IN 1932 we were jointly deputed by the Cathedral
Organists’ Association to write a pamphlet on

church music, for use in Theological Colleges,
We had proceeded only a little way, however, before
seeing that the pamphlet must become a book, and
that what we had to say on the subject could perhaps
be usefully addressed not only to ordinands, but to all
who are in any way responsible for and interested in
church music.

At that time there came to one of us an urgent
request from our publisher for a book for general
readers on the whole subject of Music as the Voice of
Worship, This, we felt, called us to widen our basis
and quicken our efforts to meet a far more general

A very considerable army of musicians chiefly
voluntary is occupied in the provision of music for
purposes of public worship. The efficiency of this
army Is naturally a matter of concern to all who care
for the health and reality of corporate worship. The
possibility of increase, improvement, and develop-
ment of that army seems to us to be incalculably great
That its present short-comings arc obvious is no
matter for regret, for its possibilities are hardly less


apparent. Owing to the boon of wireless transmission,
a mete chant sung perfectly by some humble choir in
a remote part of the country may now be heard by
millions. Any little platoon of a choir may thus in
a few minutes set a standard of diction and choral
ensemble to which every choir in the whole army
must try to reach or lose its self-respect.

Church music is like no other music in that a failure
to co-ordinate the team into an ensemble as simple
and perfect as possible is not only a musical short-
coming but also a defeat of the very spirit of worship
which the music sets out to serve. The ideals of
music in worship are therefore considered here as the
most exacting yet most homely concern of all. But
the practical applications that are suggested and dis-
cussed in this book are particularly addressed to those
enthusiasts who somehow feel that, after centuries of
splendid achievement and humiliating lapses, church
music has arrived at a stage where the call seems to
be for a reconsideration of first principles. Our en-
deavour has been to answer this call, rather than to
produce one more addition to the large number of
admirable and practical textbooks that already exist.

Collaboration has been as real and complete as we
could make it, Mpst of the chapters were written on
a fifty-fifty plan, and the work of each of us has been
very freely overhauled by the other.

We offer to our co-workers in church music the


outcome of a long combined experience in no dogmatic

spirit. The fact that those experiences have been
gained in such widely different spheres of work as
village, slum and cathedral churches has made us
realize how widely the needs of choirs and congrega-
tions must vary in regard to material and methods,
But behind all this variety must be the energizing
force of unity in aim and principle, and it is mainly upon
the latter that we have tried to concentrate in the spirit
of earnest inquiry.

W, D.

H. G.



;h music is now so large tl

is out oi trie Question. W”e have therefore conninsvj. ^w.iov.Aw-s3 . v vrw**.
that ate practical and inexpensive, and of which we have personal knowledge.
The saving of space enables us to add a few particulars concerning the books.

THE literature of church music is now so large that a comprehensive list
is out of the question. We have therefore confined ourselves to works


Choirs in Little Churches. The Rev. Stuart Morgan. (Faith Press. Paper, u-. ;

cloth, 2s.)

Written during the author’s incumbency of a Sussex village, where the
methods described in the book were used with success.

The Organisation and Training of Parish Choirs. Francis T. Kennard. (Musical

Opinion Office. 2s.)

A simple and practical booklet by a parish church organist, based on his
experiences with voluntary choirs in poor districts.

The Amateur Choir Trainer. Henry Coleman. (Oxford University Press.)

Dr. Coleman’s book is designed primarily for non-professional choir-
masters, but its scope and practical character make it valuable for all who
are engaged in choral training. It contains chapters on subjects not usually
dealt with in works of the kind “Sight-Reading,” “The Boy’s Changing
Voice,” ” The Alto Part,” ” The Organ : Its Use and Abuse,” etc.

The “Little Choir “Book. Thomas Curry. (Novello. i J^.)

Deals simply with the rudiments of music. The section on chanting is
out of date, but the work is still of value, as it deals with a department of
knowledge that is too often taken for granted or shirked.

The Dual Notation Course for Sight-singing in Both Notations. L, G. Venables .

(Curwen. In four parts, 3^. each. Teachers’ edition, zs. 6d. each).
Part I may be used alone with profit by small parish choirs.

Class Singing. W. G. Whittaker. (Oxford University Press. 6s.)

Though written primarily for use in secondary schools, this work contains
much that is of vital importance to all engaged in choral training. The
teaching of sight-singing is fully dealt with.

Time and Rhythm Exercises. Walter S. Vale. (Faith Press, id.)

An excellent method of combining voice-training with the teaching of



Tone Production in the Human Voice. Walter S. Vale. (Faith Press. Paper,

is. 6d. ; cloth, zs. 6d.)

The subtitle, “A Handbook for Singers, Clerical and Lay,” indicates its
scope. Choirmasters will find it a valuable aid in training their tenors and

The Boy’s Voice. J. Spencer Curwen. (Curwen.)

A symposium of great interest, the contributors ranging from cathedral
organists to village schoolmasters. As the work is now unfortunately out
of print, second-hand copies should be sought.

The Choirboy’s Pocket BooJk. (S.P.C.K. I.T. 6J.)

Practical and comprehensive. There are short biographies of church
composers ; historical notes on church music ; twenty pages on “How to
Read Music,” and Musical Terms and Signs ; notes on behaviour, the Church
Calendar, building, vestments, organization, services, the organ, etc. ;
prayer ; etc. Nothing could be better for presentation to boys on admission
to the choir.


Organ Accompaniment to the Psalms. C. W. Pearce. (Winthrop Rogers.

2/. 6</0

Both plainsong and Anglican chants are treated. The specimen accom-
paniments show ingenuity and resource too much, perhaps, in the case
of plainsong. There are interesting chapters on the use of the Psalter.

Varied Harmonies to Hymn-Tunes, Eric Thiman. (Oxford University Press.


Short and practical, with chapters on chromatic, diatonic, contrapuntal,
imitative, and model harmonies. The numerous music-type examples are
good models.


The l&udiments of Plainsong. Francis Burgess. (Musical Opinion Office.

The Elements of Plainsong. (Plainsong and Medieval Music Society. $s. 6d.)

Accompanying Harmonies for Use with the Manual of Plainsong. W. G. A.
Shebbeare. (Novello. -js.)

Organ Accompaniment to tfo Ordinary of the Mass. (Plainsong and Mediaeval
Music Society. 6/.)

Plainsong Accompaniment. J. H. Arnold. (Oxford University Press. I2/. 6d.}


The Teaching and Accompaniment of Plainsong. Francis Burgess, (Novello.

jj-. 6d.)

All these works contain admirable examples of simple modal accompani-
ment. Mr. Arnold’s book deals very thoroughly with the principles.


Organ Playing : Its Technique and Expression. A. Eaglefield Hull. (Augener.

4S. 6d.)

A practical book, rich in music-type examples of typical passages, fully
fingered and footed.

Organ Registration. Everett E. Truette. (Boston: Thompson. $2.50.)

A very thorough treatment of the subject. Though written with American
instruments in view, its general principles and many of its details apply to
English organs.

The Organ and its Music. A. C. Delacour de Brisay. (Kegan Paul. 6s.)

A readable account of the history and development of the instrument and
its repertory.

Quires and Places Where They Sing. Sydney H. Nicholson. (Bell. 8s. 6d.)

An exhaustive work, containing a history of church music and highly
practical chapters on interpretation, choir training, the organist, the
place of music in the church service, etc. There is a very full bibliography,
and a facsimile of Merbecke’s Communion service is given in an Appendix.

Pamphlets of the Church Music Society. (Oxford University Press, id. to
4d. each.)

Music in Worship : Report of the Archbishop’s Committee appointed in May,

1922. Revised edition, 1932. (S.P.C.K. is.)
Contains a comprehensive bibliography.



AUTHORS’ PREFACE – – – . – v

BIBLIOGRAPHY – – – – -. – viii








V. THE TEAM SPIRIT – – – – 87










MUSIC -_—‘- 225

XV. CONCLUSION – – – – ~ 2 53




THERE is something in it of divinity more than the ear
discovers : it is an hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson
of the whole world, and creatures of God ; such a
melody to the ear, as the whole world, well understood,
would afford the understanding. In brief, it is a sensible
fit of that harmony which intellectually sounds in the
ears of God. SIR THOMAS BROWNE (on Music) :
ILeligio MedicL


“There is no sound without signification.” ST. PAUL.

CUE mathematics, music can well be thought of
as both pure and applied. The common chord,

for example, \&/ ^ is pure music. It is every-


where. It is a physical fact in the universe ; and
can be quietly sounded on any key-board (as nearly
in tune as the keyboard can get). It may be used
in the home, in the church, the school, the theatre,
the open air, in any way, and in any connection
whatsoever. And the moment it is so used it virtually
becomes applied music. Church music may therefore,
pethapvte^uTefully defined and distinguished from
all other music as music applied to the purposes of
public worship. This momentarily includes all that the
reader may find to be good or bad church music.
Ultimately the worshipper decides whether it shall be
good or bad ; but there are, surely, discernible princi-
ples which underlie right choice. There is a music which
is inherently fitting for purposes of corporate worship ;
and it is one ofjhe .-objects^ of this book to explore,
and, if possible, expound the underlying principles of
choice. What makes music “to the good” or not, in
church ?



We may note at once that not all music at present
set to sacred words can be said to fulfil our needs. And
to distinguish church music from secular music by
classing the first as set to sacred and the second to
secular words is impossible.

Think of organ voluntaries, for example. No in-
nately noble strain of music, though first found in con-
nection with secular words, can be banned, provided
it sets up no secular associations in the minds of the
worshippers. To forbid any such fine strain of music
would be to impoverish the voice of Christendom.
As well forbid the pulpit utterance of any noble thought
that is not of Christian origin. A fine harmonic pro-
gression in music is the flower of a fine mind, now
and always. Conversely, music inherently frivolous can
only be the product of a frivolous condition of mind,
whether wedded to sacred words or not.

The reader may naturally doubt his own musical
judgment. “How,” he asks, “am I to tell a frivolous
from a sacred strain, especially if both are set to
sacred words?” In a subsequent chapter effort will
be made to suggest some of the musical signs of
ordinary reverence, aspiration and restraint in church

Here it may help to say that average men are prob-
ably far better judges of this very matter than they dare
to imagine. Picture a newly ordained clergyman who
professes no criterion of musical judgment. He loves
poetry, and has happened to write a beautiful hymn,
let us suppose, for the Dedication Services of his
particular church. “How delightful,” everyone says,


“to have ‘our very own hymn’ for this year’s service !”
And straightway the organist and a musical parishioner
say, a churchwarden both compose a special tune
for the new words (not a wildly unlikely happening).
Now the new vicar is momentarily placed in a dilemma
from which only tact and a sound practical judgment
can free him. We will pretend that the home-made
hymn begins : “O Saviour, dwell in this Thy house”;
and that one of the tunes opens as follows :
and the other :

Now let the vicar and his two musical devotees meet
at tea. “How good of you both to have written a tune
for these words ! But now we must face the invidious
task of deciding which shall be sung/’ says the vicar,,
cheerfully disguising his anxiety. Next imagine the
churchwarden (who wrote the second tune) break-
ing in tactfully to make the vicar’s task easy by insisting
that the organist has managed to fit these particular
words far better than he. “Mine is tuneful enough,,
Vicar,” says the churchwarden, “but see how well the
other tune fits the petition.” Now comes the point.
Let the reader himself sound these two lines of melody
with the line of the hymn two or three times. Is it:


beyond the power of very ordinary men to perceive
that the first melody really fits the quiet spirit of the
words in a way that the light-hearted disjunct tuneful-
ness of the other does not ? The vicar could come, in
his turn, to the rescue by saying to the churchwarden :
“My dear n&&your tune, it seems to me, would fit
exactly into the children’s flower service next month ;
for, by the way, I have written a small hymn for them
also. Look ! it fits perfectly I Sing the first line :”

The flowers and all our hearts are

“There !” say all three. And common sense prevails

So far we have only distinguished, first between
music pure and applied, then between music to be ap-
plied to worship and that applied to other purposes.
This leads us a vital step further. For we most of all
need today to distinguish quite clearly and with as
fine a precision as possible between two great orders
of all church music, both capable of being perfected
along two markedly different lines. We have to dis-
t^}H^^between,j(i) …all musical utterances used to
‘dispose men to worship, in the way architecture and
applied fine art can dispose men to worship ; and
(2) all musical utterance used as the immediate vehicle
of the spirit of worship itself. It may be helpful to set
down the distinctions so far made in the form of a
genealogical tree :





Applied to
Purposes other
than Worship

Music in
aid of

Music as
Vehicle of

Thus, an Anthem or a Voluntary is definitely music in
aid ; a Gloria or a Kyrie may be music as the very
channel of worship itself. It may perhaps not too
tritely be suggested that the aim of an anthem is to
be fitly beautiful, and the aim of liturgical music is to
be beautifully fitting. Fitness and beauty, like tact and
love, are, at root, indistinguishable. Nevertheless, if
liturgical music, forsaking its simplicity, tries to be
beautiful in itself, it ceases to be fittingly lovely. This
fact makes the distinction today seem urgent. For it
is clear that, on the one hand, music as elaborate and
exactingly complex as the most elaborate architecture
in the world can be devotedly offered by church
musicians ; and it can be as beautifully in place in
Westminster Abbey or York Minster as the elaborated
architecture itself is in place* On the other hand, it is
equally clear that to attempt to make such elaborate
music an integral part of the utterance of the musically
unskilled worshippers themselves, whether in West-


minster Abbey or anywhere else, is to defeat its true
end. It is like demanding of worshippers that they
should build their own churches and stain their own
glass. We must, for good, open the gates to the two
orders of church music.

The importance of this distinction today lies chiefly
in the double encouragement it will bring to all, when
once understood. Assume that music were, on the one
hand, wanted only as an external aid, disposing men’s
minds to thoughts of worship ; let its attributes of
melody, harmony, rhythm and .design b.e._ Aobly fitting ;
and there remains no perceivable limit to its aspiring
complexity of glories. If, on the other hand, music were
wanted only as a sort of sublimated speech, a public
utterance .of public woishrp, a voice of many made one,
speech made beautiful : then all its ideals would lie
definitely in the “other direction completely away from
all the exacting complexities of choral art at its highest;
away from all tonal architecture where the choral
stones are living stones, with wills of their own and
with responsible parts to play in a tonal building, and
exacting the musician’s utmost art and practice.

Although the ideals of music in aid of worship do
not exclude the greatest complexity, the , ideals of
wioxahip^music are those, of primal simplicity. It must
be art still ; but, paradoxically;” the- a^-ef the many at
its best is artless. Beauty it must have, but the beauty
of a simple, spontaneous utterance of natural and
ordinary sense, in sung words, by natural, ordinary
people, whose devotion impels them to speak and
sing as one “to make one voice to be heard in prais-


ing and thanking the Lord/’ Congregations must sing
as naturally, unaffectedly and unlabouredly as they
would speak.

It seems clear from the start that both orders of
music here indicated are for ever right. Puritanism
may try wholly to banish one ; and what Dr. Frere has
called “art-music” (in describing historic plainsong)
may try to banish the other. But both undoubtedly
have heavenly and neighbourly uses on earth, now ;
and they can help and even nourish each other.
Confusion of the two, however, and of their aims
seems common. Let them be distinct from each other
beyond possibility of confusion : the one giving endless
outlet for devoted expert service, never, it would seem,
excluding a single musical worker who could and would
offer to his church his most skilful service ; the other
giving an outlet, severely delimited, yet a fine outlet
for aspiring musicians, precisely because in its turn it
must be music for the “slowest battalion.”Jlt must not
leave out one single worshipper whose gifts musically
may be rudimentary but who joins in the act of wor-
ship, whether the words in that act of worship be “said
or sung.”

It will surely bring instant gain to the Church when
once the fundamental distinction between these two
orders is made clear by her, recogni2ed by her devotees
and avowedly put into practice. One marked result
likely to follow would be a gain in actual numbers and
calibre in our choirs. Men and women and boys and
girls will feel encouraged to work hard at noble music
that costs trouble.


It is a natural and common occurrence for quite good
choirs to languish because no demand for musical
skill and effort is made upon them at their scanty
practices no fine anthem set to learn, no special
music to prepare, no expert contribution to work upon,
week by week, or evening by evening. Conversely it
is equally quite natural and, it must be feared, an equally
common occurrence for congregations to feel dis-
couraged because they are called upon to stand wearily,
perhaps for a long setting of the Te Deum to music
which is neither beautiful enough to hold their atten-
tion as hearers, nor simple enough for them to join
in a species of setting which falls lamentably between
two stools. In such cases both congregation and choir
are “let down” a condition of things all too common
today. It should, forthwith and everywhere, be made
impossible. Neither worship nor its music can prosper
along such confusing lines.

The position can be clarified by clergy, choir-
masters, choirs and congregations. Let leaders, clerical
and lay, take congregations and choirs completely into
their confidence. Let the needed opportunity be given
to dwell upon the two ideals of music in worship in
all homely ways, in sermons and at practices, often
enough to ensure that when a beautiful anthem, can-
tata or organ piece is being heard, all worshippers
should try to dwell with their ears and minds upon the
nobly wrought sounds applied to sacred thoughts, ex-
actly as they might dwell with their eyes and minds
upon a nobly wrought design in stained glass depicting
sacred subjects. And let the ideals of congregational


utterance whether said or sung be as frankly dwelt
upon and clearly expounded from the pulpit and in the
practice room. Congregations in many parts of the
country still feel it a duty to stand during the anthem,
as though they themselves were taking part ; and they
sometimes even seem to feel it vaguely desirable to join
in. True, their minds must take part, just as they must
when the Scriptures are read to them. Whether sacred
words are read by the clergy or sung by the choir, the
thoughts behind the words are for all. But if people
stand up for the sung* anthem and Join in, they surely
should stand and join in with the read lesson. If, how-
ever (as seems clear), it is right to sit for the lesson and
sermon, it is right to sit for the musical sermon too,
though the preacher be a departed composer. Let us
away with confusions large and small as quicldy as we
may, and get down to as fine a two-fold task as ever
faced good-willing people.


“Bring all heaven before mine eyes.” MILTON.

^ I A HIS chapter might well be headed Non-Con-
I gregational Music, or Non-Liturgical Music. It
might even have been given a more repellent
title : Expert Music y for it deals with music that pre-
supposes utmost skill and hard work.

The influence of rare minds can be communicated
through words. It can also reach men through eye or
ear by visual or aural impression. If it is true that the
sight of York Minster or Westminster Abbey or any
beautiful church can dispose ordinary men’s minds to
worship as they sit in the nave and look around, and
surrender themselves to all the signs of beauty that
surround them, no less surely the sound of the Halle-
lujah Chorus or the “St. Anne” fugue or any beautiful
anthem can do the very same thing, perhaps even more
movingly. If it is true that an east window, full of
light and depicting suggestions of the story of Christen-
dom, can help men, women and children to concen-
trate upon the story and realise it more vividly, so
can Bach’s Passion Music or Elgar’s “Apostles/’ The
worshipper has no personal part to play in the beautiful
thing seen or heard, except to receive, see or hear in
reverence what is offered in reverent aid.

There is danger in the widespread failure to think


of music as a reality. A church melody is as teal a thing
as a chancel or a pulpit, and may be as real an influence
for good or evil and as really a thing to be treasured,
improved or banished. It seems hard to attain this,
because, unlike a chancel or a pulpit, an anthem is
evanescent, invisible, intangible. It is over and gone in
a few moments, whereas a building stays there for any-
one to go again on Monday morning and look at for
himself. Let it be realized that sounds made to be heard
in churches today are as real and as surely things \ to be as
fitly provided and reverently used as are the buildings
themselves; and, further, let incumbents and church
authorities but realize that they are as responsible for the
one as for the other, and rapid improvement in church
music is certain to follow.

Unfortunately, cultured men of authority today often
modestly elude responsibility in the mistaken belief that
music is outside their comprehension. Musical con-
notations all the associated meanings accumulated
through usage in a chord as in a word may indeed be
beyond them, but the man who claims to have no ear
for musical meanings will yet readily admit the ability
to detect the trend of a speaker’s mind by the mere tones
of his utterance. In the same way as Greek may remain
“Greek” to him, Music may remain “music”; yet in
both he may detect character in trend and behaviour
despite his ignorance of the language.

The classification of church music with church
architecture, church windows, and with all other
church art brings two immediate advantages. Church
music of this type is seen at once for what it really


is in two ways. It is seen to be a matter for the
exercise of unlimited care and skill and, if need be,
unlimited complexity of detail, demanding from
musicians the utmost and most devoted labour and
effort to perfection of which they are capable. And,
secondly, it is seen, with all other church art, to be
animated by but a single motive, that of joyous
devotion to what may be called the Beauty of

An urgent question may occur to the reader at this
point: How can an act of such complex corporate
skill, involving many gifts and performers, be kept
devotional ? Let us attempt a reply.

Complexity of deed and simplicity of motive are
in no way incompatible. They are permanently com-
plementary. All art is a manifold deed of the mind,
whether wrought in stones or tones, wood, metal,
needlework, pigment, stained glass, or any other
medium whatsoever. And in music, pre-eminently,
this joyous deed of the mind may have infinite wealth
of detail and a single unifying aim. There may be a
million strands of thought with a single motive. In-
deed, the more complex the detail, the more impera-
tive the need and incentive for the single motive.
So it becomes clear that, while ambition to attempt
music that is too difficult or complex for their powers is
quite a common and uncomfortable failing among well-
meaning musical churchmen, yet no limit must be set
(except the limits of tact and fitness) upon church music
of this order undertaken in the right spirit. The cure
for this ill lies in more work rather than in more modesty.


Music has a way of attaining complexity without con-
fusion when it becomes animated by strong enough
exuberance. \Think of such anthems as Weelkes’s
“Hosanna,” Purcell’s “O sing unto the Lord/ 5 Wesley’s
“Praise the Lord,” Mendelssohn’s “Why rage fiercely
the heathen/’ or Harris’s “Fair is the heaven/’ and it
will be realized how, when the composer is animated
with a single pressing aim, that of giving the ecstasy
of the words their fit musical counterpart, his musical
technique becomes simple in aim and in its demands
upon the hearer, though it may be far from simple in
its demands upon choral skill. Lavish practice is
needed for any one of these works practice which is
itself devotion, after its own kind, bringing its own
reward in the power to go on to more and more beauti-
ful things.

Choirs who thus work hard for their church de-
serve concurrent acknowledgment of their field of
work ; and they may often stand in need of the as-
surance that their work is both needed and welcomed.
Congregations and clergy need to realize that the com-
pact is never complete until the music which the choir
devotedly try to make, the listeners will in their turn
as devotedly receive and responsively contemplatf . ,

It seems well to try here to consider the nature of
the whole order of voluntary music in worship, and
the main principles that govern it. How can we ensure
fitness in anthem, cantata, organ voluntary or sacred
symphony? How can we be sure what kind of
music the Church should endeavour to encourage and
attain ?


The possible replies are so manifold that it is hard
to choose and regulate those upon which we most need
to dwell. Broadly speaking, it is easy to hear (at an
aural glance) certain orders of music which do fit
church worship and others which do not. Stately
choral harmonies, for example., with grace of move-
ment and a reticent yet glowing tone, seem inherently
right. Scrappy rhythms many times reiterated, or un-
graceful angular melody, or sensational changes of
power, all appear to be just as inherently unfit for
worshipful purposes.

But on what principles are we to search for
standards of fitness? We know that there is often
acute difference between quite devout and single-
minded churchmen on this very point, where personal
taste counts ; and underneath these differences there
must lie reasons. Careful search for these will tend to
clarify, and in God’s goodness unify, churchly taste.
We humans must count our musical lot to be just the
ordinary erring human lot of a changing vision and
disciplined journey a vision of ever more perfect
music and an untiring journey towards it. Such a
vision of inspiring church music (to be at, last as
perfect in its kind as the architecture of our Cathe-
drals already is in its kind) was never more needed by
churchmen than today. Classical music itself pro-
gressed by leaps and bounds. Earnest men continue
to emulate it and adequately perform it. But church
music has for long been deplorably confused and in-
adequately rendered. Let us try to catch at least a
glimpse of the possible future. We may propose for


this purpose font jjrijtedjL^
Simplicity, Temper, and Sensitivity)

(i) First, the age-long battle of tastes as between old
and new may be considered, for it works disastrously
and tries to fix unfortunate limitations to the work of
church musicians : limitations with which all must be
familiar, and which are natural enough and not neces-
sarily wilful. The reader may often have heard a bad
anthem praised, for no other reason than that the
congregation have liked it since they were children ;
and a really fine piece of music resented by those who
have “never heard it before.” On the other hand,
he may hear folk exclaim that they are “sick of the
same old Easter anthem year after year” ; or “thank
Heaven, we have heard a novelty in our church at
last !” Behind these common inclinations, two for
and two against both kinds of music (whether good
or bad in itself), there may be detected the hand
of a Providence which has ordained that all men shall
both long after and pursue in their time both the
old and the new. It is good to be able to say “yes”
to both. If we were not musical conservatives at
heart we should lose our way and for ever have to
begin again ; and if we were not musical radicals at
heart also we should lapse into deadly idolatry of
“tradition,” and find ourselves settling down and
actually saying “no” to good music. The best in-
novators are the humblest reverers of tradition ; while
the best conservers of the past are those to whom the
common chord is still so new and heavenly a thing that
nothing could be newer or more worthy of devoted


labour than to use it and sing It as glowingly as out
fathers sang it. The man who exclaims against the new-
anthem is temporarily detained by prejudice. He is
momentarily disqualified for the new because the old
has not yet been completed for him. How we all, as
conservatives, can and do long to hear., for example,
“If ye love me” by Tallis once perfectly rendered today !
And how new it would sound ! Conversely, the man
who exclaims against the old is temporarily incapable
of understanding it, because rebellious against the ap-
parent inertia of those who are not yet ready to

move on.

