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many women sitting in the public assembly, as having nothing to do when the praises of God are sung by others. They have taken no part in this heavenly exercise, as though it were not allowed them; or if it be, they had no inclination or heart unto it. I wish such as have indulged in this culpable omission would henceforwards reform."
Exhortations similar in spirit to these have been given by subsequent nonconforming divines, but nothing specific or tangible--no practical directions as to the means of accomplishing so desirable an end as congregational singing. In the Church, Aldrich, Holder, Bayly, Mason, Bedford (all clergymen), and more lately Latrobe and Jebb, have written on Church Music with an evident knowledge of the subject; but among the Dissenting ministers it has either been left to itself, or interfered with ignorantly, and therefore mischievously. As far as we know, Dr. John Taylor is the only one who published a Set of good Psalm-tunes, with instructions for singing, and “a scheme for promoting the spirit and practice of Psalmody in congregations.” Dr. Rippon's Collection of Psalm-tunes is the worst of the bad, and no better evidence is needed of the want of a reform in this branch of our services than its extensive employment.
But it is not denied that the musical portion of our public religious services is in a very unsatisfactory, not to say disgraceful state. It is more frequently a hindrance than a help to devotional feelings. And the remark applies equally to the Church established as to churches nonconforming. Not that there is any want of excellent devotional poetry, or of music equally good. Both abound. The cathedral music of England is the finest collection of devotional music in the world. This is not an empty vaunt, made at random, but the result of long and diligent study of the music of all churches. In all the true requisites of devotional music, that of our cathedral churches is unrivalled. Nor are many of the psalm-tunes which are to be found in this country inferior to any other. There is no want of material of either kind. What are the causes, then, which enfeeble and deform the musical service of our churches ? Perhaps the most correct reply will be, ignorance and avarice. Let us see how these causes have operated.
Devotional music is of two distinct kinds—one performed by a choir of educated and paid musicians, the other sung (or intended to be sung) by the congregation. The Church of England recognizes and enjoins both—the choral service for the cathedral, psalm-singing for the parish church. The English Nonconformists, as well as foreign Protestant churches, recognize only the latter. Luther substituted the singing of the congregation for the singing of a choir, and his example was followed in all the Reformed churches. Every thing that was written (and much was written) on the proper use of music in nonconforming churches, assumed as a principle that singing was to be the act of the people universally. Nor was there any want of excellent psalm-tunes. The venerable and admirable Tallis wrote several for Archbishop Parker's Version of the Psalms, and the collection printed by Est in 1592 is before us, to which Dowland, Farmer, Kirby, Alison and other composers of note, contributed. The tunes are “all composed into four parts, and so printed that each person may sing the part best suited to their voice.” This or a similar publication was in every pew and in universal use. It was a work fitted for a musically-educated people, and such the English then were. Every person of decent education learned to sing from notes; and we may conceive the sublime effect of these majestic harmonies correctly sung by hundreds of voices. The decay of devotional music of this class is, therefore, clearly owing to ignorance. The present race of English men and women are far behind their ancestors in musical acquirement. The art of reading from notes forms no part of their education. The proportion of men who have acquired it is not one in five hundred, and as you advance in the scale of society it becomes less. While immense sums are yearly paid for musical instruction to the fairer sex, very few, by comparison, can read. Ignorance, therefore, is the true parent of this evil; its remedy is knowledge. Rightly does Mr. Binney remark, that “psalmody, however simple, to be performed aright, must be performed skilfully. It” (more correctly, Music] " has its principles and its laws: it is a thing to be taught and learnt; to be cultivated and improved; to be enriched by knowledge, purified by taste, perfected by practice.”
Doubtless many worthy Nonconformists have feared to give their sons musical instruction from the apprehension that it would lead them into dissipated company. There cannot be a more groundless fear. The bellowing of a song at a tavern is not music—the noise generated by wine is not music and to a cultivated ear and a refined taste is, of all things, most detestable. One of the highest kinds of musical enjoyment is found when a party of both sexes, each being able to join, meet to sing those vocal part compositions of which the English school of harmony affords such abundant variety; and in many of which “ voice and verse have wedded their divine sounds” in happy and equal union. Here is not rivalry, jealousy, display or failure ; each contributes his or her proportion to the general harmony; and to the pleasure of hearing is added that of performing. Persons thus trained would never fall into the error which Mr. Binney laments, of “ thinking that a service in which anybody might join was beneath their notice." Musical enjoyment would go hand in hand with the “service of song;" and they would unite in it not as a duty merely, but a pleasure.
