“The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music”