Safety and a sound judgment seem to lie in fearless
recognition and love of both orders, as though they
were at one. Such recognition does not perhaps make
at once for ease. But there is a chastened contentment
in the thought that our pains can be growing pains.
Ideally, delights in the new and old are twin delights.
To pit them against each other in the matter of church
music as if they were two divided ideals is to have no
notion of their complementary nature and true use.
Still worse is it to divide individual men who are
fellow-workers into champions of the old order on
the one side and of the new on the other. Partiality
of outlook and political methods of controversy are
obviously fatal in church music, whatever they may be

So a fearless and faithful “Yes” alike both to the old
and the new is our first advice in this matter of musical
discrimination. The best upholder of tradition among
us is the best reformer. He sings the old music as


though the ink were barely dry upon the copy. He
sings it as a heavenly novelty that exactly fits the needs
of congregations today, and if it does not fit them he
abandons it. He also sings the new anthem as though
it had for ever been ; to him it has merely lain undis-
covered till today. In such a temper of mind, curiously
enough, church musicians are happily equipped to
choose a future corpus of church music. For, by tastes
which may seem superficially contradictory, we all find
ourselves thrown back and forth upon first principles.
We are thrown back to an old which is new because it
rings true today. We are thrown forward to seek the
brave and new, which would have rung just as true ages
ago had it been due to be discovered then. The one
word original., in its two accepted senses, curiously
sums up the quality which distinguishes the two-fold
Christian treasure described by our Lord as “things new
and old.” We need in church, even more than anywhere
else, this highest of all qualities called originality.

We may venture, then, to formulate the gist of these
thoughts as a first working principle of choice, thus :
^ Music in aid of worship must be original in the two dis-
tinct senses of being something quite new and something so
old that it has been therefrom the beginning^

(z) SIMPLICITY: Is not the comprehensive quality just
described always the hall-mark of that which men call
inspiration ? And, surprisingly enough, it may be seen
that even the simplest common chord can be put to
most original use today and tomorrow. “What 1” the
modern reader may well exclaim, “has church music
got no further than that ? Can the commonest common-


place of musical phraseology, already used for cen-
turies, be suggested as a basis for new and inspired
music tomorrow or a hundred years hence?” Yes;
highest value for simplest things seems the next service-
able criterion of musical choice.

Chaucer’s poem on the daisy tells how he went on
his knees and gazed upon one square inch of God’s
earth with rapture, to watch the “day’s eye” open.
Those who can so value an inch of a field can best
possess the whole field. This seems to be the meaning
of the Beatitude of the meek who “inherit the earth.”
Any church composer who can love a common chord
with the fervour of a Chaucer will naturally inherit
the whole field of music today and tomorrow. Highest
evaluation of the simplest things will always tend to
renew church music. Its present lamentable short-
comings are largely traceable to the cheap holding of
common chords, so cheap that the most slovenly pre-
sentment of them is tolerated widely and continuously.
And such slovenliness itself obscures the very nature
of church music, and thwarts development. Christian
music seems at its strongest when Christian fervour
pours itself lavishly into common chords. It was in
common chords that Palestrina saved music for the
Church in the sixteenth century. And it is significant
that a work such as Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G
minor, built from beginning to end of nothing but
common chords, can sound quite splendidly new.
This is not to extol the common chord as an end, but
rather as a perpetual and benignant beginning of good


This second working principle of choice may per-
haps be formulated thus :

{Music in aid of worship must set high evaluation on simple
forms of Beauty, such as common chords and restrained
diatonic melody r . j[

(3) TEMPER : But chords are only euphonies ; they
are like well-blended colours. We need a principle of
choice that may at least tend to show us how these
euphonies and colours should be used in church.
Originality and simplicity are not enough. Fitness is
crucial Let a curate move to the lectern, for example,
with the simple joy in mere movement that Chaucer
found in kneeling before the daisy, and he might dance
like a child to read the lesson and shock the whole
church ! Fitness of movement, of deportment, is ob-
viously a subject so important to all in practice, and in
all departments, that we must try to formulate a basic
principle of action (that is, of rhythm) in church, which
may be useful.

It is perhaps true that our two first principles cannot
but lead to fitting behaviour or movement in every
musical contingency. And our third principle will in
reality be of the nature of a rider to the other two. Sin-
cerity and high values in music are likely to lead to
fitting musical behaviour. And Behaviour is Rhythm.
Of all anthems and voluntaries, it seems true to say, “By
their rhythms ye shall know them.” It may quite safely
be laid down that violent or protuberant contrasts are
unfitting in church music. Rhythms with short trivial
patterns often repeated (as it were for their own sake)
are not likely to occur, if only for the simple reason that


any feature in music which is sensational, or small-
minded, or oft-repeated, calls attention to itself and
defeats its own end in doing so. Repetition is in all
music and is vital, but rarely or never for its own sake.
Strong contrasts can also be in place in church,
wherever they fitly subserve a wonderful end (as do
Wesley’s startling chords in “Blessed be the God and
Father”), Even a small-minded scrap of childish
rhythm could be in place in church where, again, it
serves some lovely end as, for example, in a cradle
song of the Infant Jesus, sung perhaps as part of a
Nativity cantata. But, generally speaking, it seems too
clear to need exposition that all church music will
favour long-minded and large-minded rhythm, full of
life yet equable, free from sensational changes or any
ostentatious display of skill. In choral music the
rhythms will be subservient at every point in every
way to the motive and inspiration of the words set ;
in instrumental, the rhythmic thrust will be equally
subject to the motive of worship in the service of which
it is part. There are, for example, choral preludes for
the organ on tunes of sacred association which make per-
fect voluntaries for contemplative and quiet services ;
and there are glorious fugues and sonatas for organ and
other instruments which ideally embody the spirit of
constancy, perseverance, joy, indomitable effort, and
love of perfect form, of harmony and of the beauty of
wholeness. These played with mastery can make a
fitting “second sermon.” There are, on the other
hand, voluntaries which leave a mere impression of
gaiety, display and even sensationalism. Such can


receive no inner sanction for church uses, and are to
be ruled out.

On the choral side there are oratorios, cantatas and
anthems which use music’s fullest resources to carry
the story of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascen-
sion vividly to the heart and mind. Even these will be
subject to the two simple principles already named, and
to the further rule of rhythmic fitness which may be
set down in some such form as this :

Music in aid of worship needs to be rhythmically strong.,
but not rhythmically assertive. In church music, the rhythm
mil subserve the motive of the words set. In instrumental
music it mil tend to combine strong enthusiasm with restraint
in long equable phrases.

(4) SENSITIVITY: It is likely that many minds will
associate the fulfilment of this ruling with the astonish-
ingly gentle strength of Bach in his finest church music.
With the technique of a giant and the heart of a child,
his devout mind and simple love of his Lord trans-
muted and blended his thoughts about the Cross, about
death and future heavenly joys, into a kind of church
music that points a marvellous way to all comers who
can discern it.

But it is not only the composer who needs to attain
the felicities of sensitivity. It is not only the Bachs
and Chaucers who need joyous original impulse and
high evaluation of common things. Some practical
ruling must yet be added for the guidance of the
musical team. Choirs and players who have to inter-
pret apt music need to attain team-aptness too. A
choral ensemble happens to afford one of the most


perfect examples on earth of the ordinary social virtue
of an alert and habitual give-and-take. The mere ex-
penditure of team-effort needed for the perfecting of
one choral common chord, held quietly but purpose-
fully, in good tune, not merely mobilizes the exacting
qualities of discipline and self-effacement to an almost
unique degree ; it also raises the value of a single chord
to a measureless and ever-increasing extent. (This must
sound extravagant to all but those who have tried to
induce team-sensitization even in highly trained choirs.)
With practical choral difficulties and demands in mind,
it may be helpful to summarize this fourth team-
requirement as follows :

Music in aid of worship needs collective sensiti^ation to
timing, toning and tuning, raised to their highest powers in
all choral and instrumental ensemble.

At the moment of trying to word such a ruling, one
is painfully aware that it is a mere counsel of perfec-
tion. Leaders of many good-willing amateur choral
bodies today will breathe a sad non possnmus as they
read. But let such readers reflect for a moment upon
the discipline normally required of secular teams who
perform for profit or display, or for purchased amuse-
ment of others in public places. Do choirmasters
demand enough of themselves and of their choirs ?
The first requirement is not technical perfection, but
the steady will towards perfection. (Not that the choral
will can for ever be taken for the choral deed !) This
being realized, it is enough that a church choir should
journey steadily towards its choral perfection. The
journey’s the thing here and now, not the goal. And it


should be remembered that the fact that church music
of any complexity involves unity in excehis to bring it
to a real hearing is greatly in its favour, since it means
the mobilization of a working and unfailing neighbout-
liness, the very thing for which Christianity itself

We have now perhaps reached a point from which we
may try to sum up the essential nature of all voluntary
music in aid of Christian worship. It will be a music
that proves simple to listeners, hard to performers, It
will have primal beauty and attractiveness for the ears
and minds of all men. It will never be individualistic or
idiosyncratic, but will speak, in unmistakably human
tones, from first to last. To sit for a moment at St.
Paul’s feet, the church musician does not speak “in
tongues,” just for his own “building up.” He utters or
uses twelve notes (or less) “with understanding 5 * rather
than “ten thousand in a tongue.” This does not mean
that he may not put his five or seven or twelve notes to
ten thousand different uses. Nor does it mean that un-
learned men cannot receive music often thousand notes
which only learned men can write. That would be like
saying that none but architects can worship in a Cathe-
dral, or, to descend to more perishable appetites, none
but cbefs could enjoy a banquet.

All this leads to a useful thought that is perhaps top
often forgotten by church-music enthusiasts. Is it
pertinent to offer in public worship that which does
not meet the real necessity of those present? Do
they feel any urgent need for Beauty ? From the King
himself down to his humblest subject, from the


Archbishop down to the humblest parishioner of
the humblest village, we know that we could safely
offer., for example, clear water to allay their common
thirst, or a piece of bread to allay a common hunger,
and the congenial atmosphere of human comfort to
allay a common sorrow. If it be indeed true that there
is nothing in music (or in Beauty generally) that meets
just such a common need of men, then we must not
be deluded ; for in such a case music would be a per-
manent impertinence in public worship, whatever it
may be elsewhere. We must go further and admit that
even if music when perfectly offered should meet a
primal need, even if Beauty seen or heard can be a pro-
found aid to all true worshippers, it may still easily
be that perfect music imperfectly sounded is worse than
irrelevant and disturbing. Furthermore, even if music
and its rendering should both be perfectly fitting, there is
still a contingency that worshippers themselves may
fail us. They may either receive music pertinently and
to their gain, or impertinently to their loss, should they
be by unfortunate upbringing and associations so per-
versely disposed as only to hear in music a display of
skill by musicians ; or only a mild sedative ; or an
equally mild form of sensational stimulus.

Fortunately all the handicaps just indicated, though
actual and even prevalent today, are such as may be

The vital question that here faces us concerns the
nature of Devotion itself. To reduce it to its simplest
terms, two questions may be proposed : Is the communi-
cation of perfect and purposeful and intelligible har-


mony from mind to mind by any means “whether
through lines of architecture seen or tones of music
heard inherently capable of aiding men to wor-
ship ? If the answer is “Yes/ 3 then how can we be
sure of choosing from among all music the right
music ?

In reply to the first question, the writers can only
state their belief, constantly confirmed by experience,
that there are certain beautiful orders of rhythm, of
melody and of harmony which seem utterly to fit the
mind set upon Christian worship. It may even be that
the exactly fitting music can induce the mind to wor-
ship. But exact fitness, as we all know, is a very large
order in public worship. It implies knowledge of the
congregation’s musical sensitiveness to, and existing as-
sociations with, current orders of rhythm, melody and
harmony current musical idiom as well as profound
knowledge of the inherent qualities of these three main
factors in music.

In answer to the supplementary question we may
turn for a moment to actual evidences which go to show
how strongly and deeply an ordinary gathering of men
and women can be touched by pure music. Three small
personal experiences which have tended, among num-
berless like experiences, to confirm this belief in the
writer’s own mind may be relevant to the reader’s
thoughts at this point. The first happened at a lecture
to a crowded audience of working men, with women
and children (and even babies), in Wales, The lecture
hall was crowded and stuffy. A very poor piano was at
hand, and on it, in illustration of some point in the


lecture, a perfect fourth was played pianissimo. The
silence of attention became suddenly intense, pro-
longed and unforgettable. The second experience was
in Yorkshire, where at a Festival some small talk on
choral technique was going forward. A chord of C
was played, and the audience was asked, quite un-
warned, to try a choral experiment by singing the words
“rest in peace” upon this one chord. This again, creat-
ing a mysteriously beautiful choral rhythm, was un-
cannily impressive. It gave an opportunity for that
magical effect which is always produced by a mass of
people doing the exact opposite of what is so often
called “singing out” Everybody was probably “sing-
ing in.” As F6aelon somewhere says, they were un-
consciously “taking counsel with their Beloved” ; and
the same primal wonderment was observable as in
Wales in the case of the perfect fourth. The third in-
stance of this kind of unearthly deep listening was at a
concert given in a prison, where, as all may guess, a
sentimental song or a comic story would be expected to
bring the most natural response and relief. A violinist,
however, chose to play Gluck’s melody of the Elysian
fields from “Orfeo.” Certainly it was played with great
beauty, reticence and simplicity. Here again, not only
was the silence of listening palpable and profound
from all the convicts and everyone else, but the
quality of the enjoyment seemed neither that which
is associated with the thing we call sentiment, nor the
thing we call entertainment. It seemed a state of en-
joyment and wonderment, akin to mental illumination.
It is not suggested that these slender experiences


prove anything. They merely lead one the more keenly
to look for the style and the kind of melody, rhythm
and harmony which may bring about like results in all
churches at the time of worship. Since apparently such
thrilling experiences can come with little or no effort
except the effort of loving fitness and efficient work-
manship, it is hard to imagine that the secret is

Let us, then, venture for the moment to assume that
the need is universal ; that the hunger of man for the
elemental experience of harmony in music (or in any
kindred utterance of beauty that is offered) is clear and
as natural as other hunger. It has its limitations, but
it is there. No “specialist” music will do for this high
purpose. No fairy dishes will fit this elemental hunger.
The diet must be simply relevant. The thing offered
must be offered in forms both intelligible and accept-
able. Neither unintelligible musical subtleties (how-
ever welcome to the learned) nor intelligible cacoph-
ony (however welcome to the sensationalist) will
meet the case in church. Even with these inhibitions
or negative warnings, the positive means are still limit-
less. As we have seen, there is music in simplest
rhythms and melodies and chords of completely intel-
ligible beauty to the plain man, of which endless new
uses remain to be revealed. A scholarly clergyman and
musician remarked not long ago that he supposed all
the possible good Anglican chants “had been written
already.” He would be astonished, on looking care-
fully, to find how few chants have so far used such
primal melodic inflections as the following :



gz=i^.. :=; Hi=r=i^ _a s^g., -.t-p
: (to name only three diatonic

phrases) which could have been enjoyable and inspiring
to all men any time these thousand years ! Now, is it in-
conceivable that a thousand years hence, if such phrases
were sung with the reverent skill and quietude bestowed
upon Gluck’s F major melody as played to convicts,
any little choir anywhere could fail to bring the same
intense “hear-a-pin-drop” silence, and the same wonder-
ing, worshipful spirit to any congregation of men and
women ? It is not too much to say that the very endless-
ness of simply beautiful form in music tells us all clearly
that church music has really only just begun.

To conclude, the music offered in aid of Christian
worship must be original, setting the highest value on
the simplest musical factors (such as conjunct diatonic
melody and common chords), magnanimous in its
rhythms, with a tireless team-mind bent on reverent
efficiency in ensemble. There will be irrepressible life
in such music, pushing its way into everything sung or
played, just as sap pursues a resistless way into a tree’s
every branch and twig. Nature’s vital way is also
music’s way. But some homely qualifying rules will be
needed for the church musician’s practical guidance :
Let all sorrowful music have a ring of health ; in all
exuberant music remember the Cross. To every choral
fortissimo give the refinement of a pianissimo ; and let


every pianissimo hold within it the vitality of & fortis-
simo incipient, not repressed. Real music deals with
realities. No easy make-believes will serve in church.
“Sweetly pretty anthems” may enervate the Christian
as he journeys. Sweetness there will be, but strength
with it. Church art is of necessity wholesome. It sets
out not only to aid worship fittingly at every point,
but to make the artist’s “beauty of wholeness,” referred
to earlier, approach the Beauty of Holiness itself.



“Jesus saith unto them, Till the water-pots with water.* And
they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, ‘Draw
out now, and bear unto the Governor of the feast/** JOHN
ii. 7, 8.

IF song were not at least as natural and spon-
taneous a human act as speech, there would be
no question of music becoming an actual carrier
of public worship itself. It could still be an aid, per-
haps, as described in the previous chapter. But men
could never have sung the very words of their worship

There seems to have existed a common notion that
art as a whole is something opposed to nature. “Thus
to walk is natural, to dance is an art,” says Johnson’s
Dictionary. This enormously narrows the meaning of
the words art and nature. Both seem to lose their inner
meaning in the process. A child who is too happy to
walk and begins to dance does not suddenly become
unnatural What old Johnson would say is that the
moment it began to dance according to custom, the
moment it began to keep the “rules of the game/’ it
would cross the border from nature to art from nature
that is in too high spirits to walk, to art that uses those
high spirits to organize a dance. But seek how one may
to agree with Johnson’s distinction, or to distil helpful
meaning out of it, one is bound to set it aside as some-



thing very much less than the truth about speaking and
singing in church. The -words set at, the head of the
chapter seem to come nearer the true relation of the
act of speech with the art of song.

Fill the carrying vessels of speech (that is, the words)
with their full meaning. Pour spirit into their every
cranny and crevice, their every vowel, aspirate, and
consonantal edge “to the brim/’ and the musical
miracle is sure to happen. In some real sense, the
ordinary well-springs of human utterance in words are
turned into “wine” that is, into song. The most strik-
ing direct illustration of this at the present time is
perhaps to be found in the Welsh (so-called) favyl of
impassioned speakers. Hvyl means Sail. When a
preacher is “in full sail” in Wales, it is not forbidden,
or out of the way, or disturbing to the congregation if
his delivery becomes completely musical, and he begins
to chant his thoughts. Dr. Lloyd Williams has made a
careful study of contemporary hnyl* 9 and he has de-
scribed it as rising from time to time, at important
moments, by a perfect fourth ; then inflecting again
at the new level. He has also noticed that the hvyl
ultimately tends to fall into the Dorian Mode, and the
present writer has heard a preacher in Llandovery
break into the following clearly marked, impulsive and
beautiful chant or melodic phrase while preaching :


which entirely bore out the Dorian theory.


But one formidable, perpetual problem faces us in
regard to enthusiastic speech turning into song or
chant. A single child may dance for joy naturally, as
Johnson knew well enough, A preacher may rise into
fervent chant equally naturally. But there must be rules
of agreement when many dance together by consent ;
and congregations cannot rise into song without a
regulation or two. How is unanimity to become uni-
sonority ? How can spontaneity be organized, and yet
remain spontaneous ? It must be both : for if it is not,
how can the miracle happen ? If the plainest of plain
song (using the word in its all-embracing sense) is to be
used at a given moment in the public worship of, say,
any hundred men and women of goodwill, with natural
manners and an elementary knowledge of melody, then
it must plainly be prearranged. And is there such a
thing in heaven or earth as a prearranged miracle ?

Here lies our most engrossing natural problem in
this simplest order of church music. Approached from
the side of natural speech, when a congregation in-
spired to worship utters the words, “O Lord, make
haste to help us,” or responds to the glorious salu-
tation, “Lift up your hearts,” with the words, “We lift
them up unto the Lord,” they must be care-free ; and
their speech-inflection, their speech-rhythm, and the
light and shade of their utterance, must all be such as
naturally and spontaneously carry the spirit and sense
of the utterance.

When a congregation is minded to turn such words
into melody, they must be enabled to fit their natural
melodic inflection, melodic rhythm, and light and shade


to a definite tune in due deference to one another. Then
further, if there is vocal harmony even of the simplest
kind, the problem is intensified fourfold. It must all be
care-free yet care-full ; unstudied yet studiously fitted,
voice with voice ; spontaneously uttered words plus
carefully co-ordinated song. And neither of the two at
any point must belie each other.

The recent spate of speech-rhythm psalters testifies
to the timely and even intense interest in this impor-
tant question among church choirs and congregations.
Speech-rhythms and music-rhythms are in search of
each other, looking for their most reasonable unity in
good chanting. But speech-rhythm presents only one
side of the question ; and we must try here to get as
comprehensive a view as possible of the whole problem.
Before doing so, it is well to remind ourselves that
the present ignorance among cultured men and women
of the bare elements of melody ought not to be allowed
to remain the barrier it has too long been. The
opportunities for hearing music through broadcasting
will gradually increase general discernment; and
when intelligent and efficient choral song is made
the normal thing in every school, and never left to
chance, common-sense will see to it that infants in
every nursery and infant-school are made as familiar
with the sight of a musical stave of five lines :

J and with a common chord set on its lines :

B ^:

| or in its spaces : Sp^ j as they are


with the C, A, T, of cat, or D, O, G, of dog, and at
just as early an age. For the one is quite as easy as the
other. It is strange that their clear order of importance
is generally reversed. The result is a musically unedu-
cated nation. We may usefully wonder how many of
the six hundred and fifteen Members of Parliament,
how many public men, leading scientists, headmasters,
bishops, priests or deacons to say nothing of how
many ordinary men and women in any educated con-
gregation would count it as much an impossibility to
read and sing the first at sight (quite a babyish task
really) as it would be an impossible insult to be asked
to spell and speak the second ! Such an abnormal defect
in the education of civilized man will naturally in time
be removed, probably through the aid of broadcasting.
Looking, then, with reasoned confidence towards the
day when every normal man and woman in an ordinary
Christian congregation will be able to read a chant or a
scrap of melody on its stave as easily as they read the
words of a hymn, it will be well to look into the
nature of the alliance between words and melody. It
is obvious at a glance that the recent attention to speech-
rhythms is but a beginning, and at present a one-sided
beginning, touching but one dimension of the alliance.
The constant contradictions that have arisen between
beautiful prose in the psalms and beautiful melody in
chants become flagrant when the chant insists on being
in itself a metrical affair. The style of chant which slowly
evolved, and is now known as Anglican, can, at its best,
be marvellously expressive and fitting. At its worst,
it becomes an arrogant and self-satisfied short-metre



hymn-tune. Now, the metrical versified psalms may fit
a metrical diversified little part-song. Thus, while this
kind of chanting of unmetrical lines can be an abuse
and a misfit when sung metrically :

fjpr-b-b e

The Lord Is my shepherd : therefore can I lack nothing.

the Scottish paraphrase of the same verse would fit the
Anglican “short-metre tune” :
H: ITS? a I gi




The Lord my shep-herd is, And want I nev – er shall.

We may examine the fundamental position a little
more closely by putting to ourselves three questions :

(1) What are the chief elements of utterance which

naturally come into play in speech the mo-
ment a man utters his mind aloud ?

(2) How are those elements affected when many

speak together aloud by consent ?

(3) Are the chief elements of melodic utterance suffi-

ciently like those of speech for the two to
run quite naturally in double harness ?

(i) In speech the most vital elements of utterance
seem to be five :

(a) Rise and fall, or relative Pitch of words ;

(b) Rhythm, or relative Length of words ;
(/) Light and shade, or relative Volume ;

(d) Speed i

(e) Spacing.

Before considering these briefly in turn, it should be
noted that there is a sixth factor of great importance,



which seems best omitted here (though it may be con-
sidered tentatively at a later stage) the factor of actual
quality of voice. As this is largely an involuntary factor
in every speaker, and one that is also physically in-
herited, it seems better to leave it out. It is true that
much may be done by individual attention., at least now
and again, to the golden rule of listening to one’s own
noises as one utters them and then choosing and cul-
tivating the least unpleasant qualities of tone in the
voice, which is our life-companion “for better, for
worse” ; yet it seems better not to try too closely to
enter into so personally conditioned an element.
Quality resembles shape or calibre. We speak of a round
quality, or a piercing quality of voice. “My name means
the shape I am,” proudly exclaimed Humpty-Dumpty to
Alice. And a man’s reading voice is rather like the
“shape he is” mentally ; gainly or ungainly, all church
speakers and church singers alike had best try to reach a
point where they can mutually forget both their own
and each others’ actual shape or quality of voice.