But if musical ignorance is to be regretted in congregations, it is more deeply to be deplored in ministers, both in the Establishment and out of it. Their position would enable them to advise and control (if necessary) with effect. Ignorance prevents their doing either; and it is certain that (as a general truth), in our time, whenever the clergy interfere about music, they do mischief. They ought to be able to interfere for good; but they have not yet learned that, in reference to music,“ knowledge is power.” The wretched mountebank exhibitions, --the displays of vulgarity, frivolity and incongruity,—the vanity, ignorance and folly, that appear in many churches of the Establishment, never would have existed if the minister had added to other collegiate studies that of music, especially Church music. We have said that avarice has destroyed the choral service of the Established Church : let us see how.
The choral service of the Church of England is essentially antiphonal. This is its character and form throughout, music being its language. Every portion of it is intoned, chanted or sung. It is, of its kind, perfect and entire, wanting nothing. But it, obviously, demands two complete and well-appointed choirs, comprising priest vicars, lay vicars and boys. The number of voices in each cathedral originally varied from 40 to 60, for whose maintenance ample endowments were given or bequeathed. What they were capable of performing, may be estimated from the anthems and services composed for them in the time of their glory; what the effect they produced upon a devout, poetical and musical mind, we may learn from him who said that the “service high and anthem clear,” which as a boy at St. Paul's school he was accustomed to hear in the old cathedral, “ brought all heaven before his eyes.” The choral service of the Church in its present actual state reflects but the mere shadow of its former greatness. In order to gratify their avarice, capitular bodies have appropriated to their own use the endowments especially designed for the support of the choirs, reduced their numbers, lessened their salaries, appointed priest vicars who are unable to sing,* and in short brought things to this state, that with ample endowments for “full-voiced choirs," and in possession of an unrivalled collection of devotional music, commencing in the reign of Edward VI. and extending to that of George III., the actual performance of the cathedral service is feeble, vulgar and in every way disgraceful. Certain ignorant and conceited priests have attempted to mix up, at their [in]discretion, portions of the cathedral service with that of the parish church, equally in defiance of authority and good taste. The former, as we have said, is one entire and beautiful whole, planned with consummate skill and executed with equal art. The effect of serving it up in bits and fragments is precisely analogous to cutting a head or a figure out of a fine picture. The figure or the head is the same, but where is the group of which it forms a part, whence the light that falls on it, where the shade that gives it prominence, where the tone that prevaded the entire work, and which bespoke the labour and skill of the artist? These mutilations of the cathedral service would never be perpetrated if music entered, as it ought, into the education of a clergyman,-if the Music Professorships of Cambridge and Oxford were not mere sinecures.
But what has the decay of cathedral music to do with the congregational singing of Dissenters? Perhaps more than at first may appear. Be it remembered that all our best psalm-tunes were composed by the organists of cathedrals. Tallis, Morley, Jer. Clark, Purcell, Blow, Croft, Weldon, Nares and Battishill, were all nurtured in the Church, and wrote for its parochial as well as choral service. But further, it is to their compositions and those of their illustrious fellows that we must refer for models of true devotional music. In as far as their compositions are studied, they will serve to guide us in the right path, to shew us what the music of the church is capable of effecting, to refine the quality and elevate the character of church music. Whoever has stu.
* This is in open defiance of those statutes by which every dean swears to govern his cathedral, in which every priest, vicar or minor canon is required to be in cantu doctus, or cantandi peritus, as the words of the particular statute may be. Certain fellowships at Oxford, too, are held upon the (now disregarded) condition that the possessor shall be mediocriter doctus in plano cantu. The present race of minor canons interpret the Psalmist thus: “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, but we cannot condescend to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High.”
died or even listened to the compositions of those men would turn with disgust from the vulgarities or prettinesses of many a popular psalmtune. Our cathedrals have been schools of devotional music; they have taught us the real power of the art when applied to the service of religion; and though we decline to adopt their form, the more we can imbibe of their musical spirit, the better. Take some of the Anthems of Purcell, for instance-what mere recitation can express the meaning of the words of Scripture with the force, feeling and intensity of his music when well sung ?* The Rev. John Jebb, who on this point is no mean authority, speaking of Jer. Clark, says, " I must avow my deliberate conviction, that no commentary I have ever read has to me so brought out or illustrated the meaning of the 18th Psalm (“I will love thee, O Lord'), as his music to it.”+ If this view of the character and qualities of English Church music be a correct one, it is a national, not a sectarian, possession. We may decline to use it in our public devotions because we think singing in God's house ought to be the act of a congregation—not a choir ; but if we desire to know what devotional music in its highest form and noblest spirit is, if we desire to attain a pure, elevated and correct taste, we must address ourselves to the study and practice of the cathedral music of the English Church.
