Tuesday, September 5, 2017

West Gallery Music and The Oxford Movement

The Church Times (access may be limited) posts an article about "West Gallery Music" and its decline. West Gallery Music was common in English country churches from 1740 to 1860 and including a style of congregational singing called "lining" in which the song leader sings a line or a part of a line and the congregation responds. This style was also common in Southern Baptist and other churches in the USA into the twentieth century. If you've read To Kill a Mockingbird you might remember when Jim and Scout attend Sunday services at their maid Calpurnia's church--they use "lining" because they can't afford hymnals.

The article cites how the Oxford Movement led to its demise in the middle of the nineteenth century:

The end, or rather, the deliberate destruction, of WG music is usually credited to the Oxford Movement, the coup de grĂ¢ce being delivered by Hymns Ancient & Modern. This simplifies a complex progress, and does not explain the simultaneous change in the Free Churches.

From the late-18th century, the Church of England had begun to put its own house in order. The Pluralities Act (1838) stopped well-connected clergymen acquiring a number of benefices. Clerical salar­ies were improved, and those of bishops and higher clergy made more equal. There was renewed church building: more than £500,000 from public funds and £5.6 million from private sources were spent on new Anglican churches between 1831 and 1851 alone. . . .

The Church of England has never issued its own official hymn-book, but for the general public, Hymns Ancient & Modern takes that place. The first edition, in 1861, was published as a private venture, and the proprietors were embarrassed to find their sales running into millions.

Read the rest there.

The author doesn't completely explain what the Oxford Movement had to do with the publication of Hymns Ancient & Modern. Part of the Oxford Movement's purpose was to revive and restore the treasures of ancient hymns in East and West, Byzantine and Latin. Therefore, the new hymnal contained translations of hymns by the Greek Fathers of the Church by John Mason Neale, of hymns by the Latin Fathers by Edward Caswall, and even of Lutheran hymns by Catherine Winkworth and Jane Laurie Borthwick--and from John Keble's The Christian Year, among others. It was edited by William Henry Monk and the first edition contained 273 hymns; it was, as noted above, a tremendous best seller and there several other editions.

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