We may now dwell analytically on each of the five
elements of utterance named above :

(a) PITCH. The rise and fall in pitch (or vibration-
frequency) of the speaking voice we will call speech-
inflection. Here is an approximate graph of an actual
voice, while speaking a specimen verse of the Venite :

:e Oc6me let us sing unto the L6rd:

^-^-\^_ -“”^^ _

“Let us hert- ilyrej6ice in the strength of our salv- tion.”


The reader may for himself, or with the help of a quick-
eared friend, discover varieties of natural speech-
inflection in speaking and reading. These become very
interesting as registers of actual shades of thought, and
ultimately of character as well. Natural diffidence or
inertia registers monotonously, for example, in the con-
versational voice of many a parson, and it drops in-
audibly low at final syllables ; while a neighbourly de-
sire that chief syllables shall, at all costs, be heard in
every corner of the church will cause the same voice
to rise serviceably and save the situation. In taking
“graphs” of speech-inflections, it is well to trace the rise
and fall of each phrase, i.e., of each sentence or part of a
sentence uttered in a single length, in one breath and
with no audible break. This should be done in a series
of single lines written down in a sequence resembling
blank verse. When done systematically, it will be seen
that phrase-graphs tend towards a definite melodic
shape. Individual tendencies will emerge as well as
general tendencies. Broadly speaking, there seems a
general inclination to move to a highest vocal point at
a chief syllable in each phrase or unit. This rise and fall
quite unconsciously registers rise and fall of mental
energy or urgency. A voice pressing a point in argu-
ment will tend to rise (on the pointed syllables) time and
again higher and higher, like a schoolboy trying in high-
jumps to get a notch higher every time till the prize be
attained. Sustained effort will register itself in a tendency
to sustained monotone through many phrases, but even
then scraps of characteristic inflection of various kinds
will occur at closes and breathing points. Canon Aiager


(who was a wonderful reader) used to tell of some
friendly counsel, which he himself had received, to raise
his voice at the end of each sentence. He did so habitu-
ally, and his hearers never ceased to bless him for it.
There is a story of a City man who declared himself
cured of ill-temper by a vow never to allow his voice to
rise above a certain pitch to the lasting advantage of
his associates. A generous, highly imaginative mind
will tend to speak over a very wide compass. It is said
that Canon Dalton’s voice would cover two octaves in
reading the lessons. He himself used humbly to remark
that his voice “went like that.” But he did not mind
what people thought or said. His self-regard was as
slender as his regard for vocal propriety, and both were
in inverse ratio to his reverence for, and vital interest
in, the Spirit as revealed in the lesson itself.

(#) LENGTH. The longs and shorts of speech in
English are astonishingly communicative. It is possible
to conceive of languages in which they signify little.
But the artificial lengthening of a single syllable can dis-
tort an English utterance beyond repair ; and, conversely,
the failure to dwell upon what may be called the carrying
syllables can severely handicap the spirit and sense of
any utterance. For example, let the reader quietly and
naturally utter these words half a dozen or more times,
in ways that seem best to carry their meaning :

“And God said, let there be light :

^i And there was light “;

or these : 5

“Let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.”

After saying such sentences many times over, and
listening closely, he will find that certain syllables will


naturally have grouped themselves as shorts., leading up
to a long syllable, and in this way definite speech-rhythms
will gradually emerge. These rhythms are never in-
flexible ; but they are always indispensable. Equalize
the lengths of all syllables for a single sensible sentence,
and in English the result soiinds nothing short of imbe-
cile. Or try lengthening any syllable which by nature is
not long in the course of a sentence such as the word
“God” in the first example :

“And God said, let there be light ;”

and, with the best intentions, the result will sound
unnatural and affected. Or try shortening a naturally
long syllable such as the word “true” in :

“That was the true light ;”

and another kind of serious distortion arises. On the
other hand, let the long vowel in “heartily,” the diph-
thong and sibilant in “rejoice,” the deep ng sound in
“strength,” and the long a in ” salvation ” all have their
careful dues, and the vigour and variety of natural
speech-rhythm will become apparent in such common
and oft-repeated phrases of worship as in, “Let us
heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.”*

* The following are musically-noted speech-rhythms taken
from life :


And God said, let there be light : and there was light.

Let us hear – ti – ly re-joice in the strength of our sal – va-tion.


I went by, and lo, he was gone : I sought him, but his

– –

place could no – where be found.


(V) VOLUME. In all verbal utterance, the element of
tonal strength, or volume, counts perhaps for more than
any other element in the general physical and uncon-
scious effect upon the hearer. The speaker also is un-
consciously affected by the way his voice “lets off
steam.” Thus a man has only suddenly to double the
loudness of his speech to give the impression of doub-
ling the urgency with which he feels and communicates
it. Softening of the voice has just as significant an effect
the other way. A steady increase of volume will indicate
a steady rise of interest and keenness in the speaker ; and
the decline of urgency is as surely signified by a diminu-
endo in the speaking. Here, again, the reader will find an
experiment or two useful Read the first line of Gray’s
Elegy in a stentorian voice :

ff “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.”
Now read this line from Browning in a very soft tone :
pp “O, the wild joys of living 1 the leaping from rock to rock.”

Or try the effect of a gradual loudening, a gradual
softening, and then of a sudden change of volume at
any given point. The element of loudness in speech
may be well compared to the dimension of thickness
or bulk in any material object. No delicate thought
will bear shouting, nor can three cheers be easily given
in a whisper.

(d} SPEED. Apart altogether from the relative
speeds of short and long syllables in speech, the general
speed in delivery is a permanent and telling element of
utterance. It can make or mar the effect upon the hearer.
Thus, all other things being equal, rapid delivery of


momentous words has a casual, cursory, irreverent
effect ; conversely, very slow, deliberate delivery of un-
important words is dull and deadening. Both are im-
pertinent. The right quickening of speech at the fitting
moment can have an electric effect upon the hearer.
This element seems peculiarly subject to the general
law of ‘fitness ; or, to give it its ethical and possibly prig-
gish name, neighbourliness. It simply is not the game for
anyone, be he layman or priest, schoolboy or bishop,
to rattle through the most profound prayers at a speed
with which the most reverent and intelligent congrega-
tion could not possibly keep pace in their minds.

At this point it is perhaps well to note that speed in
speech is normally a sign of energy behind it, from
whatever source that energy may come, or to whatever
aim it may be directed. In this, natural speed and natural
pitch of voice go inseparably together in effect. No-
thing could perhaps illustrate this point more convinc-
ingly than an experiment with a gramophone record of
speech. Set the speeds at (a) normal, () extremely
rapid, (i) extremely slow. Normal speech is utterly
distorted : at one extreme it sounds hysterical and flip-
pant, at the other pompous and lethargic. But the
impressive thing about the experiment is that at the
extremes the character of the speaker seems wholly
changed, in two opposite ways, and in both cases to
the bad ; both are worse than a mere caricature of
normal features. Both suggest a fundamental loss of
common sensibility one may almost say of common
decency. This experiment will well repay every student
of speech or song.


(e) SPACING. Sir Walter Parratt used to say to his
pupils : “Don’t forget to play your rests. 9 ‘ It is not easy
to exaggerate the importance of spacing words in
speech. The silences between words are an integral,
and even dynamic part of their utterance. Spacing is
therefore a fifth and positive element in speech. As
well leave out all spaces between words on a written
page as leave out the silences, or relative silences, be-
tween them in speaking. The extra edges of silence
round an important word are as helpful as the extra
white mount can be round an etching. For example, a
preacher in giving out a significant text, such as “God
is light/’ would no more dream of running the words
into one conglomerate, unspaced in time to the ear,
than he would set it up as a motto in a parish room with
no more space to be seen between the last letter of one
word and the first of the next. Once more, quiet ex-
periment on the reader’s part is recommended. Any
proverb, uttered with no spacing, and then with various
experimental spacings, will give a variety of results,
which may be simulated on the written page as follows :

(i) Takecareofthepenceandthepoundswilltakecareofthemselves.

(ii) Takecareofthepence andthepounds willtake etc.
(iii)Take care ofthepence and thepounds etc.

Of these (i) gives a casual run-on effect, assuming that
your hearer knows aU about the sense of it, and only
needs to have a button of memory touched and the
meaning rushes into his mind faster than you can
speak it. In such a case, perhaps the better course
would be to say :

“Take cate of the pence, etc.”


It would be foolish to declaim it with all the care of a
first communication, (ii) Gives another effect. The
spacing of the two chief words exhorts the mind to
focus attention. It is the way it would be spaced by a
sententious uncle talking, perhaps, to a nephew on the
receipt of a tip. (iii) Has more music in it by reason of
the spacing of the primal monosyllables take and care :

-a ‘-t =-f-
4 rJ
[ ‘ -\-& *

Take care of the pence.

One sometimes wishes that the natural spacing and the
consequent rhythmic tendencies of literary speech yes,
and even of conversational speech could be somehow
conveyed by the letter-spacing and word-spacing on
the page, thus :

Take care ofthep e n c e

and thep o u n d s will take care ofthems elves.

But it could only in a very limited sense be communi-
cative of the way to speak thoughts seen in writing ;
and it would have precisely the dangers that all me-
chanical indications of imaginative realities have. A
stock length comes to be attached to a stock sign, as in
the case of written crotchets and quavers, often with
disastrous effect; for, as is obvious, actual music,
written perhaps in 100 stock crotchets and 200 stock
quavers, has itself no stock sizes. The sizes and shapes
of a thousand quavers indeed vary, as do a thousand
leaves of a tree.

Now in the use of all these five elements of spoken
utterance, it is fairly easy to lay down one general prin-


ciple; they are all subject to the master-faculty of
speaker or singer alike the creative imagination itself.
Behind every word uttered is an imaginative output ;
though it be nearly #//, it is bound to be there. Let any
sentence in the language be uttered by any man in the
country, and his utterance will, as we say, “give him
away” to perceiving hearers. Pitch, volume, length,
speed and spacing will all conspire to communicate his
mind, such as it is and wherever it is. There is literally
“no sound without signification.” The sound may
signify mere apathy or egotism, instead of sympathy
and common-sense, but it inevitably signifies. Every
utterance, in speech or song, signifies, whether the
utterer will or not. Of course a voice may be “put on,”
like a uniform, in deference to custom. Anyone may
unconsciously acquire, by imitating men he admires,
a uniform that is neither his nor originally theirs. A
voice can be nobody’s voice because it is everybody’s in
that line of life. Uniforms have their value, and possi-
bly their virtue. It may be good for a man to don a
coat that gives him a new sense of his oneness with his
comrades, and reminds him of his own appointed little-
ness. In the same way, a parson often seems to don a
voice. But a uniform must never be a disguise. More-
over, a uniform voice must be made to fit. It must not
squeeze or contract the nature of the wearer. When
words that matter are spoken naturally, every sentence,
and all the elements of its utterance together conspire
both to carry and to kindle creative imagination which
lies behind it. Of course, accompanying facial expres-
sion, gesture, and mere posture, as well as all expressive


individual utterance through the working of the natural
laws of contain and momentum. Naturally, if every-
one round you is apparently of your mind and inclina-
tion, the obvious effect seems to be a reinforcement,
both of your mind and your inclination. Acting and
reacting, contagion brings momentum and momentum
augments contagion.

The second apparent interaction is as important ; but
it acts more as a brake upon the engine of utterance
than as an added energy. In the end, however, it seems
greatly to enhance and intensify the whole. The prin-
ciple of neighbourliness, referred to previously, at once
creates individual efforts to ensure unanimity by every
instantaneous and unconscious process of give-and-
take. Voice will wait for voice here and there in-
stinctively, so that key-words may be synchronized
strongly and the line of utterance kept. Extremes (of
pitch especially) among individual voices will be un-
consciously cut down and attuned, so that the natural
inflections, rhythms, speed, and, in a lesser degree,
volume, take on disciplined limitations which in-
dividuals, speaking alone, would never need to regard.

The net result of these two apparently opposite
tendencies is a more tempered, yet more glowing
utterance. This combination is particularly happy in
the case of Christian public worship, where neither
increase of restraint alone, nor of warmth alone, would
satisfy the need at the high moments, where e.g., in a
a Gloria, Kyrie, or, above all, in a Sursum Corda it is
fitting that all worshippers should join in the utterance
spontaneously and to the fullest possible extent.


(3) Our third question is perhaps the most crucial
of those with which church music is concerned.

Musical utterance at its simplest, all the world over,
resolves itself into some form of melody. Melody may
perhaps fairly be defined as a succession of well-related
sounds imaginatively welded into a unity. However
rich the harmonic and orchestral texture, all music
remains (in essence) melody, since it must give a suc-
cession of sounds, whether single or composite, that
are related and heard in process. Our question is : Are
the elements of simple melody in music so nearly like
to those of utterance in melodious speech as to make
congregational song a spontaneous vehicle of the spirit
of worship itself ? The answer might be negative with-
out depreciation. One can imagine their being closely
akin and yet mutually intractable or incompatible when
the vital needs of worship are at stake. One can imagine
the speaking voice both alone, as when a priest speaks,
and in chorus, when congregations respond proving
capable of serving all purposes of spontaneous and
direct utterance in worship ; music (Le. 9 melody, both
of a single voice or instrument and of many voices
or instruments) being restricted to uses at certain
moments before, between, during or after worship as
an aid. But is there need for such restriction? Can
singing never be like glorified speech, the very vehicle
of worship itself? Cannot sung worship be as perfect
as spoken? Is not musical utterance, at moments,
indeed the very best vehicle of public worship, just
as spoken utterance is at other moments? When
the rubric says, “Then shall be said or sung,” is


it not saying, “Both are good ; do the most fitting in
every case”?

We search for the practical reply to this crucial
question especially at the present time, because im-
possible musical things may be and are frequently
asked of congregations (with all good intentions), while,
conversely, golden chances to mobilize the spirit of
worship in spontaneous and beautiful musical ways
seem to be missed. To us it seems beyond doubt that
melodic utterance of a simple and wholly fitting order
can become as natural to a normal Christian assembly as
corporate speech, and far more beautiful. History sup-
ports this view, for there is a vast corpus of Christian
melody from Ambrosian times till today. But the
history and the habits of a few centuries are too
slender witnesses for so great a matter. Honest doubt-
ers who long to be worshippers may still say to us :
“When your singing starts, worship stops.” Our
trustier witnesses are inherent and profound.

Let any doubting reader glance, not merely at the
likeness, but at the obvious identity of the basic
principles of utterance in speech and song :

(a) Rise and fall of the tones prove vital to all
melodic utterance ;

() The longs and shorts of the tones are vital to
all rhythm ;

(V) Volume has precisely the same expressive signifi-
cances and the same dangers as in speech ;

(d} The sensible obligations of speed
and (e) of spacing&tt as inescapable in song as they are
in speech.


And it is, furthermore, obvious that the imaginative
control and uses of all five principles of utterance
together result in what in melody is called inspired
phrasing, and is needed to convey the innermost sense
of melody as of speech. This is by no means to suggest
that song adds nothing to speech; or that they in
themselves are identical because their methods of
utterance are identically conditioned. That would be
like saying that a poet has no more to give than a
politician, or a singer in Queen’s Hall than a porter at
Paddington. When the voice of a melodist rises a
perfect fourth from C to F, it rises purposefully, for it
is communicating a taste, a perception, a purpose, a
thought, a design call them any name you can find.
When his voice rises from C to F sharp he is communi-
cating a totally different taste, thought, apperception,
or design. But when a mere speaker unconsciously
raises his voice by one degree or the other, this is not
so. Melody presupposes love of and deliberate choice
of euphonies ; and a composer loves the various eupho-
nies so profoundly, so energetically, that he loves them
into a musical unity called a “tune/ 5

From this it will appear that the vital question
lies beyond the question of the identity of their prin-
ciples of utterance speech and song. We have to note
with joy and hope that melody does all that speech
does, and something more, and this ” more ” lies in the
direction, not only of harmony and vision but of
unanimity of thought and utterance, regulating and
unifying the tones of voice chiefly as to pitch and


All this looks very hopeful for corporate utterance
in worship ; and one would be inclined to expand the
familiar rubric musically : “Then shall be said or sung,
and always sung if possible/’ But this brings us with
more fear than joy to the crucial question : Can it
be done? If so, how and at what cost? Can the
beauty of melody, the euphonious “something more”
be had with no general loss of spontaneity? Better
speech than song (ail will agree) if song brings artifici-
ality, self-consciousness and a host of other side-track-
ing drawbacks into public worship. Yet, in our de-
liberate judgment, the reply to this crucial question
should be a far more eager, unequivocal ” Yes” than is
at present apparent in church music. True, we have a
long way to go (as already hinted) before rhythmic
melody is a recognized and practised mother-tongue
of the imaginative boy and girl from earliest infancy.
But we have also a long way to go before Christian
manners are the recognized manners even of the
Christian church. It is not enough to say that church
melodies are a good alternative vehicle of worship.
Today we should all be able to go at least one step
further than that, and recognize fearlessly that when a
minister calls out to his flock : “Praise ye the Lord,”
and they heartily reply : “The Lord’s Name be praised”;
still more when he cries : “Lift up your hearts,” and
they whole-heartedly reply : “We lift them up unto the
Lord,” there should be no place in Christendom where
both could not rise to some simple strain of natural
melody or chant, some “devout and solemn note” (as
Cranmer’s momentous letter to his King put it) that is


wholly as natural as speech and far more beautiful,
“as near as may be for every syllable a note.”

If, then, it be true that a form of congregational
rhythmic melody, wholly at one with the words uttered,
is the most natural vehicle of corporate worship, it is
equally true that it will fail if it is ill-rendered by any or
all concerned. We may see that fervent utterance turns
speech into primal song. But unanimity that is, the
desired result will never be attained at the loss of
spontaneity. And spontaneity can come into no lan-
guage that is only half learnt ! The conditions necessary
for the attainment of this simpler and most natural of
all church music in responding, hymning and chanting
are willing culture and good custom, from the smallest
village school to the largest public school and onwards.

But many a thrilling use of corporate melody or
chant has been attained already. How to promote and
extend the knowledge of this vital order of congrega-
tional music is a big problem, some practical aspects
of which are considered in detail in the next chapter.




“Most deere Philip, in that a man is the most worthy of all
Creatures, a creature made like to God, by nature milde, of
stature upright, provident, wise; of memory, witty; by
reason, susceptible of Lawes and learning ; by his Creator’s
great gift, farre preferred before all unreasonable creatures
in al things, but specially in two, to wit, Speech and Reason ;
it follows that Ignorance in him is so much the fowler fault,
by how much hee is more worthy than other Creatures.
Now this as it is a fowle shame for all men, so for Schollers
it is the fowlest disgrace : the course of whose life is or-
dayned for this, that by living well they may shew others an
example of good fashions, learning and honesty, encreasing
fervent Faith in the people, and (which is their chiefest
Office) by praising God in Hymnes and songs, stirring up
devotion in the hearts of the faithfull.” ORNITHOPARCUS
(from the dedication of his ‘ ‘Micrologus/’ Book III),

WE have now to approach ground made difficult
by three facts. There are culpable shortcom-
ings to be pointed out, in musicians and their
associates, and it is thankless work to deal with faults.
But there are, when these are removed, thrilling pos-
sibilities of advance along simple and quite attainable
lines. There is a general absence of awareness of the
true nature both of the faults and the possibilities.
The havoc worked by the faults is now perceptible ;
and hardly less clear is the way in which keenness can



dispel them and make way for splendid possibilities to
become actualities, and that at incredibly short notice.
We wish to help our readers to find, if they have not
already found for themselves, quick, practical ways of
reading the truth in their own churches. “I went with
my wife on Good Friday to church,” said one of the
noblest and most famous men of our time. “But the
way they treated that glorious Psalm xxii. was so ter-
rible, I could not go again !” . . . “How is it,” a lady
asked Dr. Corfe, “that your choir sings so beautifully
in tune ?” “Oh, it’s against the rules at Christ Church to
sing flat,” was the reply. And is it not against every rule
of Christendom that words in worship should be ut-
tered other than keenly, clearly, mindfully, consider-
ately of all worshippers and their full powers ? Whether
said or sung, by one or by many, words together with
their attendant silences are the chief vehicle of public
worship. The whole question of their utterance, as it
exists today, needs to be considered from a sternly
practical angle.

Let us for the moment view the whole tract of aud-
ible utterance in any given service (from the first sound
to the silence after the Blessing) as a varied and fruitful
ground where purposeful emphasis will cause some
words to stand out in strength and beauty, like features
in a landscape, and others to be spoken with great
quietude, whether speedy or deliberate.

At the outset it is obvious that the range of possi-
bilities is very wide, and that all words used, whether
said or sung by clergy, choir or congregation, should as
obviously be the effectual and spontaneous caniers of


the spirit of that worship. Let a service one hour long
be imagined. Let us suppose that, from first to last,
only 3,000 words are to be uttered, including all read-
ings, exhortations, psalms, hymns, prayers, responses,
and sermon ; and that of these words none are super-
fluous ; all are well related and chosen that they may
together conspire into a unity. Clearly we must, for
the moment, take perfection in the words of the service
itself for granted. For our concern here is not with the
actual words, but with their utterance ; and not with
their utterance in any one particular (such as clarity,
reverence, etc.), but with their due and moving delivery
as a well-related whole. For hungry souls have come
to this service, looking to be fed ; souls astray, search-
ing for guidance.

Of course, to be practical is to acknowledge at once
that all 3,000 words may be (and, indeed, often are) han-
dicapped and even ruined at the outset by the absence of
the rudimentary qualities just named reverence, or
the clarity which implies reverence. Apathy and cheap,
slip-shod ways are calamitous to utterances of far less
importance than those of public worship. They can
ruin a fine service. But, again, it is well here to take
for granted that the service in question is really Chris-
tian in that it is at bottom free from apathy ; and whether
said or sung, loudly or softly, quickly or slowly, with
or without the aid of agreed and thoughtful silences, it
is at least meant to be perfectly reverent. Serviceable
clearness in every word is therefore to be taken for
granted from first to last. It is to be assumed that the
mind of every priest, as of the humblest of his colleagues


in the chancel, is imbued, not only with the love of
God, but also with the working rule : “Love thy con-
gregation as thyself.” Nothing will ensure kindly
clearness in all 3,000 words (whether said or sung) so
instantly and unfailingly as will the memory of the
needs of the rather deaf old worshipper at the west
end. This primary consideration of clearness must be
observed, and can now fortunately be physically
achieved in the largest place of worship in the land.
One vast cathedral, at least, has, by a simple system
of microphones, made it possible for every word to be
heard with ease at hitherto impossible distances, and
in defiance of hitherto embarrassing echoes. In average
churches it has of course always been possible, granted
the neighbourly will behind it.

Having cleared our ground, the practical problem
presents itself in two main aspects : (i) How is the
question of what words are best said and what words
are best sung in any given service to be determined ?
And (2) how are we best to cope with the general
melodic shortcomings of average contemporary con-
gregations ? Of course, the two questions hang in-
separably together. To give congregations more than
they can sing on the one hand, or to deny them the
chance to contribute “all they know how” on the other,
is equally to mar the ideal service we have in mind.
Let us look first at what may be called the “say or sing”
problem which is as deeply interesting as it is im-
portant. To take extremes first ; could the Exhortation
be sung ? It could ; but it is not difficult to realize the
greater obligation to speak it with quiet deliberation.