We have in brief intimated our estimate of the character of Mr. Binney's pamphlet, but it deserves a more detailed notice. The first part traces the progress and employment of music under the Mosaic dispensation, and is little else, of necessity, than a condensation of the matter of Bedford's “ Temple Musick," although this publication is not very likely to have fallen in Mr. Binney's way. The second part addresses itself to Dissenting congregations of the present day, and is written in a spirit of earnest piety and practical good sense throughout. The author does not presume beyond his knowledge, but confines himself to those kind of exhortations in which he feels that his position is firm. The subject is looked at and discussed by a man of quick discernment, of correct taste, and without prejudice or bigotry. We quote the following passage in proof, adding, here and there, a slight commentary.
“Of two Christians, or two congregations, piety being equal, he or it will be the first in every thing-in knowledge, action, teaching, psalmody—whose piety is associated with intelligence and attention, carefulness and skillwhose object it is always to get the best conception of what is to be done, the best way of doing it, and then, by painstaking and practice, to do it well
. ... When we thus speak of the importance of science and skill, it is not to be supposed that we intend to advocate that every individual is to strive to become an accomplished singer. . . . . Congregations (rather sections of them) might be assembled for instruction in the simple rules and for exercise in the
* The writer of this article would state a fact in confirmation of his own feeling on this point. He was present when, among other sacred compositions of the English Church, one of Purcell's Anthems was finely performed. When it was finished, an elderly gentleman in black came up to him and said, in a broad Scottish accent, “ Sir, I am a minister of the Kirk of Scotland, and therefore bred up in ignorance, and I may say with a prejudice against the music of your cathedrals ; but I am bound, as an honest man, to say that I never had those words of Scripture so brought home to my heart as by the singing I have just heard.”
† The Choral Service of the Church of England, p. 385.
practice of part singing. [The rules are easily acquired-in fact, the power to read musical notation is all in the way of rule-practice (which from the first may be made a pleasure) is the thing needed. The pretence of teaching to sing by the short cut of a 'system' is a mere delusion.] The attendants at a place of worship might thus come together, and might learn to sing those parts for which they are fitted by nature, and to acquire, in some degree, the power of self-support, regulation and guidance. There is no more harm in using a tune-book than in using a hymn-book. [In fact, it is as impossible to do without the one as without the other, if this part of the worship to
be done decently and in order.'] Praise need not be broken or endangered by giving out the lines' supplanting the one, or by the guidance of the clerk being exclusively depended on instead of the other. It is quite possible for the mass of a congregation, in all senses, 'to sing with the spirit and to sing with the understanding also.' We advocate no intricate measures, no complex combinations. Simple, plain, sound psalm-tunes, sung by a body of pious and instructed persons, with taste, feeling and practical skill, would produce not only the richest musical effect, but, through this, would become, eminently and effectively, 'means of grace'-instruments of instructive and sanctifying impression. We want no harps or cymbals' to make sweet melody,' if we can have this united product of head and heart, this associated melody of sound and soul. There is nothing wrong in principle, indeed, in the use of an organ, employed with simplicity, as a mere support for the volume of voice rising from the people. There is much that may be useful. But we do not want it.” (Rather, we ought not to want it.]
This definition of the essential characteristics of a really good psalm is somewhat vague. We will adopt that of Mr. Latrobe as more precise and also generally intelligible:
“The character of the tune should accord with the sanctity of the place and the occasion.
“ It should be free from monotony and dulness.
“It should be suited to the subject of the psalm or hymn with which it is connected.”
The too common practice of mutilating and distorting the work of some eminent composer cannot be too strongly reprobated. The first thought of some persons, when they hear any composition which particularly pleases them on the stage or in a concert-room, is to stretch or squeeze it into a psalm-tune. “Nothing,” says the same author, “can be more wanton and needless than the efforts made to accommodate the works of great masters to a purpose not originally contemplated. Respect for the memory of the illustrious dead ought to be some check to this restless and ill-judged interference. It is the mark of a coward to take advantage of the absence of another to mutilate and abuse his labours; and it is a practice perfectly needless, possessing, as we do, so rich a store of ecclesiastical harmonies."
This practice has led to another still more objectionable—that of converting popular songs into psalm-tunes: with regard to which the editors of the People's Music Book" thus speak :
" It is much to be regretted that an ill-advised remark of John Wesley should have sanctioned the introduction of airs originally written to profane words into the service of the house of God. Had he possessed any of the musical knowledge for which several members of his family have been so justly celebrated, assuredly it had never been made. It has been the means
* Latrobe's “ Music of the Church," p. 212.