Again : could the Venite be spoken ? Yes ; but it is
convincingly easy to see that it cries out to be sung by
every soul in the place. The truth seems to be that,
of our 3,000 words, those that evoke thought (and they
will be many) will need to be quietly uttered ; while
those that crystallize or epitomize thought into an
energy of longing (well known to us all by experience)
are fewer and will need to be sung. In other words,
they will need to be uttered with considered unanimity
of enthusiasm ; this leads to the use of tones of regu-
lated pitch, length and loudness, which, in turn, leads
to melodic utterance at the intense points of worship,
whether in response, chant or hymn. Our 3,000 words
can be, and mostly are, servants of due thought and
quiet reflection. But at high moments, words must and
do become very like pinions for the heavenly aspiring
mind as it rises. As the barometer of man’s mind rises,
so speech notoriously tends to transmute into song,
into some form of music rhythmic, melodious and, of
necessity, ordered and unanimous. But now our second
practical problem faces us. At such points no wor-
shipper must be prevented from joining. Here comes
a painful dilemma. When speech becomes inadequate
it must give rise to song. Yet, if the mere act of trying
to sing becomes a congregational impediment, or,
worse than that, a ludicrous anticlimax, then better
far fall back again upon speech as hearty and adequate
as it can be. It is obviously useless to talk about “pin-
ions” of the aspiring mind when some amiable but
musically bedraggled congregation is thinking of no-
thing but the effort of trying to pick up a tune too high,


or too hard, or (even if easy) too unfamiliar, and not
printed in their book “words only” edition,* and
miserably small type at that! This unhappy state of
things must, of course, cease. Undoubtedly it will cease
in the long run, like all such scandalous apathy, at last
shamed out of existence. But ought we to let it have a
“long run” in this age ? Read the piercing words of
“Ornithoparcus” quoted above, written (in a treatise on
music) to his “most deere Philip” five hundred years
ago. Complacent apathy and tolerated “ignorance” are
our unbearable impediments ; and in this case (if we are
“schollers” as well as “calling ourselves Christians”) it is
indeed our present-day “fowlest disgrace.” Our readers
will be ready to bear with some vehemence here. When
English infants, in every infant-school and kindergarten,
are at last taught to read and write their own small
tunes on the five-line stave as easily as they read or write
a nursery rhyme; when our public schools possess
their first and second orchestras as surely as their first
and second cricket elevens, then melody will be known
for the natural “mother-tongue” it is as easy to learn
as it is enjoyable to practise ; incidentally, vapid melody
will be at a greater discount, and noble tunes more
commonly recognized and used. Ordinary congrega-
tions of men and women of good-will will then know
how to use that mother-tongue to good purpose. At
present they would most of them freely admit that,

* “Words only” editions of all our Hymnals are still printed
by the million as we write, for the sake of cheapness, whereas if
the inclusion of the bare melodies could be made the rule instead
of the exception, the power to read melody would the quicker
be a nationally accomplished fact.


though they are ready to worship like men, they are
only able to sing like untutored babes, owing to their
negligible musical education. To such it will be no
offence if we are obliged momentarily to give such
advice as might be offered to children. And, however
lamentable the present shortcomings may be, it is good
to reflect that there can scarcely be a reader who has
not on occasion heard both spoken and sung words in
Christian worship rise suddenly to thrilling splendour.
At our public schools, for example, let the boys but get
a tune within their compass that rises and falls as they
seem intuitively to know it ought, and the miracle hap-
pens. It is all the sadder, of course, to recall that the
very same boys may, the very next day, fall back into
slovenliness and lifelessness, never reflecting (as they
would in the playground) that such school-slackness
is simply “not the thing.” Some day (may we not
believe ?) all these shortcomings and apathies will be
“simply not the thing” anywhere in Christendom.

We may now revert to our model service and to our
picture of a tract of utterance in an hour’s public wor-
ship, along which all the varied virtues of strong, sin-
cere, worshipful utterance now to be noted will tend
to spring up of themselves, provided the enthusiasm
is there, and the words to be said or sung, singly or
together, be aptly chosen for present-day uses. We will
try to keep closely to the practical considerations, to
be discussed in more homely details later.

Strong enthusiasm makes for clear speaking as well
as strong singing, and these have, first and foremost,
an “edge” upon them. When speech or song has more


and more intelligently related values, it tends to grow
not only clearer and more emphatic ; it tends to give a
chorus of voices verbal unanimity^ and what may be
called unitonality too. For an example of this kind of
spontaneous fervour in ordinary life, one only need go
to any lively meeting of university students. The
“gods” are usually fervent. They “want” something.
A speedy word is sent round ; and in a few seconds you
may hear a thunderous shout : “We want So-AND-So!”
It will sound something like this :

_ > > fff

-At 1 m n

zqc=iic=si d 1


It is all unrehearsed. Nobody is needed to conduct it.
Yet the rhythm is generally strikingly precise. Further-
more, the voices, by common and unstudied consent,
steady themselves on an approximate unitone, uncon-
sciously imposed upon the team by its more dominant
members (even two eager ones can establish a tone). The
rise and fall on “So-AND-So” (or whatever the specific
demand may be) is more or less standardized, being dic-
tated by the chief words and by the high spirits of the
people who set the demand going. In fact, the melody,
unconsciously extemporized, has generally a moving
quality about it, a youthful glory of its own that well
may be the envy of those of us who long to have a
chance, before we die, to hear the Christian Church
everywhere cry out its far more urgent WE WANT TO


with like unanimity and unashamed heartiness, yet with
no loss of public decorum or violation of the due reti-


cence of the worshipper. This brings us face to face with
the great range of devout utterance from the quietest
Kyrie to the most voluminous Gloria. For, though apathy
can kill a service, reticence is a Christian attribute that
intensifies its utterances. Nothing is mote moving in
speech (whether of one or many) than the burning con-
trol of utterances dictated by strong feeling. Are these
the attributes in today’s customary corporate utterance
of the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Gloria? Bless-
ings on those parish priests who set themselves to lead
the congregation into a reverently unified, hearty and
intelligent utterance of these things ! But so elementary
is the present failure to do this on both sides clerical
and lay that the instructions now to be given must
read rather like talk to schoolboys. Here they are :

(i) No minister must disregard the utterances of his
congregation. It seems as offensive to tell a minister to
consider and wait for his people, and not to go on by
himself regardless of consequences, as it would be to
tell an engine-driver or guard not to proceed regardless
of passengers. Yet this has, apparently, to be newly
laid down today as an unbreakable law of congrega-
tional worship ! It is unbearable that any priest should
wilfully go forward with, for example, the words
“and in-earth-peace-goodwill-towards-men-We-praise-
we-give-thanks-to-thee-for-thy-great-glory” at his own,
often cursory speed, regardless of what, and how much,
the congregation are hearing, and how they are faring
and following. How can a too tolerant Church be
brought to realise and end this worse than folly ?


(2) No congregation must jail to go with their minister
and choir. On this side also it may seem as offensive to
an intelligent English congregation to be told it is their
task to “jump into the train” of speech or song. They
are to get into the Gloria, with their minister, and identify
themselves keenly and carefully with their fellow-wor-
shippers in the words uttered. Again, to say this at all
should be as obvious a superfluity as it would be to tell
the passengers to get into a train before the whistle
sounds, and not linger about the platform.

Let us tabulate a few common-place bye-laws in the
light of common-sense and, incidentally, of Christian
charity :

(i.) Where the minister’s utterance cannot pos-
sibly be heard by the whole congregation,
let “mediators” be stationed at a point where
they can hear and keep with him, and where
the main congregation can hear and keep
with them (the mediating voices).

Specially alert members of a choir, musical servers,
young “cantors,” ex-choirboys who count it an honour
to continue to serve their church and ministers in such
a way after their voices have broken, may be particu-
larly helpful in this connection.

(ii.) Where the minister can make his voice aud-
ible to all, he must obviously think of the
deafest and dullest members of the congre-
gation placed furthest from him, and adapt
his speed, spacing, tones and volume of
tone to their needs. His task is to gather all
into the utterance. The quick must mindfully
regard the “slowest battalions.”


(iii.) Where the minister can be heard by all, those
nearest to him should still make it their
special care to help him by alert unanimity
to gather up the more distant voices into
the general stream.

(iv.) Actual Speed and Spacing. These seem by far
the most important factors, and the golden
rule about them is apparently this : Let the
speed be always the speed of the thought be-
hind the words ; and let the spacing be such as
gives room for each thought to be completed
without breaking the thread of the whole.

This last rule is no bye-law. It seems rather of the
nature of an unchanging principle. To take the quotation
from the Gloria given above, if the speed and spacing be
regulated according to the above rule, and spelt out in
musical notation, it might approximate to the following :

Allegro moderate.

and in earth peace, good will towards men. We



praise thee, we bless thee, we wor-ship thee, we glor-i-fy thee, we give

thanks to thee for thy great glory.

Whether spoken or sung the accents here given would
be quite naturally but never literally or unalterably ob-
served, and the more natural they are the more they
will tend to pick up the heedless and distant souls in


the congregation and give the needed touch of strength
to the whole utterance.

(v.) Every congregational utterance should gather
and use its own natural momentum, and this
momentum should reach its maximum at the
peak, or summit, of the utterance.

This is more a statement of fact than a rule, since it
cannot but happen in every vital utterance. It should
be noticed that momentum does not mean volume.
The last sentence of the creed, for example, might be
both the strongest and softest, the tone being subdued
by the very strength of the worship.

(vi.) Choirs should help congregations, and con-
gregations should Jtielp themselves (those of
strong purpose giving the lead) to give
every syllable of every word clearness and
its own right shape and size for carrying its
meaning and falling into its place.

This rule includes the careful differentiation of every
vowel and every consonant from its fellow-vowels and
fellow-consonants. A blase uniformity of vowel-sound,
and a weak, flaccid style of consonant, common in
tired colloquial speaking, are obviously intolerably
offensive in such utterances as the Lord’s Prayer, the
Gloria and the Creed. But a warning must be added
that aggressive clearness on the part of single wor-
shippers, with however pious an intention, is a flaw
in congregational utterance.

Clearness and care in speed must ultimately be, not
individual, but corporate, and, in the initial stages of


attaining this end, the keenest spirits must be the most
intensely tactful in utterance themselves.

Much could be added to the above six suggested
rulings, without discounting them in the minds of
those most anxious to dispel the discouraging apathy
today. What would the clergy who rattle through the
most profound petitions presto^ day after day, say to
any musician who rattled presto through the first move-
ment of the “Moonlight” Sonata ? But even the poor,
single-sentence prayer of the publican can be more im-
portant to men at worship than a million “Moonlight”
Sonatas, What has come to pass in this our needy and
enlightened age, that, in the highest places of worship
in the land, we have to listen, Sunday after Sunday, to
such a thoughtless enormity as the following :



Al-migh-tyGod,un-to whom all hearts be o-pen, all de-sires known.

Ruling (iii.) above only suggests that in this splendid
and solemn preparatory prayer, every communicant
present shall be given reasonable time to think and mean
the- succession of thoughts contained in it with becom-
ing reverence :

(a) That God is all might ;

(#) That there is not a heart of a single inhabitant

of the globe shut to Him ;
(ff) That all desires of all men are known to Him.

Time is of the essence of the contract here in exactly
the same way in which it is essential for Beethoven to
think such calm thoughts a these :


Let the reader play this presto, and observe the effect on
Beethoven disciples, or on himself if he have discern-
ment* That thoughtless, unloving utterances of momen-
tous prayers are to be heard daily on the lips of leaders
forces upon us the question : Is the evil due to repeti-
tion? Is it, perhaps, repetition beyond absorption-
point which works this kind of havoc with clerical
minds ? Yet, repetition is good ! It is, perhaps, only
good when it still can be identified with the spirit and
effort of ‘perfecting. Any other repetition than that which
amplifies the meaning of the words must, it would
seem, fall under the withering reproof of Christ Him-
self, as “vain”

We may now turn from this painfully rudimentary
table of hints to the consideration of their application
to, and effect upon, our service as a whole. For the effort
to give the fitting and most adequate utterance to every
one of our 3,000 words, whether by clergy, choir or
congregation, would result in something far more im-
portant, namely the vital effort duly to relate word
to word into a service of refreshing proportions and
unity, without monotony and without excess.

One of the wisest, most sympathetic, and saintly
critics, hearing a full cathedral service at the Temple
Church one Sunday morning, found it very beautiful
but “full of climaxes.” A particularly fine psalm (for
example, ciii.) was in itself a spiritual climax, the Te


Deum was a climax ; so were the Benedictus, the
anthem, the Nicene Creed and the triumphant hymn.
This was a clearly flagrant case of excess of musical
zeal, giving glowing settings to great words regardless
of the powers of the worshipper to absorb them. We
all are painfully familiar with the opposite abuse, when
the whole tract of utterance is flat country. Mr. Glad-
stone once reproved the easy critic of the easy-going
service when he said he had never heard a sermon with
no point of interest in it ; but, he added, he was bound
to say it was often only the text !

When a three-syllabled word is uttered, the point is
not merely that all three syllables should be vitally and
clearly uttered, but that their proportions should be so
intelligently right as to move us. Think of the word
“commandment,” for example, without the challenging
swing of the voice into the second syllable. It becomes
something less than itself if every syllable is uttered as
of equal importance. (Let the reader try it.) Simi-
larly, on the most comprehensive scale possible,
our interest in this chapter is not merely that those
imagined 3,000 words should be workmanlike, but
perfectly proportioned to carry the spirit of the service
and recreate the worshippers. Authorities in each
church must look to it that the words that are better
said should not be sung ; those that are better sung
must not be said ; for this would be short-coming.
Furthermore, those that are best said or sung slowly,
or softly, or speedily, or loudly, must all fall into their
places in our general tract of utterance, and the words
that form the fitting climax of the service must receive


their due regard. And this is not really so hard a matter.
All can enter into it. It needs only thought and ready
control of personal inclinations for the good of the
whole. It is, moreover, intensely interesting and
stimulating to those who study it. It can be made the
deliberate subject of sermons, and one of the aims of
the congregational practices that will be discussed in a
later chapter.

To conclude, let us imagine this natural voice of wor-
ship at work, and watch analytically its obedience to the
natural rules of the game as we have tried to describe
them in this and the previous chapter. For this purpose
we must think of the speaking and singing voice as one.
Think of any well-known psalm liake, for example,
Psalm ciii. as being sincerely spoken (by one or many),
or in a land of chant wonderfully suited to the voice as
it works to get the whole spirit of the psalm through.

Watch the voice in the first verse;

“Praise the Lord, O my soul :
and all that is within me praise His holy Name.”

It would naturally tend to keep every rule named
in Chapter IV, as to the rise and fall, the long
and short, the strong and weak of the utterance.
Thus (a) it would naturally rise in the first verse on
the significant word “all that is within me” ; (#) it
would lengthen such “carrying” syllables as praise,
Lord, soul, and relatively shorten the little syllables
round them ; (<r) it would give volume to all these
forthright words and verses generally, and proceed to
lessen volume gradually as the psalm grows more con-


templative; (d) it would speed up the ecstatic final
verses, after having slowed down in the reflective
verses beginning “the days of man are but as grass” ;
(<<?) it would carefully space out the similes (“like as the
east/’ etc., and “like as a father”) in order to give the
listener’s responsive mind the needed time to swing
over thoroughly into each profound comparison as it
is made and all of this quite unconsciously !

It is just such instant and spontaneous application of
the various means of expression in detail that makes for
eloquent phrasing. In such a phrase, for example, as :

“who saveth thy life from destruction/’

one can hear the pitch normally rise to the word life,
then fall ; while the long and short, and strong and
weak syllables would together produce some such
natural rhythm whether in speech or chant as this :*

O) ( (

JIJ J^JN-7J S – > S IJ .Ml

who sav – eth thy life from de – struc – tion.

But in the end, the whole technique of utterance would
subconsciously bring to light the design of the psalm
itself: its exuberant start, its deepening thought, its
sorrowful reflections, and its final reckless ecstasy of
trust and praise. The choir would discover strong,

* The reader cannot too carefully guard himself from reading
these approximate note- values as a fixity to be literally observed.
No mensural music ever survives such treatment ; much less can
chanting or speech be held literally to any notational aid. The
picture in notes is needed, only to help the mind to freedom and
clear concepts. Given these, the voice will escape the common
danger of turning notes into fetters.


ringing, swift utterance at the outset, still more at the
end, with perhaps a natural attargando of the very last
six words, while the intermediate verses would be
markedly varied, quieter, lower, slower by turns.

In the case of an inspired and cultured reader this
would all occur naturally and without premeditation
or study. But the fact has to be faced that the indis-
pensable condition of spontaneity is too often absent
in the case of singing, because the boon of a mastered
and unconsciously applied technique is far less frequent
in the singer than in the speaker.

Indeed, when all is said, the crucial question will
still recur : Can what happens naturally in the case of
sincere reading, and that only after long unconscious
practice, be acquired and become our ordinary use in
corporate worship, even on the very simplest lines here
suggested ? Well, the only true answer to this recurrent
question seems to us to be a persistent and faithful “Yes,”
but not at the expense of worship itself. Though it is
true that present-day singing is a far less natural art
than present-day speaking; though the singing in-
stinct in man, woman and child has been badly
damaged by the performing sense ; yet the thrill of
simple choral melody as an actual carrier of the rapture
of worship beyond all speech has been, and can be
attained by the humblest of folk. The process of mak-
ing it the accepted thing through the whole country,
indeed through the whole of Christendom, must needs
be slow. Only very gradually will people come to sing
as un-selfconsciously as they speak.

With all these things in mind, we would strongly


urge the reader to pursue his own line of thought and
study of English as a vehicle of the creative mind,
whether in worship or in anything else. But we wish
to warn him beforehand that, while the general popu-
lar understanding of the simple principles of utterance
discussed here is so urgently needed, it is but a pre-
liminary ; and all that is written in this chapter should
be read in order to be forgotten. For whether in speech
or song it is notoriously fatal to be thinking of one’s
voice or its effect. Yet the five points must be so
assimilated as to be forgettable. Like bodily nourish-
ment, they have to be “inwardly digested.” Both
agreed speech and agreeable song can, indeed, attain in
action to a molten amalgam of all factors of eloquence,
but only when all are mastered and none remembered.
Only inspiration can use and forge technique as it
chooses ; and inspiration comes, not by careful tuition,
but by care-free intuition. We would remind the
reader of Sir Walter Parratt’s remark to a singing bird :
“Ah, my little dear, you wouldn’t sing like that if you’d
been taught 1” Yet this luminous quip of a great
teacher would only darken counsel if his fellow-
teachers took it to mean “away with your teaching 1”
It can only mean that all good singing lies on the fur-
ther side of the forgotten pains of learning. Physically,
we are as free-born singers as the birds. Spiritually,
we must continually take pains to attain freedom. That
it is gloriously worth it in this matter of worship-
music, all must agree.


“SHARING each other’s tastes for good things, and
therefore competing with one another, we have devised
a system of distribution of our activities. . . . Dis-
interestedness is a feature present in art as well as in
virtue. . . . Fine art unites men into society in respect
of production, virtue unites them so in respect of
practice. . , .” S. ALEXANDER : Beauty and other
Forms of Value.


“Gird yourselves with humility to serve one another.” ST. PETER.

THE title of this chapter describes in a brief and
homely way the first necessity of all good choral
work, from the simplest to the most elaborate.
It is borrowed from sport, because the games field
provides the best illustration of the fact that in any kind
of communal activity unselfish co-operation counts for
more than brilliant individualism. This is true even of
a pair at tennis, as it is of a couple playing or singing
duets ; it is immeasurably truer of a football team and
of a choral society ; and the principle applies above
all to a church choir, whose organization and work
must take account of certain non-musical conditions.
The church choir is, in fact, a choral body sui generis, for
reasons that are, we think, worth examination, because
they bear on the most vital aspects of the choir’s work.
The qualifications for membership of a choral society
are purely musical, and rightly so ; whereas entry to a
church choir is (or ought to be) via membership of the
church. Such a term as “religious test” is unpopular
today. Very well ; let us avoid it and put the case in a
way that is as inoffensive as it is uncompromising. The
church choir is a section of church workers drawn from
the congregation, like any other voluntary church
organization ; and practising membership of the church



ought to be as naturally assumed in the case of a church
singer as of a church parish councillor, a lay reader, or
a district visitor. A church choir is therefore not an
independent organization, but a small section of the
congregation we might call it an executive com-
mittee in the most literal sense, with the choirmaster as
chairman charged with the musical interests of the
congregation. The method by which a choir will fulfil
that charge varies widely in accordance with the local
needs and traditions, the wish of the incumbent and
congregation, or the policy of the choirmaster arrived
at after consultation with the incumbent. A poorly
equipped choir may find itself highly tried by the de-
mands made on it ; on the other hand, a highly efficient
or ambitious choir may be called on to limit its activi-
ties to a point far below its attainments and desires.
Herein lies a fundamental difference between a church
choir and a choral society a difference so obvious that
it needs to be pointed out from time to time. A choral
society’s performances are limited only by the musical
ability of its average member : those of a church choir
must always be governed by a number of conditions
that apply to no other performing body, and chief
among these is the factor (again obvious, and almost
universally ignored) that the hearers are not an audi-
ence, but a gathering of fellow-worshippers whose
primary interest in the proceedings is not musical.
Indeed, to some of those present any music that is not
simple may be a distraction rather than a devotional
stimulus. Nor can this minority be ruled out of the
discussion on the ground that it consists of a handful of


admittedly unmusical people, for it is an easily verifiable
fact that the preference of this minority is shared by
many trained musicians. That the extremes of musical
and non-musical folk may thus hold the same view on
a musical question is a fact and a significant one that
is too rarely considered by choirs and choirmasters.

This difference between a choral society and a church
choir being granted that the former is a purely musical
organization singing to an audience interested in choral
music, and the latter a small body of lay-workers de-
puted to lead their fellow-worshippers in praise and to
beautify the service further, so far as their skill allows
and time permits this difference granted, it follows
that church choir membership demands an unusual
degree of unselfish co-operation. And by co-operation
we mean not merely a pulling together among the
members themselves, but something more difficult and
vital : the choir must be united in aim and spirit with
the clergy and congregation.

Now union, as the proverb says, is strength ; and to
the question “Why ?” the reply is as obvious as the
proverb. But is it not equally true that the strength is
the result not only of common aim, but of common
sacrifice as well ? No collection of individuals can com-
bine without some concession on the part of every
member. Let us see how this applies to our church
choral team.

Votes of thanks to a voluntary choir invariably lay
stress on the time the members willingly give to the
practices. But time is not the hardest thing to sacrifice :
church music ought to cost singers more than that.


The musical needs of the church may call for sacrifice
in regard to likes and dislikes ; attractive and familiar
things may have to be dropped in favour of some that
are at first (perhaps even permanently) unattractive.
The giving of an hour a week is a trifling sacrifice in
comparison with the loyal undertaking of an uncon-
genial task. A choir that holds together cheerfully
during an unpopular change of regime is exemplifying
team spirit of the highest type.

This kind of self-denial is not confined to the choir :
the congregation may be no less highly tried. The giv-
ing up of a popular bad hymn-tune in favour of a good
new one may, to the detached observer, seem but a
trifle: experience often shows it to be what Mr. Chester-
ton would call a Tremendous Trifle. On the other hand,
zealous church music reformers may have to be content
to make haste slowly in raising the standard of taste in
choir and people. Old associations inevitably count for
much in any kind of communal music ; to disregard
such associations even more to scoff at them is to
rouse a spirit of opposition that may tend to establish
the “old favourite” even more strongly. It is a far from
rare experience to find a congregation split asunder
over the choice of a hymn-book, or even of a solitary
tune. A disaster of this kind points to a lack of tact
on the official side, or of reasonableness in the congre-
gation; and it is a regrettable probability that both
parties will be concerned less with the doctrinal sound-
ness or the spiritual value of the hymns than with the
character or quality of the tunes to which they are sung.


Of the musical and non-musical aspects of the team
spirit, we have dealt with the latter first because it is
usually the less regarded of the two, despite its funda-
mental importance. (The give-and-take demands of
choral singing are far more easily met, if only for the
reason that their urgency is more apparent.)

As this book is not a musical primer, but rather an
attempt at a considered statement of aims and ideals,
we do not propose to deal exhaustively with the techni-
cal side of choir training, especially as the ground is
already well covered by textbooks, particulars of which
will be found in the bibliography. Instead, we choose
for discussion a factor that is usually passed over, either
because its importance is too little realized, or because
it is taken for granted. This factor is listening ; and
we enlarge the term into the listening habit, because
listening on demand, so to speak, is a cure, whereas
listening by habit is a preventative.

Elsewhere in this book we summarize such purely
vocal requirements as blend, balance, intonation, and
ensemble into an alliterative trinity of activities
toning, tuning and timing.

They are attainable only through listening : the
singer must listen to himself, to his fellows, and to the
accompaniment. To himself: a less natural process
than it may seem to be. Every teacher and student of
solo singing knows that the person least aware of the
quality and character of tone being produced is the
singer himself. His is more than a case of being too
near the instrument, or even of being the instrument
itself, for the instrument is inside him ; he is a mere


container. That is why the student begins by taking
the word of his teacher as to whether he is producing
good tone ; he develops the habit of listening acutely
to himself; he observes the physical sensations that are
both cause and effect of the varied qualities of tone
comprised in his voice ; and he ends by being able to
play on this hidden and most sensitive of all instru-
ments with the ease and resourcefulness of a pianist
or violinist. Now, this constant listening and testing
is well within the power of the average choir-singer,
with, of course, the co-operation of the choirmaster.
Any keen and competent choir-trainer who has had
long experience of teaching boys of the ordinary parish
church choir type will bear witness as to the readiness
with which they will develop a listening faculty that
begins with inculcated habit and ends by being in-
stinctive and subconscious. The high standard of the
best English boy trebles is ample proof of what can
be done in this way with material that is available, in
great or small measure, in every centre of population.
The adult untrained singer is a more difficult pro-
position : he starts, as a rule, handicapped by bad vocal
habits, whereas the boy begins with a clean slate ; and
the more highly developed mentality of the grown-up
may be a hindrance rather than a help because like
the adult voice itself it is more “set,” and less elastic
aad responsive than that of the boy. Nevertheless,
that average untrained adults are capable of being
developed into capital chorus singers is proved over
and over again at Competition Festivals, the best results
often being achieved by choirs from villages and small


towns where a few years previously a choral society did
not exist. There is a recent case on record where the
village in question not only had had no choral society,
but where the villagers broke into astonished laughter
when their first conductor produced a stick for conduct-
ing. They had never seen one ! But before their second
year was out, they had taken two first prizes and the
Wakefield Medallion at their county festival. What
is done in all parts of the country by these choral
societies ought to be done by the church choirs that
draw their material from the same source. That it is
not done is patent.

Nor will it be done until the church choirmaster
ceases to confine his attention to the boys in regard to
vocal training and sight-singing. Let the difficulties be
granted : the men are present at one weekly practice,
whereas the boys are usually present at several; the
practice attended by the men is actually a rehearsal
for the ensuing Sunday rather than a practice at which
fundamentals and general principles can receive atten-
tion ; and the presence of the boys precludes special
work for the men, partly because it involves dangerous
inactivity for the boys, and even more because the
feelings of the men have to be considered : they
naturally object to their deficiencies being exposed
before youngsters. It is rarely possible to obtain
the presence of the men for an extra practice, even
if the choirmaster can spare the time ; but a plan that,
from personal experience, we know to be successful is
the tacking on of even a quarter of an hour extra for the
men at the end of the full practice. It will usually be


found that, having reserved the evening for choir-work,
they will not grudge this extra period. (Occasionally,
when the Sunday work is well in hand, the full practice
may well be shortened for the benefit of the men’s
training.) In this weekly quarter of an hour a great
deal of valuable work may be done by a choirmaster
who is able to deal with elementary matters in an
interesting and practical way.

The two subjects that should be given first place in
a men’s practice are voice-production and sight-reading.
It must be said frankly that there is a tendency, in
church choir and choral society alike, to shirk these
subjects, on the ground that singers dislike them. But
is not the real” reason more often the inability of the
teacher himself? Few choirmasters have themselves
received any vocal training since their childhood : the
fundamentals of singing are alike for all voices, but
there are difficulties in the use of the adult voice that
can be overcome only by a trained adult teacher. The
necessary preparation need be neither long nor costly :
a couple of terms with a good teacher will enable a
choirmaster to show his basses how to “cover” the
tone in order to produce musical and expressive top
notes instead of a shout, and to demonstrate to his
tenors the use of the light or “head” register. He may
help himself, too, by studying a few of the many simple
practical books on the subject (included in the bibli-
ography). Nor can the choirmaster, amateur or pro-
fessional, afford to neglect the valuable aid offered by
the admirable choir-training examinations of the Royal
College of Organists. There ate two grades, one fo


the non-diplomees of the College a scheme specially
designed for the amateur and semi-professional and
a more exacting one for those who hold the Associate
and Fellowship diplomas. Here it may be said in pass-
ing that the standard of choir-training will be greatly
improved when incumbents, and others who are re-
sponsible for filling appointments, show a preference
for the holders of the College Choir-Training Certificate.
A good organ player is an acquisition, but a good
choir-trainer is a treasure, even though he be only a
moderate hand at the keyboard ; for, when all is said,
the congregation may easily escape voluntaries by a
punctual arrival and an expeditious departure, whereas
the results of bad choir-training have to be endured.

In addition to the R.C.O, choir-training examina-
tions there are frequent courses in the subject at the
headquarters of the School of English Church Music
(St. Nicolas College, Chislehurst) ; and in most dioceses
there is a Church Music Committee under whose
auspices summer schools and other educational gather-
ings are held. Never, in fact, had choirmasters so many
facilities for learning their job cheaply and pleasantly
as they have today. But in the long run, we repeat, the
responsibility rests on incumbents and church councils.
It is their plain duty to put first things first by engaging
a choirmaster and organist rather than an organist and
choirmaster ; to insist, when filling an appointment, on
(a) unequivocal testimony to the applicant’s choir-
training ability ; or () the possession of an R.C.O.
certificate, or evidence of attendance at a School of
English Church Music training course. In cases when


a promising organist is already in office, they should
enable him to take advantage of facilities for improving
himself as a choirmaster, by granting occasional leave
of absence, adding, if necessary, such small financial
aid as may be called for.

Returning to the problem of the training of the
choirmen, let it be assumed that no special practice for
their benefit is possible, or that the choirmaster is un-
able to give them instruction on the purely vocal side.
Even in these discouraging circumstances much may
be done where there is goodwill backed up by the
common-sensible and practical qualities that are lumped
together in the term gumption. A good deal of voice-
training may be done by simple and indirect means that
need little skill on the part of the teacher, and that have
the further advantage of being palatable to men who
would shy at the term “voice-production,” Thus, even
the roughest voices shed a good deal of their crudity
if the choirmaster asks for (and sees that he gets) plenty
of soft and m&gy-forte unaccompanied singing at the
weekly practice ; and the custom of singing unaccom-
panied at least one verse or hymn at every service will
speedily bring about an all-round improvement besides
adding a touch of variety. A familiar hymn-tune or
chant, or a phrase of it even a single chord can be
used as a medium for practising blend, balance, breath-
ing (sustaining evenly for a given number of beats after
a quiet deep intake of breath), and articulation (simple
sentences, some of them chosen or invented to over-
come faults and to develop virtues ; counting at vary-
ing speeds is particularly useful, as it constitutes a


multiple exercise intonation, blend, balance, quality
of tone, articulation and the counting serves to
register the breath-control) ; add power contrast and
nuance ( == = a ^)> and a common chord may be
made an attractive and easy vehicle for development
of many of the fundamentals of choralism. New
chants and hymn tunes can be made valuable means of
developing sight-singing and good tone. Instead of a
part being played over and imitated, parrot-wise, by
the singers, it should be read, no matter how much
stumbling occurs ; and if new and unfamiliar chants
and hymns are hummed and vocalized, all vowels
being used in turn, sometimes preceded by a consonant
chosen with a special object (/ and </for tongue, p and
m for lips, n for nasal resonance, and so on), the music
will be assimilated and the voices improved rapidly.
Humming is especially valuable as a cure for bad tone,
throatiness and forcing ; good free humming (i.e., with
the facial muscles relaxed as in the involuntary hum-
ming expressive of a contented mind) is, in fact, one
of the safest and best of all exercises ; and though
simple and fundamental, it can always be resorted to
with profit and pleasure.

(There is general agreement amongst prominent
choral trainers, especially in the most important North
of England centres of choralism, as to the value of even
a slight knowledge of tonic solfa as a basis for sight-
reading. Prejudice against the system still exists in
some academic quarters, especially among musicians
who are primarily instrumentalists ; and their objections
are in part due to the attitude of solfa extremists who



regard the method as an end in itself rather than as
(i) a quick and easy means of learning to read, in-
valuable in circles where time is limited, and (2) as a
stepping-stone to intelligent use of the staff notation,
the system which has three irrefutable claims : (a) it is
historic, (&) its usage being practically universal, it
constitutes the nearest approach to a world-language,
and (r) it is the only notation in which the whole of the
musical repertory is expressed.

The sight-reading problem is one that must be faced,
for the choral situation today is anomalous. There is
probably more widely diffused choralism than ever
before, yet the level of sight-singing is perilously low.
We say “perilously” because of our conviction that the
splendid choral work now being done in rural and
other small centres cannot be fully developed much
of it, indeed, will probably cease unless the standard
of sight-reading is considerably raised. It is no exagger-
ation to say that a very large proportion of the members
of choirs of all kinds are musically illiterate ; the older
members of church choirs and choral societies are (we
hear from many quarters) inclined to shy at sight-
reading classes ; the younger members, many of whom
acquired the rudiments of tonic solfa in their school-
days, find little opportunity of developing their know-
ledge of the system, still less of using it as a basis for
staff-reading. The future of choralism is with these
young members : can they be expected in this age of
speed and many counter-attractions to retain their
interest in choral work when the weekly practice con-
sists of tedious repetition of a few part-songs, learned


mainly by ear ? Or of church choirs, by whom even a
new hymn-tune has to be picked up, part by part, after
countless playings over ? Reading that depends over-
much on “ear” is an expensive makeshift expensive
in time and labour and in subsequent mistakes in per-
formance, for the results are rarely safe : the mastery of
a tricky passage demands a conscious use of mind and
musicianship rather than of instinct, and these faculties
must work through a ready visual grasp of notation.
Hence the truth of the doggerel summary : “Ear-reading
is dear reading ; sight-reading is right reading/’

The explanation of the low standard of music-
reading in church choirs is simple. The bulk of the
repertory is published in staff-notation only; the staff
is difficult to teach to those who come fresh to it in
adult years ; even adults who know the staff through
previous experience as pianists find it by no means
easy to sing from. (On keyboard instruments the notes
are ready-made, and all intervals and combinations of
sounds are equally easy ; singers have to make their
own notes, and to the inexperienced there are few easy
intervals outside scale passages and the notes of the
common chord.)

The sight-reading difficulty is accentuated by the
fact that the choir members who need help the most
are those whose practice-time is least the adults. It is
often said that boys need no instruction in sight-
reading : they acquire the gift naturally. A truer state-
ment of the case is that boys learn to read quickly
(by association of signs seen with the sounds heard)
in spite of the lack of knowledge or specific instruction,


and because of advantages not possessed by their adult
colleagues. They are quick in the uptake ; the mere fact
that they are schoolboys as well as choristers ensures a
degree of receptivity denied to grown-ups whose minds
and habits are set, and whose interests lie in a hundred
other directions ; both the imitative faculty and the
memory are at their best in childhood ; and, above all,
as the treble part usually consists of the tune, it is more
easily “picked up” than any other part. Even the fact
of its being the top part counts for a good deal, as is
proved when boys are called on to sing a second treble
part of fair difficulty. On the whole, however, if time
is limited, choirboys can get along pretty well without
much sight-reading practice, though the wise choir-
master will take advantage of the knowledge of tonic
solfa they acquire at school ; and he will use it especially
in the overcoming of difficult intervals and changes of
key. One element in reading, however, should always
be taught to boys : time-values of notes and rests.
Tunes may be picked up ; time must be taught. Right
notes sung out of time become wrong, and in a way
that is often disastrous. The use of such a book on the
elements as “The Little Choir Book,” by Thomas
Curry (Novello, ifd.), will save much labour and
temper all round ; and a very practical and attractive
way of getting over the difficulty is a set of scale
exercises by Walter S. Vale, in which all the most com-
monly used note-values and rests are employed. It is
published by the Faith Press, and costs a mere penny.
The habit of beating time by a slight movement of the
hand should also be encouraged.


Choirmasters and choirs alike are naturally reluctant
to grapple with the problem ostensibly on the ground
of lack of time. Yet, met aright, the difficulty can be
overcome at small expense of labour and time. “There is
no doubt,” says Dr. W. G. Whittaker (one of the many
music educationists who are also tonic solfa enthusiasts),

“that the best way of teaching the staff, which
ought to be the object before every worker in
the singing-class field, is through solfa, using
thoroughly its methods and as much solfa nota-
tion as is necessary to gain the ultimate goal. . . .
Every staff step should be preceded by its equiva-
lent in solfa. . . . It is a mistake to postpone staff
notation until singers are able to read fluently in
solfa. . . . Many teachers imagine that when they
teach facts about staff notation they are teaching
their class to sing. This shows misunderstanding
of the very basic principles of sight-singing. The
knowledge that a certain line is E, that a certain
sign is a crotchet, is of no more value in sight-sing-
ing than the theory of relativity. The principle
enunciated by John Curwen, ‘Teach the thing be-
fore the sign, the sound before the notation/ is
a fundamental law. The less theory that is taught
the better ; there should be only the barest mini-
mum, and that should be introduced only when
practical work has reached a stage which demands
it. A fact which is not used frequently is quickly
forgotten and time spent over it is wasted. First
teach your class to read, and then to know a few
simple facts about notation.”*

* “Class Singing,” by W. G. Whittaker (Oxford University


Reading first, facts later : how wild the idea sounds !
Yet it is worth a trial by those who have drudged away
at the names of the notes on the lines and spaces, the
functions of the sharp, flat, and natural, and so forth ;
only to find that, after all, the singers continue to guess
rather than read, the musically endowed guessing well,
the others . . .

“The thing before the sign, the sound before the
notation :” experience will prove this to be an as-
tonishingly easy process. Every person not tone-deaf
finds little difficulty in identifying and singing the
notes of the common chord dob, me^ soh, dob the
framework of the scale on which most modern music
is written. With a little practice these may be sung in
any order and at varying pitches ; solfaing from the
staff should then begin, any line or space being used for
dob. The next step is vocalizing from the staff, i.e. sing-
ing the notes of the chord to a vowel sound instead of
to the solfa names (lab is often used for such vocalizing,
but as it is the name of a note, the plain vowel ah is
better; other vowels may be used with advantage,
sometimes preceded by a consonant, pah, nah> and mob
being especially useful). The framework of the scale
having been thoroughly mastered, the filling-in may
be done, the best order being ray, te, fab, lab. The
sharpening or flattening of notes is easily taught by
being dealt with first in solfa, mainly because the effect
is suggested by the names if ah sharpened becomes/*? ;
te flattened is taw, and so on. Even these early stages of
approach to the staff seem complicated when set forth
on paper. Actually the process is simple. A skilled


teacher can, in fact, lay the foundation of good reading
by the use of no more elaborate apparatus than his
hands the left held up fanwise to represent the scale,
the forefinger of the right used as a pointer. He would
probably begin with two fingers, taking the little finger
as doh> the next as me^ with the space between for ray,
adding the remaining fingers and thumb with their
spaces one at a time. All the fingers and spaces in turn
should be used for dob. The hand can then be used to
represent the staff, the dob still being movable. This
method is as old as the hills as some hills, at least
for Guido d’Arezso used the left hand in an even more
elaborate way, each finger-joint representing a note, the
result being analogous to the Tonic Solfa modulator.

For the average inexperienced teacher especially
if he be himself a beginner in solfa there is an excel-
lent set of little textbooks called “The Dual Notation
Course,” particulars of which are given in the biblio-
graphy. By the use of these, the teaching of solfa and
staff proceeds simultaneously from the first.

We have dwelt at some length on this matter, be-
cause we are convinced that the future of choral sing-
ing in this country is largely bound up with it. A very
large proportion of the finest choral music, sacred and
secular, is compounded of simple passages that any
normally intelligent person ought to be able to sing
at sight. And, for the encouragement of the timid, we
repeat that even a very slight knowledge of solfa is
an invaluable aid to reading from the staff, especially
if it be backed up by some familiarity with the “time-
names/’ (These are a simple set of syllables that teach


note-values through rhythm, just as solfa teaches the
staff through a grasp of intervals and the relationship
of the notes of the scale.)

Convinced by our first-hand acquaintance of the
astonishing results obtained by use of the solfa system
in teaching choralists of all sorts, from infants to
adults with no previous musical training and with little
time to spare, we end this chapter with a few facts
designed to remove the anti-solfa prejudice that still
exists among professional musicians.

First, we quote the opening paragraph of the eight-
column article, “Tonic Solfa/’ in Grove’s Dictionary
(1928 edition):

Tonic solfa is the name of a method of teaching
sight-singing from a special form of notation
which has had the most far-reaching effect in
promoting popular choral singing throughout the
British Isles.

So far from the system being opposed to the staff, it
sets out to supply the best of approaches thereto. Staff
notation is the growth of centuries, and, having de-
veloped slowly and simultaneously in many countries
to meet all needs, it contains elements that are puzzling
to the beginner. Admirably adapted for all compre-
hensive and instrumental purposes, it is difficult for
singers in early practical stages, especially in chromatic
and dissonant passages. Tonic solfa is an explanatory
and, as such, a severely logical system, free from the
difficulties of the staff, where explanatory processes are
necessarily outgrown. (Chromatic passages, for in-
stance, give very little trouble in solfa, owing to a



principle of key-transition which, in effect, leads to the
employment of only one key.)

Though the solfa system is less than a century old,
it has a mediaeval basis, its sound-names dating from
about a thousand years ago. Here, in modern notation,
is the plainsong hymn, “Ut queant laxis,” written by
Paulus Diaconus, about 770; a couple of centuries
later Guido d’Arezzo, observing that the opening notes
of the first six of its seven phrases made up the hexa-
chord (the scale from C to A), adopted the syllables
sung to these notes, and used them as names.
Ut que-ant lax – is R<? – so-na – re fi-bris Mi …. ra ges- to-rum
– li tu – o-rum, Sol ve-pol-lu – ti La-bi – i re – a – turn,



Do was substituted for Ut in the seventeenth cen-
tury, and adopted throughout Europe except in France,
where Ut is still used. (The origin of the Do is doubt-
ful ; it is either the first syllable of Domintts, or of Don*,
the name of an Italian musician.) At the end of the
sixteenth century Si was adopted for the seventh note
of the scale, being changed to te in 1 83 5 by Mss Glover
of Norwich, the originator of the system that was later
perfected by the Rev. John Curwen, who changed Sol


to So6 9 and invented the modified names for sharps and

The principle of key transition referred to above has
for its basis the Movable Doh 9 examples of which may
be found in any plainsong of fairly extended compass,
the clef being placed on any one of the four lines, in
order to avoid or minimize the use of leger lines. On
this point Grove says :

The syllables attributed to Guido were a nota-
tion, not of absolute pitch, but of tonic relation ;
his ut 9 re, mi, etc., meaning sometimes

and sometimes

and so on, according as the tonic changed its
pitch; and this ancient use of the syllables to
represent, not fixed sounds, but the sounds of the
scale, has been always of the greatest service in
helping the singer, by association of name with
melodic effect, to imagine the sound. The modern
innovation of a “fixed Do” is one of the many
symptoms (and effects) of the domination of instru-
ments over voices in the world of modern music.

And an interesting footnote tells us that Sir John
Herschel (whose musicianship has been forgotten
owing to his fame as an astronomer) in an article en-
titled “Musical Scales” written for the Quarterly
Journal of Science in 1868 said :


“I adhere throughout to the good old system of
representing by Do, Re, Mi, Fa, etc.., the scale of
natural notes in any key whatever -, taking Do for the
keynote, whatever that may be, in opposition to
the practice lately introduced (and soon, I hope,
to be exploded), of taking Do to represent one
fixed tone C the greatest retrograde step, in my
opinion, ever taken in teaching music, or any other
branch of knowledge.” (The “fixed Do” is the
system preferred in France and Belgium, but has
been definitely rejected in England.)

The conclusion of the matter is that the time and
work so ungrudgingly given to church music by
thousands of boys and men in parish church choirs
can yield only half results (if even that) so long as they
remain in a state of musical illiteracy. A choirman who
is unable to read a simple passage at the first or second
attempt ought to be regarded as an anomaly instead of
a common object of the seashore ; and for the parson
who says he is fond of music, and adds heartily (as if
it were a matter for pride) that he doesn’t know a from
, the word anomaly is too mild.



THESE are not so much musical matters, per-
haps, as ethical ones that cannot be omitted from
a book of this kind.
Loyalty and efficiency cannot be obtained without :

(a) Complete adherence to the appointed leader.,
coupled with

() Complete accessibility of the leader to the
thoughts and suggestions, critical and other-
wise, of the choir itself.

There is no such thing as a musical autocracy in a
healthy choral team : the whole personnel is respon-
sible. For every choral “building” has an architect : the
composer. The builders are the singers, and the con-
ductor a foreman-builder whose word at the moment
of rendering must be unifying law. But it must be
borne in mind that the builders are something more
vital still : they are the very stones of the building,
down to the humblest “one-note man.” They are all
living stones, singing with fitting will and mind : hence
the perpetual need of freedom to tell the foreman how
and what they feel about it. This means that good
practices should have the soldierly touch of drill under
command, plus the social touch of committee-work
under a benignant chairman. The idea has often been
achieved, and the results, so far as we know, have never



failed, provided the social choirman does not cease to
be soldierly, and the amenable leader never ceases to
be commanding.

Some modern factories have a suggestion-box by
means of which employees offer their ideas of improve-
ment in administration. But, within bounds, all choris-
ters may well make their thoughts known at the very
moment they occur to them. Give choirboys the chance
to suggest improvements in pointing of psalm verses or
in tempi ‘in anthems, and they will show both enthusiasm
and sense in a high degree, with what has been called
“respectful familiarity,” often to the great increase of
interest among the whole choir. The grown-ups are
less willing to risk being right or wrong. This is un-
fortunate, because it is usually this department of the
choir that needs most the vitalizing effect of an occa-
sional discussion of methods. In any case it may safely
be remembered that while agreed leadership, loyally
upheld, is vital, mere command to do it in this or
that way, exclusive of all other ideas on the point,
will never succeed. Autocracy (with the lid on) may
succeed elsewhere never in church. One is reminded
of the remark of a sixth-form boy to his wisely com-
panionable headmaster at table one day : “Head, you
are eating too fast 1” “Oh, thank you, my boy.” Such
working humility among efficient leaders and en-
couragement of respectful candour at practice would
banish its devastating opposite of covert discussion of
shortcomings out of earshot of the supposed short-
comer. This frankness is within the reach of all.

It has already been pointed out that among choral


bodies the church choir is sui generis, and the term neces-
sarily applies also to its discipline and leadership. The
well-disciplined choir is known less by its singing of
extended works (in which field it has much in common
with a choral society) than by its ability to overcome
the difficulties that are peculiar to its constitution and
work. These are worth a little discussion from a prac-
tical point of view.

As is shown in Chapter V., the singers work under
very different conditions from those that govern any
other performing body of musicians. Much of the
activity often the largest part of it, indeed is in-
evitably concerned with routine. Week in, week out,
year after year, the same small but vitally important
things have to be said or sung, the same physical acts
of devotion and deportment carried out. It is fatally
easy for the routine to become “mere,” and the acts
casual and slovenly. Too often the responses, Amens,
and other details are half-hearted and flabby ; the walk
degenerates into a slouch, the kneeling into a crouch.
These faults are hard to cure because the matters in
which they occur lend themselves less well to practice
than do the more substantial and attractive parts of
the service. The perfect response, monotone, and
Amen may be achieved with ease in the practice room :
the difficulty lies in transplanting this perfection into
the choir-stalls. The perfect detail in any affair of.
routine results, not from the fitful crusade, but from the
careful habit. The crusade may be indispensable, but as
it is usually the result of some weeks of slackness, it
ought to be regarded as a costly remedy, and its need


avoided by constant watchfulness on the part of the
choirmaster. The parson, too, has his responsibility
here : a slovenly response to a slovenly versicle is far
more a matter of cause and effect than is usually
realized. Indeed, the degree to which a choir is sub-
consciously affected by the reading, intoning, and
general conduct of the service by the officiant is a
factor that, so far as our observation goes, is rarely

We suggest that the simplest and most effective way
of dealing with the minutia of a choir’s work responses,
Amens, walking in procession, standing, and kneeling
is to regard them together as a matter of demeanour or
deportment, and to deal with them systematically. For
the singing of a plain Amen or response depends less
on musical ability than on attention, just as seemliness
in physical attitude and processional walking is a detail
of good conduct, not a feat of athleticism : both are, in
short, merely good choir manners.

It will generally be found that a choir will respond
readily to an appeal based on this ground. Nobody
likes to be accounted ill-mannered, and it ought not
to be hard to show that the code for the sanctuary,
like that for every kind of social meeting-place, is
based on thoughtfiilness and consideration, plus that
highest kind of good manners known simply as

Still, some kind of practice may be necessary, and
it is a good plan to set apart a few minutes of one
rehearsal per month or so for the overhauling of
responses and Amens ; and, as the casual singing of


responses is sometimes due to the use of one set only,
it is advisable to ring the changes on two or three.*
So far as processional walking is concerned, an occa-
sional rehearsal is necessary ; and if such a useful official
as a ceremoniarim is available, the choir should be handed
over to him for the occasion. In default, the parson
should at least be at hand, if only in order to help the
choir to realize that the need for care and thoughtful-
ness on their part does not end (though it may begin)
with the music.

It may be useful to consider a few further practical
points. Slovenliness in standing and kneeling is often
the result of inconveniently planned seats and desks.
Such furniture is usually an antique fixture, often more
pleasing to the eye of the visitor than to the anatomy
of the user. A good deal may be done in such cases by
the provision of hassocks or kneeling-racks of a con-
venient height ; and desks may often be made more
practicable without serious damage to their appearance.
In furnishing a new church, or in replacing old choir-
stalls by new, among the first points that ought to be
considered are practicability and convenience. Let the
various designs and measurements be tested in the only
satisfactory way, i.e. by experimental use of the boys and
men, kneeling, sitting, and standing ; the height of the
desk ought to be such that prayer-books can be used
kneeling and music-books standing, without handling.

* Choirs that are accustomed to unaccompanied singing of
fairly difficult five-part polyphony, should consider the collection
of “Responses by Tudor Composers,” recently issued by the
Church Music Society, edited by Sir Ivor Atkins and Dr. E. H.
Feliowes (Oxford University Press, is. 6d.).


Holding a heavyish volume during a long stretch of
singing is tiring for the singers and very bad for the
book; indeed, the lifetime of all the choir music
(especially single copies of anthems and services) is
more than doubled if it can live on the desk instead
of in the hands sometimes hot and careless of the
singers. (This latter point applies also to the furnishing
of the practice room.)

As to walking, whether it be merely a progress from
vestry to choir stalls, or a liturgical procession, mere
commonsense will rule out the swinging arms, the
stride, and the roll. A choir should need only an occa-
sional reminder that (i) steps should be short ; (2) the
feet should be placed almost as if walking a plank (this
automatically cures a tendency to sway from side to
side) ; (3) when no books are carried the arms should
hang easily with no more than a suspicion of a swing
(some choirmasters favour folded arms, but two things
are to be said against this : the pose is not natural, and
when it happens to be combined with a roll, the result
is doubly unfortunate) ; (4) the procession should sug-
gest walking in files rather than in pairs ; the width
between files should be a couple of yards or so (rather
less than more) if the dimensions of the passage-way
allow; and the walkers should follow each other at
about an arm’s length. (The measurement should not
be guesswork: it should be ascertained at an occa-
sional rehearsal by the simple process of each member
placing his hands on the shoulders of the member
in front : the space will soon be subconsciously main-
tained.) We return to that word “natural”: it is not



natural for boys to walk with downcast eyes and hands
clasped as if in prayer : the method may suit the illus-
trated catalogues of church furnishers in which it so
often figures, but it doesn’t belong to real life. Finally,
the choir (and the clergy) should look neither to the
right nor to the left ; a roving eye and a distracted
mind go together. Good choir-walking is a substantial
addition to the dignity of a service : straggling, jost-
ling, staring, and arm-swinging are bad manners, made
worse when displayed by the very people whose duty
and privilege it is to set the standard.



THE musical responsibilities of the parson are
three-fold : (a) To the art itself, () to the organist
and choir, and (i) to the congregation. As to (a) :
there can be no fitly sung liturgy without a musically
competent officiant. The term “musically competent”
is not exacting, for it demands no more than ability
to take a note, and to use the singing voice in tune,
rhythmically, and with reasonably good tone in the
preces at Mattins and Evensong ; in monotoning the
Collects ; and in singing the Sursum Corda and Prefaces
and the Creed and Gloria intonations at the choral
celebration of Holy Communion. These simple re-
quirements can be easily met by all but the tiny
minority who are tone-deaf. If those who are not so
afflicted are content to remain incompetent, they are
setting a poor example to the organist and choir, who
co-operate with them in these portions of the service,
and who therefore have a right to expect the necessary
degree of accuracy. The Report of the Archbishop’s
Committee is unequivocal on this point. The following
is from the section headed “The Parson* 3 :

“. . . when he cannot sing the officiant’s part
accurately, it is better that he should not attempt
it, and that in that case the singing of responses
should be dropped. This need not prevent the


singing of the Sanctus, though that, properly speak-
ing, is continuous with the versicles and preface.
These the celebrant must sing at the pitch corre-
sponding with the Sanctus, or not at all. But other
versicles and responses can be sung at any pitch
which may suit him, inasmuch as they link on to
nothing but the reciting note of the prayer follow-
ing them : and there is no difficulty in the singers
taking their pitch from him provided they sing in
unison. Similarly the “Amens” should not be sung
unless the prayer has been said upon a fixed note.”

As the necessary type of musical training is now be-
ing added to the curriculum in an increasing propor-
tion of Theological Colleges, such an anomaly as a sung
office being spoilt by the officiant should soon cease
to be (as it is now) of frequent occurrence.

The requirements discussed above constitute the
minimum of what may be required musically of the
parson. A great deal more is often asked of him, how-
ever, and it is in view of such contingencies that the
Report emphasizes the need in Theological Colleges
for a musical training, simple indeed, yet far beyond the
preces and monotone stage. The Report says :

“We feel constrained to urge that it is essential.
The clergy in every parish in the country now have
to take a leading part in services that in some de-
gree are musical; in many places numerically,
indeed, in most they must direct them, unless
some more competent musician can be found or
. paid for. Often it is on the parson, or perhaps on
his wife, that the duty falls of supervising at least,
if not actually directing, the music.


“The question therefore arises as to the pro-
portion of educated men who are incapable of
music. It has been said that tone-deafness is as
rare as colour-blindness ; and, if this is so, it is
clear that we are wrong if either in Church or
State we treat music as an educational luxury for
the few.”

() The incumbent’s position in regard to the
organist is a frequent cause of misunderstanding on
both sides. The ultimate responsibility for the music of
a parish church rests with the incumbent, who “has the
right of directing the service, e.g., when the organ shall
and shall not play, and when the children shall and shall
not chant, though the organist is paid and the children
managed by the churchwardens.”* “Organists have no
legal status, and no ecclesiastical position as such/’f
Cripps’s “Law Relating to Church and Clergy” is
more explicit, and shows in what other ways the
organist is, legally, of no account :

“As the minister is to direct at his discretion
what parts of the service are to be sung, and to
exercise a general superintendence in such matters,
it follows that he may direct by whom the singing
and chanting are to be principally performed,
whether it be instrumental or vocal, and, in fact,
make any new orders or regulations relating
thereto as he may think fit, but subject to the
general controlling power of the ordinary, who is
the proper person to consider complaints. The

* Blunt and Phillimore, “The Book of Church Law” (quoted
in Archbishop’s Report),
f Ibid.


appointment or dismissal of singers or instru-
mental performers in the church rests entirely
with the minister, who might dismiss them in-
dividually or as a body, appoint a different
method, or prohibit singing altogether, if he
thought proper, subject, however, as we have
already observed.”

This undignified position of an important official
(especially in regard to insecurity of tenure) is utterly
opposed to common-sense and the good of the church.
“The music-director’s position should be made secure
against arbitrary dismissal or capricious action, and an
appeal should lie to the Bishop/ 5 * The formation of
parochial councils has eased the organist’s situation
somewhat, inasmuch as the incumbent is far less likely
to take any kind of strong action without the know-
ledge or consent of the congregation’s representa-
tives: but legally the position remains as stated in
the above quotation.

Many causes of friction would be removed by the
formation of a Church Music Committee consisting of
the clergy, the organist and choirmaster, the church-
wardens, and a group of representative men and women
of the congregation. In addition to the help it could
give in the settlement of differences by discussion, such
a committee might well play a useful part in assisting
the development of the organist’s plans in regard to
congregational singing, the provision of books for choir
and people, the supply of recruits for the choir, etc.

Relations between parson and organist have improved

* Archbishop’s Report.


during recent years, partly because organists generally
are not only better qualified musically, but also wider
in their interests and therefore more companionable.
The Organists’ Associations have done much good
work in this respect, by periodically bringing together
the organists of a district for social meetings, rambles,
lectures, and discussions (not always on music, wisely),
and so forth; and the frequent co-operation of the
clergy in the Association’s activities is another helpful
factor. On their side the clergy are realizing the wisdom
of appointing as their musical director a thoroughly
competent man, and then leaving him to do the

The attitude that should not be taken is implicit in the
question an ordinand asked a cathedral organist who
had been lecturing at a Theological College : “To what
extent shall I be able to interfere with my organist ?”
We do not know the organist’s reply, but it might
have been on these lines : “The question is apt, and
shows a praiseworthy desire to avoid an unduly op-
pressive attitude towards subordinates. You will be
able to interfere, legally, far more than you probably
imagine. Thus, as the custody of the organ is yours,
you may forbid its use at any time, ensuring obedience
by locking it and losing the key. If the organist uses it
for teaching purposes, it must be with your consent.
As to wedding and other fees : professional custom
(based on common-sense and courtesy) rules that they
are payable to the organist, even though the bride’s
second cousin plays at the ceremony. You may, how-
ever, override mere professional custom, and so enable


a couple to begin their married life by economizing on
the commodity that in England is a popular means of
retrenchment, i.e., music. You will find it easy to get
rid of an organist who doesn’t suit you ; he is, in fact,
easier to sack than the sexton. This is hard on the
organist, whose income usually depends less on his
church salary than on the teaching connection that he
has laboriously built up. If you force him to change his
post he will usually have to begin all over again. You
should therefore think at least twice before dismissing
him. It may interest you to know that this right of
arbitrary dismissal of the organist by the parson was so
frequently exercised in the past, and led to so much
hardship, that as recently as 1 9 1 7 the matter was brought
to the notice of the Archbishop of Canterbury by a
deputation from the Royal College of Organists. To
proceed : You may at any time alter the entire musical
character of the services, introducing plainsong, or a
new hymnal, or florid settings, without consulting
anybody ; the choir, like the organist, is at your com-
plete disposal, and you may decide to do without them
whenever it pleases you. It seems incredible that all
this power is vested in one who may be entirely un-
musical, but there it is. In fine, all these things are law-
ful for you ; but . . .”

Does this sound bitter ? If so, the bitterness is not
towards the clergy, who nowadays to their honour be
it said rarely take advantage of their legal position.
The imaginary reply to the actual ordinand is a sum-
mary of the incumbent’s rights and the organists’
wrongs ; and it expresses the feeling of organists con-


earning conditions of employment that dishonour both
the church and the art and profession of music.

Happily, there is an increasing amount of virtue in
that “but” : all the available evidence shows that the
relations between clergy and organist are better than
they have ever been. Occasional disputes are exploited
by the cheaper press, for the good reason that they
make better “copy” than the harmony that now genet-
ally reigns : to most parsons thek organist is a “good
fellow,” to most organists their vicar is “one of the
best.” And it is a happy augury that this greatly im-
proved state of things coincides with the widespread
awakening of interest in church music.

(i) The parson’s musical responsibility to his congre-
gation is to a considerable extent bound up with his
relationship to organist and choi. Experience shows
that the majority of a congregation can be persuaded
to agree to considerable changes in the musical ar-
rangements if the matter is handled tactfully. For ex-
ample, the introduction of a new hymnal may split a
congregation beyond reunion if the change is made
without due preparation and discussion. A general
meeting of officials, choir, and people is usually the best
opening move ; and if the meeting can be addressed by
the organist (who should back up his remarks on the
musical advantages of the proposed change by a few
choice examples sung by the choir) so much the better.
The Parochial Council or the Church Music Commit-
tee should then go into the matter thoroughly, after
a few weeks’ personal examination of copies ; and, the
new book having been introduced, the utmost tact


should be used in the choice of times until it has be-
come established. New tunes should not be “shot at”
the people, but their successful introduction ensured
by congregational practices. This is an instance of the
kind of episode that, well handled, unites parson,
organist, choir, and congregation. The method de-
scribed is not mere theory : it was adopted at a London
church within a few months of the publication of the
“English Hymnal.” (In an adjacent parish it happened
that the book was introduced in the inconsiderate way
with disastrous results.)

In all the musical matters of a parish church the need
is for co-operation between parson, organist, and
people, even in regard to apparently unimportant
details. This must not, however, be allowed to dero-
gate from the position and authority of either parson or
organist. The parson has the last word on the liturgical
side ; and the organist (we assume one duly qualified)
should be the ultimate authority on the music despite
the legal ruling quoted at the beginning of the chapter.
Differences there must be, and in a surprisingly large
number of instances they will be the result, not of slack-
ness on either side, but of keenness. Regret need not
be wasted on such crises : they serve a purpose. Met
as they should be met by colleagues in the service of
the Church, their solution will prove, like “the falling
out of faithful friends,” to be yet one more bond of



A GLANCE at the solo anthems of the Restora-
A\ tion period will show that one of the most
recurrent and insidiously besetting sins of music
as the voice of worship is found in the solo perform-
ance in church. And yet what is to be done ? “What
finer sermon in the world, at the fitting moment, than
Handel’s “He was despised”? Even the composer him-
self was, we are told, melted to tears by its performance.
Who that has ever heard the solo in that old anthem
of “Wise’s, “The ways of Zion,” can forget the ex-
perience ? A little play upon the words may here help
to clear the point and indicate its solution. Music can
be the voice of worship; but, when a single voice
carries the whole burden, it may degenerate into the
worship of voice. This is the crux.

So great is the danger that it needs a short chapter
to itself, and (to our regret) the chapter must begin in
the style of a friendly homily to those gifted with a fine
voice. If a parson went home after preaching, praying
or reading, and said to his wife: “Wasn’t I in fine
voice ?” one hopes she might reply, “What about the
Gospel ?” But if a singer does the same, the remark
seems to need little or no correction. Yet it is certain
that soloists who think of their own powers while
singing will induce a subtle diversion from the main



issue among the worshippers ; personal admirations or
dislikes will set in ; and ultimately comes the degenera-
tion spoken of above.

It is far from our intention to disparage a fine voice
and its utmost cultivation. We desire only to stimulate
serviceable reflection among soloists themselves, and
those who control church music ; for, even when the
singer is above reproach and wholly self-effacing with-
out effort, as, happily, the average solo boy is, congre-
gations still have a way of going from church thinking
rather of the singer than of the song.

There seems one paramount suggestion to make,
apart from recommending the fullest development of
choral songs as being naturally more impersonal and
to the point in church than solo songs. The suggestion
is mainly offered to the singer, and it is this : Consider
every solo note sung in the course of a service as sung
on behalf of the whole choir ; that is, form the habit of
feeling the burden of the musical thought of the many
upon the mind of one, that one happening for the
moment to be yourself. This can scarcely fail to release
you from self-consciousness, which is at all times a
singer’s natural bugbear, and, of course, a deadly enemy
to worship. It can scarcely fail to give you new zest and
certainly new responsibility yes, and responsiveness
too. Your power to put every ounce of life and thought
and voice and judgment into the beauty of the sung
words will steadily increase with the formation of such
a habit. Incidentally it will tend wholesomely to unify
the solo and choral parts of any given anthem, and tend
towards the attainment of that ideal state of worship-


music “wherein the listener “will scarcely be aware
whether the medium is a voice or an instrument, or
one voice or many.*

Some practical aspects of the question may now be
discussed. There are clergy and choirmasters who,
considering only the undesirable possibilities of solo-
ism touched on above, object to any form of solo sing-
ing. Undoubtedly there is a risk of both vanity and
jealousy ; but is the avoidance of the risk worth the
cost of one of the most natural and effective means of
obtaining variety and contrast ? On moral and musical
grounds alike it is surely better to develop to the ut-
most the musical potentialities of the choir, in the in-
dividual and the section no less than in the mass, and
to be prompt with the word in season when the soloists
tend to show vanity and the non-soloists jealousy.

The degree of risk will, of course, depend largely on
whether the choir is composed of keen church members
who regard their work as a duty and privilege, or of
ambitious singers to whom the church choir presents
an attractive weekly public platform. The keen church
members are not immune from vanity and jealousy ;
but their presence in the choir is due to a sense of duty
and responsibility that makes it possible for the choir-
master or parson to appeal to them on grounds that
mean little or nothing to singers whose qualifications
are purely vocal. It cannot be too tenaciously remem-
bered that the best generator of the spirit of co-opera-

* Santley’s maxim, “Sing mentally during the rests,” may
be recalled in this connection, as the ideal for all choirs when
one of their number is singing alone.


tion in the church choir is always the spirit of worship
itself, the expression of which is the choir’s raison
d’etre. The point has been fully discussed in Chapter V.;
it is referred to here because it crops up in regard to
the solo question, as it will crop up in many other con-
nections. Experience will show that there is hardly any
problem in the morale and discipline of the adult section
of a choir that is not readily solved if one of the quali-
fications for membership of the choir is membership of
the church, A less stringent method of recruitment
may produce numbers ; it will certainly be popular ;
and by its inclusiveness it is likely to lead to consider-
able musical results. But the success will be bought at
a price, and the music sung may be the voice of some-
thing other than worship. For when a choir is allowed
to develop into an undenominational concert party the
congregation is likely to degenerate into an admission-
free audience.

We have said that the various forms of solo singing
are natural and effective means of obtaining variety and
contrast. It is unfortunate that the term “solo” has been
reduced to its narrowest meaning, literally correct
though that meaning may be. Much of the dislike of
the mere word “solo” in connection with parish church
music is due to this fact. Now, the genuine soloist is
born rather than made : to the qualities produced by
training must be added others that no amount of train-
ing can give, although it may help in thek development,
Le. imagination, individuality and the faculty of simul-
taneously generating and controlling the touch of
incandescencewe had almost said excitement that


differentiates a moving interpretation from a mere de-
livery of the text. Nor is the born soloist distinguished
by these attributes alone. Voice counts, too, but here
the important factors are not of the usual vocal type.
You may hear a choirmaster say of a boy or man, “Yes :
a capital voice for chorus work, but not a solo voice.”
In other words it has power and range, but lacks
character, appeal, colour qualities that can, in fact,
reveal themselves to the full only when the voice
possessing them is heard alone. The average church
choir may be without a genuine soloist for a long spell ;
or it may enjoy a vintage period with several. Refusal
to make use of such a gift on the ground that the singer
may become vain, or his colleagues jealous, is waste of a
precious gift a waste that cannot be justified. To bury
one’s own talent is bad ; to bury that of others is surely


Hardly less to be deprecated is the irresponsible
undertaking of solos by singers lacking the real solo
voice and temperament, the more so as there is an ad-
mirable quasi-solo effect available in every choir fairly
strong in numbers. This substitute too little em-
ployed, so far as our observation goes may be de-
scribed by the apparently contradictory term “solo-
ensemble/’ A passage for treble solo sounds far better
when sung by a dozen quite ordinary voices that have
been unified than it does when treated as a solo, unless
the soloist be first rate. Individually, not one of the
dozen may be capable of singing alone even a verse of
a simple hymn ; collectively, they are rarely less than
pleasing; at their best they are transformed into a


choral medium of extraordinary appeal. Moreover, the
preparation of a solo-ensemble number is one of the
best forms of training. The music being purely melodic,
and lightly accompanied, demands an unusually high
degree of unity in tone and precision in utterance :
defects that might pass in part-singing are mercilessly
exposed in a solo-ensemble. On all grounds, therefore,
this use of boys’ voices is to be encouraged. The music
suitable for the purpose varies so widely in character
and degree of difficulty that there is something for boys
of every degree of attainment, from an occasional verse
of a hymn or psalm up to brilliant oratorio songs such
as “Let the bright seraphim,” or some expressive aria
of Bach. And, we repeat, the excellence achieved in any
one of them, from the simplest to the most elaborate, is
reflected in the singers’ work in general.

There is much to be said for a similar treatment of
tenor and bass solos. Modern composers, indeed, seem
to be ahead of choirmasters in their realization of this,
for they frequently give such optional directions as
“tenor solo (or all the tenors)/’ A familiar example of
the fine effect of a men’s-voice solo-ensemble is the
section “Being born again” in S. S. Wesley’s “Blessed
be the God and Father.” Passages of a quiet melodic
character for all the tenors or basses of a choir, or for
tenors and basses together, ought to be not less effec-
tive than the dramatic quasi-recitative in Wesley’s
anthem. A few merely ordinary voices, of poor effect
heard singly, will together produce a composite result
that in tone, colour, and vitality far exceeds what would
be expected from the constituents. For it is a fact


well established, but too little regarded among choral
trainers that the defects of individuals cancel one
another in the mass. Thus it is often remarked (with
surprise) that a crowd of untrained and mostly in-
different voices heard together do not sound like (say)
a hundred indifferent voices, but like a large good one
of a new and curiously moving even thrilling sort.
And this is true of even a small well-directed force of
men or boys : the sum is immeasurably superior to the

The most important solo-ens emble, however, is the
quartet. Here, again, it will be found that four quite
ordinary voices can, by diligent practice, develop into
a highly artistic unit. Indeed, the best results are not
usually obtained from solo voices. A proof of this un-
expected fact is to be heard at a performance of
“Elijah/’ where the quartet is usually better sung by
four members of the chorus than by the soloists. For
the very qualities that distinguish born soloists in-
dividuality, temperament, and marked tonal charac-
teristics are apt to make them unsatisfactory in en-
semble. The best quartets are often the result of mere
competence plus co-operation.

The musical possibilities of a good quartet the
team within the team are almost inexhaustible. They
may be given any quiet section of an anthem or ” set-
ting,” a fauxbourdon to a verse of a hymn or psalm
(the throwing into relief of an occasional verse of a
psalm, by this and other means discussed in Chapter X.,
is a device rarely used: even a single verse so treated
can vitalize a whole psalm) ; they provide one of the



most natural o musical effects when singing antiphon-
ally with the remainder of the choir ; and, not least,
they make possible a neglected but beautiful and tradi-
tional method of harmonising portions of the liturgical
chant sung by the congregation and led by the rest of
the choir. At present such harmonizing is almost con-
fined to the organ.

Choirs strong in numbers and of good average
quality should possess both decani and cantoris quar-
tets, and the two combined give yet another team with-
in the team a semi-chorus, thus opening up further
possibilities in variety, and especially in antiphony ;
and where resources are ample the personnel of the
quartets may be changed from time to time in order
that the interest might be spread and the benefit of the
experience and training extended to as many members
as possible. Something analogous to the rota system
of cathedral choirs might be adopted : just as the
cathedral choir has its decani and cantoris “verse”
weeks, the large church choir should have its decani
and cantoris quartet and semi-chorus or “verse”
months. Let no choirmaster think this is over-elabora-
tion : most of the weaknesses of parish church music
are due to a lack of system. There is far too much of
the characteristic English go-as-you-please, hand-to-
mouth method, and far too little planning ; and one of
the worst results of this absence of policy is the casual
attendance in voluntary choirs. Some form of rota, by
detailing a proportion of the members for regular
special duty, develops a se&se of responsibility. It may
be argued that members of the quartet might be


irregular in attendance when not on special duty. The
answer is two-fold : such members are likely to be
irregular under any circumstances ; and regular attend-
ance during periods of obligation should surely do
much to develop the right habit. We are convinced, in
fact, that the policy of the team-within-the-team. would
ultimately justify itself no less on disciplinary than on
musical grounds. The theory that all the members are
equally important all the time is attractive, but in
practice it is apt to end in unanimous ^importance.

There remain the choirs unable to raise even a quar-
tet : what is left for them in the way of quasi-solo ?
They have the answer in the almost universal method
of antiphonal chanting. The decani and cantoris ar-
rangement should be applied to other parts of the ser-
vice. Hymns present an obvious field. It might well be
a regular practice for all hymns containing more than
three verses to be sung by alternate sides, excepting the
first and last, which should be always full the first in
order to ensure a good lead for the congregation, the
last because the principles of musical performance de-
mand a climax at that point (a climax not necessarily
of power ; quiet unanimity can be even more impres-
sive). The “full” treatment should also be applied to
any verse midway that calls for it. Confusion as to the
allotment of verses can be avoided by the simple ex-
pedient of adopting the plan used in chanting the
psalms : the sides automatically take even or odd
verses. Half-hearted singing of hymns especially long
ones results mainly from fatigue and lack of interest
and variety. After having sung the Mattins canticles


and psalms, a choir (especially one with imperfect
methods of voice production) is apt to peter out, show
signs of strain, or to rest in spasms during long hymns.
It is surely better that the resting should be done by
sides, with a purpose. Moreover (since even when de-
cani and cantoris are well-balanced and well-trained,
there is pretty sure to be some slight difference in vocal
colour), the antiphony provides welcome contrast as
well as ensuring a greater degree of diligence than is
usually achieved when everybody is optimistically ex-
pected to sing everything. A further method of obtain-
ing variety and ensuring brief periods of rest is the
giving of occasional verses to boys and men in alterna-
tion. The question of compass must, of course, be con-
sidered : the tune must not be so low as to be ineffective
for trebles, or so high as to be a strain for the men. So
far as the latter are concerned, it should be remembered
that an occasional high note matters far less than the
general “lie” of the tune its tessitura, to use the tech-
nical term. (In Chapter IX. more is said concerning
the varied treatment of hymns.)

As with psalms and hymns, so with anthems and set-
tings of the canticles. In any but the very shortest
examples opportunity should be found for the anti-
phony of decani and cantoris not so much for the
resting of the voices as for the provision of variety and
the development of responsibility and confidence ; for
there are obvious psychological reasons why anthems
may be far less tiring than psalms and hymns.

We have tried to show that in all but the smallest
and least well-equipped of choirs there are possibilities


of solo and quasi-solo utterance waiting to be devel-
oped. A reader asks, “Isn’t this over-organization ?”
Let the answer be in the form of further questions : Is
it more than (or even as much as) any enterprising
choral society or orchestra would find advisable ? Has
any church choir been wrecked through too much
planning and looking ahead ? Hasn’t many a choir
stagnated through lack of it ? And can any system that
develops a choir’s possibilities, both individual and
corporate, be other than good ? The musical gains are
obvious ; and, given wise direction, nothing but good
(and a great deal of it) can result on the social and dis-
ciplinary side. We cannot believe that a properly-con-
stituted Church choir would be rent by jealousy and
dissension because some of its members are given the
opportunity of using their gifts to the full in the service
of the church. It is surely not too much to expect of
a singing team the reasonableness of a cricket team,
which plays some members specially for their bowHng
and some for their batting (the soloists, so to speak),
others for their fielding and general proficiency (the
purely chorus members), and even includes a few others
less for what they are than for what they promise to
become with practice (the probationers). Is a cricket
team in danger of breaking up because the captain con-
sistently arranges the order of batting in accordance
with the players* ability, or opens the attack with his
best bowlers ?



CONGREGATIONAL singing, the world over,
is probably most associated with hymn singing,
and both the beauties and the defects of our
hymn-tunes are perhaps accounted for by this fact.
When a mass of worshippers sing together, not only is
an agreed metre or measure of lines something between
a convenience and a necessity, but an agreed pattern or
measure of related longs and shorts is also a most natural
and quickly acceptable unifier of massed utterance.
Think first of the common-metre pattern as we know it
today : its reliable alternative of seven syllables with six
are made to meet the needs of the largest number of
the simplest people, and, incidentally, it gives a very
convenient half-way house (at the end of the second
line) for breathing, and for rallying, too. But all too
soon it can become dead-alive, by reason of the uni-
formity of note-value prescribed to be helpful. Think
next of the simple agreed phrase-patterns of long and
short such as the familiar

or Monk’s “Eventide.” It will easily be seen how
that life, interest and unifying power would all be



lessened the moment these patterns are ironed out
into metres of equal notes :

A b

i” f-” c?
\vy <- / ^ n
j j
fj <- i
1 1

What Dr. Geoffrey Shaw neatly calls the “minimity” of
our congregational singing has accounted for much,
both of its great quality and sad defects in past years. It
is glorious to hear the vitalized congregational minim
in the merely metrical 8 6 (CM.) ploughing along,
gathering momentum, for ever uniform, for ever free
serving as the inspired stride of such a great hymnal
utterance as, e.g. :

God moves in a mys-tet-ious way His won-dets to per-fonn.

But it is depressing to watch the effect of this very thing
in decay ; listless lazy minims begin to succeed each
other in dreary monotony for perhaps eight times
twenty-eight dead notes, with equally deadening pauses
every eighth, fourteenth, twenty-second and twenty-
eighth notes. Children may be seen looking about
them listlessly as their grown-ups go on their minim-
izing way. Men of ideas stand bored. Young people
remain outside the church, letting distance and fading
respect supply what little dying enchantment this thing
can retain.

The preservation of the real thing and the removal


of its abuse, both of them, can be secured only by a
contagion of enthusiasm. It is no cute of this particular
minimity to requisition lilting folk-songs. On the other
hand, to oppose the present post-English Hymnal vogue
for these is to forget the inherent oneness of a folk
love-song (at its best) with a folk Christian-song. Lilt
is a heavenly attribute whether in the one or the other.
And here we are back at the patterned hymn-tunes,
the second kind of congregational tune mentioned
above. The extreme instance is to be found in the
tune “Helmsley,” which proved to be closely akin to
a popular hornpipe “as danced by Miss Catley at Sad-
ler’s Wells,” and yet became associated for a century
or more with what is perhaps the most solemn of
Advent hymns. Even this coincidence need not
drive us to an extreme dislike of metrical pattern in
hymn-tunes. The hymnal of the future will probably
contain in equal abundance both metrical tunes of
unvaried note-values and those of fittingly varied note-
values. The Old Hundredth will survive, we hope,
in both variants :

” – 1
/o ^
i u * o , ,a *~ M

If choice were offered, we should, without hesitation,
choose the first for public school use. With the semi-
breve as unit, it has interest, thrust, animation; and boys


would be well served by all these in both hymn and tune.
For 5,000 people singing in the Albert Hall on some
significant moving national occasion, it might well be
that the minims would refuse to be short enough to
make the semibreves bearable. So the majestic stride
already referred to would assert itself, and away with
pattern as an inadequate unserviceable attribute, at
such a moment, with such a concourse.

In Chapter XL the choice of tunes is discussed from
its present-day practical and (it may be added) often
embarrassing angle. Here we desire to centre our
readers 3 thoughts upon the necessity for the vital accept-
ance of both orders of congregational hymn-melody,
and to point out that failure in either will be best
averted if both the unpatterned and the patterned line
or phrase which are the units of congregational
song be accepted and both more diligently vitalized,
and congregations given opportunity for and help into
their natural stride in both kinds. It is painful to hear
adult Christians singing childish, snippety rhythmic pat-
terns, slowly, to hymns of adult character. When a tune
gathers momentum while it is sung, verse by verse,
til] the last verse sounds “full-out” and thrilling, this
splendid result is usually due to the happy discovery of
the right tune for the congregation that so sings it. It is
the business not only of the editors of every hymnal
but of every parson and choirmaster to try patiently
to discover and use such tunes. This elementary matter
of momentum is too often ignored. For example, an
organist will play a tune over in a lifeless, rhythmless
way, or at an obviously unsuitable pace ; even if he


plays at the tight swing for the congregation, the
parson will perhaps arrest the momentum and stop
the whole proceeding to read out the first verse ; the
congregation will then struggle to its feet ; and the
hymn will finally make a start of the kind that may
be expected after such preliminaries.

Hymn singing is the largest musical part for the
congregation. It may not be, however, their chief part
in the ideal service. One can, indeed, imagine that the
perfect unity of choir and congregation for a single
moment in one fervent Amen may be a more memor-
able and significant part of any good service than any
other musical moment in it. And it is good to realize
that by far the most hopeful sign on the church-music
horizon in England today seems to lie in the direction
prefigured by Robert Bridges in all he said and tried
to do for chanting our language in its most natural
way. Chanting is fully dealt with in its own chapter
later. But of precisely the same order of natural singing
for multitudes together are the Amens, responses and
refrains. When these are at their fervent best, and con-
gregations are given a melody that is right for its pur-
pose in pace, pitch, speed, rhythm, speech-inflection, and
always of fitting loudness and softness, we are likely to
realize hopes already raised.

It may now be useful to turn from general considera-
tions to the present position and the immediate oppor-
tunities that are likely to offer for advancement along
sound lines, be it by ever so small a step at the moment.
Although it is a first need that Amens, responses, peti-
tions and refrains be kept so simple as to be well within


the powers of the people, this general need and policy
must not rule out the occasional and timely elaboration
of Amens that have special significance, in which only
the choir and experienced musical worshipper can take
part. For when devotion grows profound, devout musi-
cians incline to enrich the expression and tax or outstrip
congregational ability by adding notes in various ways
that involve both melodic and harmonic elaboration.
This is seen in the Dresden Amen, and in Stainer’s
well-known and often impertinently derided sevenfold
example;* and it is easy to see how an Amen which arises
spontaneously out of heart-felt utterance, designed to
give worshippers ampler endorsement of their own
prayer, begins also, by the very same natural process, to
grow into a form too ornate for use. This crossing of
the line between that which is and is not congregational
is likely to be in constant need of watching and order-
ing rightly as between congregation and choir. For
example, it should not rule out the use, on special
occasions, and by skilled choirs, of the beautiful re-
sponses by Byrd, Morley, and other early composers.
The greater church festivals may well be marked in
this way ; and such occasional change from the usual
settings is incidentally a preventive of the staleness
that is apt to result from unbroken repetition of the

* The mete mention of Stainer’s sevenfold Amen is sufficient to
raise a smile among ” superior ” church musicians who tolerate
and even advocate a good deal of music that is no better in
quality, though it may be of more distinguished origin. Ob-
jectors ought to state frankly whether their dislike is due to
its sevenfold character or to the name of its composer. The
first is a reasonable ground of objection ; the second is not.


simpler musical details of a service. The so-called
Festival Responses of Tallis should be reserved for such
special use. As at present used, they are uncongrega-
tional. In theory the people should sing the simple
plainsong inflections that form the core of Taliis’s
setting ; but as these inflections are not very easily
traceable throughout, it is not surprising that the people
either remain silent, or (what is sometimes worse) try
to sing the treble part, which only sopranos and tenors
can manage comfortably. Hence the advisability of
adopting, for normal use, such simple responses as the
set issued by the Church Music Society, or a good
edition (that is, one with appropriately strong and
simple harmonies) of the responses known as Tallis’s
Ferial, or of those in the “Manual of Plainsong”
(Novello, id.). They should be sung unaccompanied
if possible, and the method should clearly be that of
good chanting. Congregational singing of such parts
of the Liturgy can be surprisingly impressive ; and a
hearty co-operation of choir and people in the opening
responses is usually followed by good congregational
singing during the remainder of the sendee. On the
other hand, there are few more depressing experiences
than to find the opening invocation, “O Lord, open
Thou our lips,” followed by stubborn silence in the

Good congregational singing of the psalms is an
ideal at present but rarely attained. The canticles and
a few of the more frequently used psalms are manage-
able by the people, because the pointing becomes
memorised ; but, in general, congregational chanting


demands congregational psalters and practices. We
have known excellent results from the provision of a
few dozen copies of the pointed psalter provided, like
hymn-books, for the people’s use ; indeed, the interest
roused has been so great that many members have
bought copies for themselves. At the church we have
in mind, a monthly congregational practice was the
rule, and the psalms for the ensuing Evensong were
practised. Concerning the methods of holding a con-
gregational practice, more will be said later. Here we
wish to endorse and emphasize the view that congre-
gational singing will never even approach its best until
a start is made on the principle that the fundamental
principles of choralism should be aimed at in the nave
no less than in the choir. Attack, unanimity, vital tone
and rhythm : these call for no degree of skill beyond
that attainable by any normally intelligent crowd of
adults. The congregation, though a large body, ought
not to need time to “get under way” : their start ought
to be as alert as that of the choir; they ought to move as
firmly, and to show the same feeling for rise and fall and
climax. It is not too much to say that in these primary
matters the singers in the nave ought to be as good as
those in the choir, the main difference between the two
bodies being that the latter are called on to add to those
fundamentals certain other qualities demanded by the
more difficult music assigned to them. The singing
congregation should, in fact, regard itself as an ex-
tension of the choir from the chancel to the nave,
just as the choir is a portion of the congregation
promoted from the nave to the chancel m order to


carry out certain duties for which it is qualified and

To mention this distinction between the two
bodies is to indicate the cause of frequent failure in
congregational singing. A glance at plainsong shows
that the early Church provided for both skilled and
unskilled singers. Probably the impetus to congre-
gational singing given by the publication of “Hymns
Ancient and Modern” did some damage by encouraging
people to join in such anthems (or portions of them)
as were familiar. Be that as it may, the line of demarca-
tion has become absurdly obscured, and, despite the
improved state of congregational singing, there are still
too many churches where the people are either entirely
silent or not silent enough. At first sight the latter
appears to be the lesser evil ; but where everybody tries
to sing everything, nobody sings anything really well.
Is half-hearted singing better than none at all? We
doubt it. Plainly the need is for frank facing of facts,
followed by organization. It is unfortunate that so
many clergy shirk the simple task of conferring with
their organist and then making the result known either
in the parish magazine or by a few words during the

In churches where there is a capable choir it is
insufficient to tell the people that their hearty co-opera-
tion is desired : this vagueness often leads to unhappy
results, for there will always be a few disposed to rush
in and co-operate heartily at the wrong moment. The
principle should be clearly laid down that there are
parts of the service for the choir alone, and for choir


and people combined ; later may come the further sub-
division of choir alone, choir and people together, and
people alone. Even this does not exhaust the easy
possibilities of variety and contrast not merely for
their own sake, but because of the part those qualities
play in vitalizing a service. A book rich in historical
interest, “Congregational Hymn-Singing in England,”
by Dr. W. T. Whitley, has recently been published by
Messrs. Dent. Its final chapter, by Dr. Eric Thiman,
entitled “Recent Thought and Tendency in Congre-
gational Singing,” deals so fully and common-sensibly
with the topic under discussion that we refer the reader
to it. A passage on this matter of organization, how-
ever, ought to be quoted here. After discussing faux-
bourdons and descants as a means of variety, Dr.
Thiman adds :

“There is one further variety of congregational
unison singing which is not explored as much as
it might be ; for not only is it easy of performance,
needing no special parts or elaborate preparation,
but it is in addition probably as old as religion
itself ; and it is strange that ministers and organists,
knowing something of the method of singing the
psalms employed in the temple at Jerusalem in
pre-Christian times, do not make more use of the
practice and possibilities of antiphonal singing.
One sometimes hears hymns thus treated, with
verses taken alternately by women’s and by men’s
voices, to a tune such as Filii et Filia or Veni
Emmanuel, which does not permit of harmony
singing ; and undeniably effective all will admit it
to be, especially when the antiphonal verses are


alternated with verses sung “full.” But it is not
generally realized that a most effective extension
of this idea might be arranged by dividing the
congregation up into, for instance, north gallery,
south gallery, and transept, for succeeding verses,
the whole congregation to take the first and last.
Few organists will have heard this done, and many
will probably have no conception of how thrilling
the “full” verses become when contrasted with
the “sectional” ones. So simple is the idea that
one can only marvel that it has not been tried to
any extent ; and as for the initial arrangements, it
would only be necessary for the minister when
announcing the hymn to indicate the allocation of
verses ; and in churches where a printed service
paper is used, it could easily be printed thereon.
There is that about antiphonal singing that seems
to spur the congregation on to the best efforts
possible ; no doubt the natural feeling for emula-
tion and competition is partly responsible ; but
there is in addition the fact that all parts of the
congregation have a chance to rest their voices,
with the result that when the turn of each section
comes round, the allotted verse is attacked with
freshness and enthusiasm. Be that as it may, the
fact remains that where antiphonal singing has
been tried, all are warmly in favour of it, and as a
means of spurring on a lukewarm or lethargic
congregation, there is no better method.”

These are the words of a practical organist and choir-
master ; there is nothing in his suggestions that cannot
be easily undertaken by any parson and organist who
together are not afraid of doing something that has
not been done before in their particular church. One


of the writers of this present book many years ago
found it easy to organize the singing of a London
working-class congregation in such a way that
some special weekday services and a full Sunday’s work
(during the absence of the choir on holidays), were sung
by the people, the men’s and women’s voices being
used in alternation, and combined in Glorias, doxolo-
gies, refrains and final verses of hymns, and so forth.
The results included the thrill of which Dr. Thiman
speaks ; and nobody seemed to see anything odd in the

But for congregational singing to become the fine
thing it may be, congregational practices are indis-
pensable. Only by such means can the faults that are
inevitable in the first singing of an untrained mass be
dispelled. Matters of simple discipline are contagious.
For example, a congregation without great difficulty
may be induced to start a hymn alertly and unanimously
by a few minutes of practice and persuasive exhortation
devoted to that point. It is not hard to convince them
that, so far as aids to preparedness are concerned, they
have the same facilities as the choir. Given a familiar
tune, hymn-boards, announcements, and playing over
of the first line, there is no reason for a single laggard
in the nave. Nor have congregations any more excuse
than the choir for dragging or being at sixes and sevens;
for shouting a verse that clearly ought to be sung
quietly ; or for failing to rise to a fervent climax. They
have ears and eyes, and the suggestions and stimulations
of the organ accompaniment are for them no less than
for the choir. Such elementary shortcomings can be



cured easily where there is the spirit, and a monthly
congregational practice ; hardly otherwise.

The regular practice is necessary, too, when new
tunes are to be introduced. Nothing is more likely to
prejudice a congregation against a new tune than to
introduce it without preparation, especially if it super-
sedes one that is popular. And it is the finer tunes that
are apt to suffer most in this way, because the very
qualities that make them fine are apt to be missed at a
first hearing, especially when there is in the air a more
or less conscious feeling of opposition. Besides, a con-
gregation (especially one that is insistent on its “right”
to sing) ought to be no more expected or allowed to
“pick up” its new tunes during a service than a choir
its anthems. Both choir and congregation need to be
reminded that their privileges and rights carry with
them obligations and duties ; and the monthly practice
for the people ought to be as regular an institution as
the weekly practice for the choir.

As to the “when” and “how” of congregational
practices : in most churches the half-hour before Even-
song will usually be the best time. There may be some
distraction due to the arrival of those who are either
late for the practice or early for the service ; but the
attendance will usually be good because few people
object to coming a little earlier for a specific purpose,
but many dislike remaining after the service.

For the “how” we must summarise methods that
we have personally found successful. The best teaching
medium is the conductor’s voice, so the first desidera-
tum in the conductor is a voice which he is neither


afraid nor unable to raise (more or less pleasantly) in
song as well as in speech. Playing over on the organ is
far less effective : the use of the instrument is best re-
served for a verse when the tune has been pretty well
grasped. The position of the conductor depends on
the size and acoustics of the building. In a small “dead”
church the chancel step is a good place : if there is
much echo a short distance down the nave will prob-
ably be found better. A roving method is often good,
but the conductor who adopts it must beware of speak-
ing with his back to most of the congregation. The
less formal and schoolmasterish or ecclesiastical his
method, the better. The qualities needed are those
with which a good choral society trainer keeps his class
alert and interested. Hymn tunes will form the staple
of most practices, especially in the early stages ; later
may come responses, chanting (but only when at least
a portion of the people are provided with psalters, and
then always antiphonally in some convenient way) and
the congregational parts of the service the Creed and
Gloria to Merbecke or plainsong, etc. Hymns to which
descants are sung should be tried, in order that the
people may learn to hold to their part; otherwise some
will try to sing the descant, while others will merely
listen, some with pleasure, others with annoyance. A
few words on any point of historical or musical interest
will generally be appreciated.

It is a good plan to begin the practice with a fairly
familiar hymn that is to be sung in the ensuing service ;
it gives the proceedings a heartening start, and is sound,
both educationally and psychologically, proceeding as


it does from the known to the unknown, and it induces
the right “can do” feeling. A congregation of good
average intelligence and musical ability, and supplied
at least in part with music editions of the hymn-
book, can soon read a new tune after hearing it sung
or played once. If the conditions are less favour-
able, a line at a time is a good method. Words and
music alike are more thoroughly taught, and the
singers kept on the alert, by some such plan as this
(with a four-lined hymn) :

First line of verse i
First line of verse 2
Second line of verse 2
First two lines of verse 3
Third line of verse i
Fourth line of verse 2
The whole of verse 4

This may appear to be fussy, but it works, because
it spreads the study beyond the first verse ; the repeti-
tion of the musical phrase to a fresh verbal phrase is
good memory-training ; and, above all, it keeps the
interest alive. Many tunes contain repetitions e.g. line
3 is often a repetition of line i ; in many Welsh eight-
lined tunes only four lines have to be learned, the
form being : a.b.a.b.c.d.a.b.* 9 and the tune to which “Ye
watchers and ye holy ones” is sung is an astonishing
example of economy, consisting only of two eight-note
phrases and one four-note phrase, used at different
pitches : A.A.b.b.C.C.b.b.b.bJ?. (eight-note phrases re-
presented by capitals). Congregations are always in-


terested in such curiosities of construction, and learn the
better for their interest, because the memory is con-
sciously used. The singer -who realizes that when he has
learned the first line he has also learned the third does
something more than make a short cut : he has taken in
one of the simplest principles of form the balancing
and answering of phrases.

As we have already said, the congregational chanting
of the psalms and canticles presents less difficulty than
might be expected, given the assistance of people’s
copies of psalters. On this point, it is interesting to
note that one of the best pleas for congregational
chanting occurs in a recently issued symposium,
“Manual of Church Praise according to the Use of the
Church of Scotland,” in a chapter entitled “The Psalter
in Worship,” by Geo. T. Wright. Mr. Wright admits
that prose chanting is not yet popular in Scotland, and
probably never will be : the metrical version dies hard.
But he argues persuasively on behalf of prose chanting,
discussing the use of both plainsong and Anglican
chants. And he ends his chapter thus :

” When the Psalms sing themselves in our minds,
however much we loved them before, we shall
assuredly love them better still. It is in order to
make this possible for all our people that we think
ministers and organists and all on whom lies the
ordering of the praise of our Scottish Church
should seriously consider whether, despite the
difficulties attendant upon such a new departure,
it were not well that in our Public Worship we
should give our people opportunity of chanting
the Psalms.”


What is thus held to be possible in the Church of Scot-
land ought to be far from difficult in the Church of
England, with its long tradition of prose chanting.

The book just mentioned contains also a capital
chapter by Mr. Herbert Wiseman, on congregational
practices, wherein methods are discussed at greater
length than is possible here. Mr, Wiseman shows that
the possibilities of congregational training are far
greater than is generally realized. We are interested to
note that his experience in Scotland corresponds with
that of English conductors of such practices . He rightly
emphasizes the advantage of the conductor’s voice in
“patterning/’ as against organ, which should be used
sparingly ; like ourselves, he has been struck by the
impressive effect of. good soft singing by a congregation
(/.., singing with intensity and the realization of the
words and without dragging). People are so often
counselled to “sing out.” The corresponding com-
mand (as already suggested) is needed : “sing in.” It can
hardly be obtained without practice ; and Mr. Wiseman
finds that Scottish congregations, like English, are
willing and eager to learn, and of far higher musical
intelligence than clergy and organists are apt to realize.

It may reasonably be pointed out that, as organists and
choirmasters are notoriously underpaid, the congre-
gational practice adds an additional burden. But it is
on all sides an admitted labour of love ; and the time
occupied is very short half an hour monthly (actually
less, for the organist would be on the spot ready for
Evensong at least ten minutes before the hour) ; and
the mutual advantages are not inconsiderable. To many


congregations their organist is little more than a name
and a music-maker behind a curtain; it is good for
both to co-operate in this direct way from time to time.
The congregation are led to take an interest in the
church’s music, with good results on the artistic side,
and often on the material as well (the ability shown in
a well-conducted congregational practice has been
known to attract pupils) ; and if the choir be broiaght
into the scheme from time to time the occasions serve
as wholesome reminders of the duties and obligations
of both parties, and so bring about a realization that
all present are members both of a congregation and of
a choir.



“I DESIRED oftentimes to witten what was our Lord’s
meaning. And fifteen year after, and more, I was an-
swered in gostly understanding, seyand thus : woidst
thou witten thy Lord’s meaning in this thing ? Wete
it wele : Love was his meaning. Who shewid it thee ?
Love. What shewid he thee ? Love. Wherefore shewid
it he ? For Love. Hold thee therein, and thou shalt
witten and knowen more in the same,” JULIAN OF



NO attempt can be made to offer detailed guidance
on chanting in this book, either on Anglican or
Gregorian methods. These are helpfully dis-
cussed in accessible books and in the prefaces to the
many excellent psalters lately obtainable. A prominent
leader, and a close student of chanting, has recently
exclaimed: “It is really easy to chant properly with
any psalter 1″ Others, with equal experience, hold that
chanting is the most difficult of all forms of choral art,
and the furthest from attainment. These two statements
are only apparently contradictory : they merely state a
little wildly how unimportant the choice of a psalter is
compared with the grasp of the principles underlying
its use. The basic rulings behind good chanting of the
psalms rulings of common sense as well as of fitness
and beauty are, in reality, those which occupied us in
the earlier chapters (III. and IV.). Here we must be
content with suggesting their effectual application to
the psalms, whatever be the form of chant chosen (i.e.
whether Gregorian or Anglican, unison or harmonized).
But, no sooner are the above words on paper than
one over-mastering thought comes to mind ; for
it is as clear as the day that, fundamentally, only one
form of chant can ever naturally fit anything with so
decisive and simple a form of its own as the Book of



Psalms. The twofold or antiphonal nature of psalm
verses calls for a two-phrase melodic form, and this is
to be found both in the Gregorian tone and the Angli-
can chant. This bond between them is fortunate and
unbreakable. It enables them mutually to support each
other, and to correct each other’s wanderings. The
partisans of either, if they will search diligently enough,
will find the form they espouse essentially at one, when
at its best, with the form they oppose when also at its
best. And if the psalms had filled all peoples and lan-
guages with the impulse to melodize, and if every
nation had its own Use, in its own mother-tongue, it
seems certain that nature would have given them all
this deep derivative likeness, in whatever ways their
own particular translations might have diversified the
detail. The twofold form would dominate them all.
The fling of the first line and the resounding reply of
the second, in verse after verse, psalm after psalm,
would duly appear in every language, and make the
whole world kinsfolk. And here it may be noted that
Gregorian and Anglican, as we know them, are more
deeply akin than at first appears. They are, indeed,
like father and son. To look at the melodic line of the
first Gregorian tone, with its second ending, e.g. :
and then at the line of an early single chant assigned to
Tallis :


is to see them as parent and child. Or compare Tone
VTIL, ending I. :


with this more recent Anglican chant :
or Tone V., ending I. :
Z2_ Q

with this contemporary Anglican example :

It is clear that melodic sophistications, on the one hand,
and harmonic, on the other, tend not only to divide
them from each other but to make them both less and
less amenable to their common purpose.

A second constant and most natural characteristic
in the form of the psalms, reflected in both musical
uses, must here be noted. In the two-phrase form of
verse (or ought we strictly to say in the two-versed
stanza ?) the second or fulfilling phrase naturally inclines
to be more ample and generally longer than the first.
This gives the poems abounding vitality, and it gives
the chant the very same quality. For example, in the
first verse of the Venite :

CC O come, let us sing unto the Lord :
Let us Heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation,”


where “singing” gives place to “hearty rejoicing” and
“Lord” grows into “the strength of our salvation,”
is to be seen the identical creative impulse at work that
musically gave the Gregorian tones their expansive
endings, and that compelled a four-note phrase to re-
ceive a six-note reply in the now stereotyped ten-note
single Anglican chant.

Had the Anglican chant remained a unisonal melody,
framed at all points to suit the genius of our language
and the temper of the people, how much easier it would
have been to adapt it in inflection, pace, volume, dis-
position to the spirit and to the ever-varying needs and
flexibilities of the psalms themselves ! But, as in plain-
song itself, the healthy desire to amplify and beautify
the musical utterance brought melodic enrichment with
its advantages and dangers, so, from early days, it
brought harmonic enrichment to the Anglican chant,
with corresponding advantages and dangers. For it
brought the need for harmonic design, however slen-
der ; and this, in its turn, induced a new beauty and,
with it, a new danger. For, just as only very restrained
melodic elaboration is fitted for unskilled worshippers
in the case of plainsong, so only very restrained har-
monization is suitable in the case of the Anglican chant.
And even two such simple harmonic transactions as a
half-close at the fourth chord and a full-close at the
tenth may induce an unwanted, and even unintended,
tinge of metrical design. This seems the chief danger-
point. And, by something very like bad luck, two good
things seem to have combined unhappily to cause
English chanting to fall badly before this particular


danger. One of these was the good, working discovery
worshippers made that any simply recurrent metrical
scheme helped their mass-singing to become unanimous.
The other was the creation and popularity of the
metrical paraphrase of the psalms, which tended to make
a correspondingly metrical musical form a thing par-
ticularly desired. As time went on, the set single-chant
grew into a double-chant, and became stereotyped as a
species of short-metre hymn-tune. It can at once be
seen that the tendency to harden the chant into a short-
metre tune very soon hinders the true release of the
psalm it is intended to serve, and releases instead a
musical enthusiasm to adorn this set harmonic and
quasi-metrical framework with florid melodic bends and
graces, and so move further and further away from
the sterner mould :

iv v
If (11 “” S & ^
^r? ‘”*’ J “””^
^ ^ ”
Kr a (= s ttj
1 &–&- -&- -&-

-e- J- J J

– -<s>- -^-
Krt’h ~ F n ^
^ s>
_ J

As soon, however, as we revert to this simple basic
form, we find it serves its original purpose aptly, bring-
ing to the psalm an added and wholly unobtrusive
beauty, so long as it is never lazily or inadvertently al-
lowed to degenerate into a set and stony metrical con-
cept. It is precisely this easy-going fall from grace that
has wrought havoc with Anglican chanting, and against
which a great number of church musicians are fighting.


Two main ideas both in out judgment the result of
superficial thinking about unhappy experiences are in
the field against reform ; and they have to be conquered.
The first holds that unanimous congregational chanting
is impossible without agreed metrical design, not to say
a musical metre of agreed rigidity. This has proved
itself untrue, for the very good reason that natural
accents of fervent utterance always will mean more to
an inspired crowd than a metronome ever could mean,
and when hearty enough such natural accents will teach
them unanimity. The second idea is that singing in
harmony is impossible without adding metrical design
that harmony, in fact, is inseparable from ideas of
metre and accent. Here, again, the truth (proved in
practice over and over again) is otherwise. Chanting
in chords can be as beautifully and serviceably flexible
as chanting in unison, though it is admittedly less

The accretions of falsehoods round grains of truth
are as astonishing as the growth of pearls of great price
round a bit of grit in an oyster. But such are nature’s
ways. Underlying both fallacies are two grains of
extractable and admirable truth :

(1) Reliable preconceived metre does help congre-

gations to sing together, and always will,
provided they can make it their own natural

(2) The ten-note chant does need two preconceived

points of repose and rallying, and the closes
or half-closes this involves (at notes four
and ten) resemble metre.



Continuing our analysis of the true and practical
nature of the ten-note chant., it is tempting to dogmatize
here, and suggest that the moment any metre or quasi-
metre offered to a congregation becomes their metre, it
becomes naturally the much greater and more inspiring
thing we call rhythm. We must here try to distinguish
as exactly as possible between metre and rhythm if
we are together to strike the healthy trail for true

A metrical phrase and a rhythmic phrase are both
alike freely chosen groups of notes standing injEtreely
chosen relation with each other. But a metrical phrase
is made of an agreed number of notes in an agreed re-
lation, while a rhythmic phrase throws notes into a
willed number and relation. Readers may easily test this
fundamental distinction for themselves by listening to
the ticking of a clock and quietly singing to themselves
these three fragments successively to the uniform tick :

tk tk tk tk.





tk tk tk

tk tk tk tk.


The ticking clock is not music, but the three phrases
are. If they are not your choice, but come at you from
without (from some Hymnal Committee who decided
what was good for you !), the clock and its babyish
tunes remain in essence merely metrical, in duple, or
triple or quadruple measures. The moment you make any
one of these jour choice it becomes rhythmical ; and you
will soon find yourself varying the size and volume of
the mechanical tick-note at pleasure. The metre re-
mains intact and helpful as the trellis-work upon which
your rambler roses grow to the advantage of all be-
holders. But no free-born melodists and the mass
of men are free-born melodists whose education has
been neglected could leave the above naked and
pre-agreed metre purely metronomic! Metre would
quickly transmute itself to rhythm such as :
Metrical crotchets are like the squares of a chess-board.
Rhythmic crotchets are like nothing mechanical. They
are more like the various men we place on those uni-
form squares in the course of the freewill game of
melody. There is an immense amount of metrical play-
ing and singing in the world in brass bands it is most
noticeable : there is too little rhythmic reality. And if
you habitually play or sing thousands of metrical
phrases without transmuting them into your own
rhythms, you will become a metronomical musician.
This is to say, you will be able to chant with the


reliability of the goose-step. But the rhythm of true
chanting is another matter altogether. Of all rhythms
it is poles asunder from the rhythm of the militarist,
which can be a mere metre fatal to the life-rhythm of
the individual man.

We may perhaps agree that however much or little
prearranged metre is to be allowed in our chanting,
it must in all cases fulfil the following three general
conditions :

(a) It must be such as leaves the congregation free
utterance for every speech-rhythm through-
out the longest and shortest verses.

() It must contain just so much agreed accent (or
metre) as will draw all voices together at
every close and half-close, and give unity
to the psalm.

(<r) It must fulfil the conditions of (a) without
sacrificing those of (#) and vice versa.

The major partner in all chanting is the psalm itself.
But the musical phrase, junior partner though it may
be, exists always to enhance the words. Effectual
union is maintained in action chiefly by accentuations
which are identical, but also by lengths, and by the
suffusion of the willed vocal inflections which consti-
tute the chants themselves, and especially the willed
choral cadence of every single verse.

We have distinguished between mere metre and
natural rhythm. It is even more necessary to have clear
conceptions of the distinction between uniformity and
unanimity. Metre that rests on agreed accentuation can
secure complete uniformity and some unanimity


sometimes at a price. But only “when agreed accentuation
becomes agreeable to every need of every verse can it
rise to rhythm,/.*, willed accentuation. This brings com-
plete unanimity with some uniformity. It seems very
desirable to make clear to all concerned that, even in
Anglican chanting, alert unanimity can be attained with
a minimum grain of metrical uniformity. Indeed, it is
not too much to say that if it exceeds this minimum of
metrical uniformity it soon makes true rhythm and true
unanimity impossible in any psalm. Who has not heard
the unintelligent, unintelligible, disgraceful hustling of
all the words of the so-called recitation into a receptacle-
note, made as nearly as possible of a supposititious
stock-si2e semibreve, followed by a senseless elonga-
tion or contraction of remaining syllables, small or
great, into stock-size minims ? There is, perhaps, only
one verse in the whole of the psalms which the metrical
chant, so disastrously stereotyped, happens to fit for one
moment perfectly :

71 h ..
(\\ v o
” O f~j
0. _,
‘fA “r”
& ”

Praise him sun and moon : Paise him all ye stats and light.

What of all the other verses ? The tyrannous metrical
stereotype must go. Congregations, no less than choirs,
must be urged to give thought to the whole subject.
There is need for a conscious, corporate, complete
disownment of this degenerate use and conception of the
Anglican chant as a mere short-metre tune, tyrannizing
over the psalm it sets out to serve. The whole church
should put its mind to the question, which is not a


purely musical one. And when the present shortcoming
has been realized, musicians must plead also for the
recognition and restoration of the true uses of the
Anglican chant as a fit melody of working flexibility
created expressly to give musical wings to the utterance
of the psalms in vernacular worship, built therefore to
the design of the psalms themselves, like them in two-
phrase verses, with a fixed or anchor-accent on the final
note of each phrase (i.e. on the fourth and tenth notes
of the chant).

One word here, in passing, as to the heavy barring of
chants still customary. Why should it not be dropped ?
It has lately proved itself wholly needless in practice, an
encumbrance to the eye of the reader, inducing either
hesitation, lumpiness, or a mechanical way of singing.
What would a reader of Gray’s Elegy say to an edition
with every line as heavily barred as our Anglican chant ?

The | curfew | tolls the J knell of | parting | day.

Put it in front of fifty children and tell them to read it !
The bar-lines of the chant are surely worse than super-
fluous. They induce the very defect we most need to
avoid. If marks be needed, the hori2ontal slurs (in
common musical use to indicate phrasing) are better
than all the bars and double bars :

–L J l q

4~ ^ rj ^
^ G
1 ^

The fourth and last notes are thus shown as mental
anchors, unvarying points of repose and of natural


accentuation, coinciding with the final accent of each
line of the psalm-verse itself. This fact should give the
needed control and the safe flexibility to every phrase
in every case. Where this is habitually done, the results
are often thrillingly new and varied without ever seem-
ing to get in the least “out of the true/* And it is
natural this should be so. For, when once the thought
of the accent-anchorages becomes a safe habit in the
minds of all, the ever-varying speech-rhythms inherent
in every verse create ever-varying and equally musical
rhythms without confusion.

Let congregations as well as choirs but once catch
clear sight of the fundamental difference between the
singing of a hymn (or metrical psalm as in Scotland)
and the chanting of a psalm, and the battle may be half
won. This can be vividly seen if the first verse of
Psalm cxxiv. be examined in its two forms. On the
musical side there is no more glorious tune than the
“Old 1 24th,” and it happens that its first line makes an
admirable single chant :

/|L J
*~\ C3
irn .,.,,–,-3- d ^
^ d . ; -T3

To the metrical paraphrase this metrical hymn-tune is
the fitting help-meet. And when once an agreed
melody has proved acceptable to the singer, every at-
tendant created thing words and notes, high and low,
strong and weak and every creative impulse of poet,
musician or singer must yield to //. Into its mould all
utterance is to be poured, and gathered into an inspiring
momentous whole :



Now Is – ra – el may say and that tru – ly.

This wonder has its own glorious character. It is irre-
sistible. It is a wholly different transaction, as different
from true chanting as the final tune of Beethoven’s
Choral Symphony is from the free recitative that pre-
cedes it, or as a military march is from the right hand
part of a Chopinesque reverie. How, then, should we
chant the original words to this very good, ready-made
single chant ? Here are the words :

“If the Lord Himself had not been on our side, now may
Israel say :

“If the Lord himself had not been on our side, when men rose
up against us.”

and here is the excellent chant :

/’ft 1

1 J f
m e> M

The following is the clearest picture we can offer of the
way not to do it :
If the Lord himself had not been on our side NOW MAY lS-R^EL

f- *
;- j ,

If the Lord himself had) SIDE WH ENMlNR6sEtJP i-GA?NST US.
not been on ourj



with a sudden change from unseemly gabble to metrical
deliberateness, indicated by the change from small to
big type above.

On the other hand, the way in which it will chant
itself, if the exultant words are allowed to prevail, might
be depicted in approximate notation thus :

(Every syllable to be its normal si%e as in deliberate speech?)



If the Lord him -self had not been on our side,

… _
J 6
-“” \\ f
rjj-,, J A
, i
-J ., ^
o .
\ 1 , C

now may Is – rael say : If the Lord him – self had not


been on our side, when men rose up a – gainst us.

To offer all these notes to the singers in every verse is
not practical. Nor, happily, is it a necessity. All that is
urgently needed is a few pictures in notation of the
ever recurring speech-rhythms to put into the mind of
the choir concerned a notational approximation to the
rhythm which most naturally will emerge as they sing
most naturally. This, for example, is a very frequent
pattern :
We purposely use the annoyingly vague expres-
sion: “Let it “sing itself/” For, strange as it may


seem, this is what happens with every keen choir,
and ultimately (we believe) with the simplest congre-
gational group, provided they are keen to try to do it
together as perfectly as it can be done ; and we have
never once found this keenness fail to respond duly to
faithful importunity. All that the singer really needs
is a thorough off-by-heart grip of the two phrases :

1 3
L__ – ‘”I”
I/IS ^-, fj -*
-.. 1^! C2 X=> <3 _J X=3

and then a minimum of marks in the text, e.g. thus :

If th f Lord himself had not been on our side, now may
1 Israel say :

If the Lord himself had not been on our side, when | men rose ‘
up a- 1 gainst us.

There are many methods of marking. The above is but
one of them. The reader may devise improved markings
for his choir. The accents on certain syllables are marks
of natural rallying points, to be put in here and there if
needed.* The dots beneath a syllable are most useful
for indicating natural shortness. Then the vertical ticks
or “bars” are an absolute need in all verses at points
where the inflective melody begins to move to its
final note.

All unnatural hustling of noble words or elonga-
tion of unimportant ones is fatal to sense and to
reverence. Sensitive metre is a friend, but senseless
metre can kill sensitive rhythm. No such crime is for

* Bridges thought it wise and helpful to choirs to mark what
he called colliding accents, as at the words “not been’* above.


a moment to be tolerated, still less deemed an Anglican
necessity. It is a mere lazy, metrical makeshift for the
rhythmic reality. Any village choir, in earnest to ex-
press the beauty and meaning of the psalm, is demon-
strably able to unify utterance on the living rhythms
of the psalms. They have but to think of the chant as
the free melody it is, consisting of two short phrases,
safely anchored to their final notes :

1 JO
1 <=r-
… .’

sy – – – 2

and flexibility will result. In all cases, however, they
must agree on signs which all can recognize where
the changes of note occur ; and in all cases their
fourth and tenth notes must coincide with the final
verbal accent of the verse and half verse. For the rest
they will find by study together that the speech-
rhythms which are most natural to them will fashion
for them an infinitely varied series of natural music-
rhythms that need never hurt the melody they are using, all
lying within the two-phrase chant. It is, by the way,
ever to be remembered that the converse is not true,
and that a badly chosen chant may hurt an all-important
verse of a psalm, while suiting other verses. For this
reason no chant should be chosen for any psalm that
does not fit and give due life to its every verse.

In connection with the necessity noted in the last
sentence, we must now try, before turning to the ques-
tion of Gregorian chanting, to offer a little homely
advice as to the problems of choice and practice of
harmonized Anglican chants. To deal with the latter


point first, we strongly recommend all choirs and sing-
ing congregations to conceive chanting as harmonious
and inflected reading rather than singing; and, with this
always at the back of the mind, to adopt the following
method of practice in the early stages (and long after !):

(i) Read the first verse together ; then
(ii) Monotone it together exactly as read,
(iii) Sing it together on a single chord (the final

chord of the chant chosen),
(iv) Sing it inflected to the full chant, making the

paces and the rhythms approximate in all

four processes.

The reading (i) and the singing needs (iv) have to be
reconciled. This will cause the reading to become de-
liberate, and the singing will seem to become swift by
comparison. Both will gain greatly in clearness and
intensity. Read singingly. Sing readingly. As practice
proceeds, it will not be necessary for the team to do
more than

(i) Recite on the key-chord alone ;
(ii) Sing readingly to the whole chant.

As to choice of chants for each psalm, this rests with
leaders, yet a good deal of genial committee work will
be found possible and useful. Our stress laid upon
Tallis in this chapter may be in danger of suggesting
that “back to the old” is our advocacy. By no means.
We would rather say “on to the new,” such, e.g., as this :

or this :

A –


It is indeed astonishing that such exquisitely beautiful
phrases of primal simplicity should still be awaiting dis-
covery and use for English chanting! The possible
permutations of a ten-note melody run into millions.
Of these, probably thousands are beautiful. We ven-
ture in truth neither to advocate new or old. Is the
following new or old ?

& 23 . 1
, ^ G
H=t- |

We have not a notion of its origin. It is beautiful.
Its gentleness of inflection reminds one of the verses :

“Lord, thou art become gracious unto thy land :

thou hast turned the captivity of Jacob.
Thou hast forgiven the offence of thy people :
and covered all their sin.”

It, and hundreds like it (that a very child might dis-
cover), go well to such a psalm ; and the more simply
they are matched with harmony the better. Would that
we could all think and use the inspired melodies of old
(as already suggested) as though the ink were not dry
upon the first copy made of them ! Would that we could
all equally think of and use inspired chant melodies of
yesterday and today as though they had merely waited
discovery since before the world began! When we
can do this, controversy on such matters will be duly
ashamed of itself. Inspired melody is obviously never
a thing of the past. It must be the discovery of a
million todays, whether composed a century or a single
minute ago ; each generation must newly discover the


old chant for its newness and venerate the brand new
for its potential antiquity. We counsel our readers to
view this vital matter clearly. The grace of line in a
good chant, new or old, reminds us of the finer lines
of a beautiful countenance. “How like those that have
gone 1” we exclaim ; and they are sometimes hardly
distinguishable ; yet each has its own character written
clear in the salient lines ; delightful to contemplate ;
variable though constant. If a good chant be thought
of in this way, good choice fitted to the character of
each psalm will be more ensured.

Let us, in conclusion of this section, admit that
musicians with more zeal for the music than for the
words are apt to put musical interests first, and then
chants are apt to grow wild. Some grow as amazing
as they are inept, developing into reminders of what
used to be called “pretty little tunes for pretty little
players,” or into perverse musical exercises such as
the conceits called recte et retro chants, that is, that go
first forward, then in the second half backward, chord
by chord. A playful chant used in the boyhood of the
present writer at St. George’s, Windsor, runs as follows :

7? H
S |
fl **

It was sung under Elvey to “When Israel came out
of Egypt/’ and well to “The mountains skipped like

i 7 4


rams,” but became inadequate at “Tremble, thou earth/
Here, again, is a complacent sort of chant :

Is there any psalm that could bear such a trite com-
panion? These are only named here as chants that
may defeat their use as means by thinking of them-
selves as ends, however ingenious or amiable they
may be, or congenial to this or that mind, qua musical

The psalms offer infinite melodic scope. If exuberant
verses claim exuberant melodies to match, it is impera-
tive that all solemn or quiet verses that may occur
in the course of an exuberant psalm should be given a
solemn or sedate melody. If a psalm has many moods
and but one chant is desirable, it must be a strain so
plain, so reticent in itself, that no mood can be belied
by it, yet all held in unity by it, the singers reflecting the
varying moods, as is ever right, by fit choice and varia-
tion of speed, spacing, light and shade.

Plainsong chanting has difficulties of its own, but
there is, we think, a tendency to exaggerate them. The
fact (we believe it to be a fact) that England is the only
country where plainsong is used with the vernacular
seems to have led some writers to over-estimate the
difficulty of applying to English a series of inflections
devised for Latin. But the thing can be done, and with


beautiful effect. The subject, however, needs special
study, and cannot be dealt with in a page or two of
a work on church music in general. The bibliography
names some authoritative treatises, and the study of
one or more of these should be supplemented by in-
struction from an organist whose choir shows his prac-
tical grasp of the subject. There are few large centres
without at least one church where plainsong is under-
stood ; and opportunities of instruction occur in plenty
at Summer Schools and in connection with the School
of English Church Music. It is unfortunate that the
experts differ on some points. A safe guide is “The Ele-
ments of Plainsong” : it presents the purist’s view, but
without narrowness, though not always without pre-
ciosity. We refer the reader to such textbooks, and
restrict ourselves here to a few observations, some of
a warning nature, on points concerning the use of
plainsong in parish churches.

First, as to the bogey of “correctness” : we venture
to say that the cause of plainsong in the country has
suffered from a failure to realize that what is suitable
in a monastery is not always or indeed often suit-
able in a parish church. The refinements of monastic
singing are the result of years of study and daily singing
of nothing else but plainsong ; the consisted use
of the half-voice, varied only by the pianissimo endings,
and the modal harmonies played mostly on manuals
only, with a light stop or two, though suitable and
beautiful in a community chapel, would be exotic, even
if attainable, in an average parish church. And here let
us declare ourselves to be heretics concerning some of


the notions of the purists as to performance. In doing
so we feel we are expressing the views of many musi-
cians who, like ourselves., concede all that is claimed
for plainsong as a distinct form of musical art, and
one of great beauty. But there is an aspect of the
question that is apparently too little considered by
those who are plainsong experts rather than practical
musicians, and it is in this respect that organists who
are musicians and not plainsong specialists need a few
words of counsel.*

Although plainsong is a type of music independent of
the measured type from which modern music has de-
veloped, it is still music, and, as such, its performance is
not exempt from fundamental principles that (being
based on common-sense) apply to all music alike. When,
therefore, the purist says that the final words of every
verse of a psalm must be “properly sustained and sung
pianissimo,” in order to produce “the right effect of
restfulness,”f his dictum must be challenged. Among
the worst faults of interpretation are monotony and
conventionality ; to apply so pronounced a musical
effect as a pianissimo to every verse-end in a long
psalm, regardless of the general character of the psalm,
the particular character of its verses, and the relative
importance of the final accented word, seems to us both
conventional and monotonous, and an unspiritual use
of music. Moreover, whatever arguments may be

* Mutatis mutandis, what follows applies to the performance
of plainsong in general, although we have in view especially that
fitted for congregational use.

f ”Elements of Plainsong.”


brought forward on behalf of an impersonal use of the
psalter, the fact remains that the psalms are amongst
the most personal poems in existence. The last thing
to be desired is a descriptive method of singing and ac-
companiment; but the vivid contrasts (often in the
course of a few verses), and the blend of drama, emo-
tion, and reflection, that make the psalter one of the
most diversified of books can never be disregarded with
impunity. In our view there is no justification for ig-
noring the natural differences of pace and power called
for by strongly contrasted psalms. Can it be devotion-
ally or musically right to sing (say) the Jubilate Deo and
the Miserere mei at exactly the same pace, with the half-
voice, and ending every verse pianissimo? Both in-
stinct and devotion, alike religious and musical, would
demand quite other treatment of such refrains as “Set
up Thyself, O God,” “For his mercy endureth for
ever,” “O that men would therefore praise the Lord/ 7
“O put thy trust in God,” and so forth. The “effect
of restfulness” fitting in a monastic house may, on
being transplanted to a parish church, become mere

A feature on which the purist lays great stress is the
pause at the colon : an old rule, we are told, was that “it
should be long enough to say c Ave Maria/ “* We have
heard zealots for the pause demand even a three-fold
repetition of Ave Maria ; and certainly the break is
often long enough to interpolate so much, provided
the invocation be smartly uttered a fact which shows
that the employment of words as a time-measure may
* “Elements of Plainsong.”



be risky. “A good pause at the colon gives dignity to
the chanting.”* We have yet to be convinced that any-
thing more than the customary full breath is necessary ;
and there is nothing dignified in a systematically pro-
nounced silent pause per se. Used sparingly, with first-
hand purpose, silence can be more eloquent and more
devout than speech or song. Moreover, the silent pause
is one of the most arresting of musical effects ; but its
occurrence in every verse becomes both monotonous
and affected even \vhen it is entirely unanimous,
which is by no means always the case. We have some-
times asked for a solid practical argument on behalf of
this feature, and the only answer that went beyond a
mere statement that “they do it at Solesmes” claimed
that it brought out the parallelism of the verses. But
the parallelism is already defined by the use of the colon
as a full breath-mark. Moreover, although the parallel-
ism is the main constructional feature of the psalms,
it is far from being constant. In many isolated but im-
portant instances where there is no parallelism, the effect
of the colon is to break the sense especially in short
verses that can be sung easily in one breath. We see
neither dignity nor common-sense in accentuating the
break in such verses as “Lord, lift Thou up : the light
of Thy countenance upon us” ; “Whoso doeth these
things : shall never fail” ; “Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart : be alway acceptable in
Thy sight” ; “O Lord : my strength and my redeemer”;
and in many others that readily come to mind. Indeed,
the colon is so often a badly placed disruptive feature that
* “Elements of Plainsong.”


I 79

there is much to be said for a method of pointing that
shifts or ignores it, as the “English Psalter” does with
good effect. The “good pause at the colon” needs
far better justification than has so far been brought

As to accompaniment : this should undoubtedly be
modal, or at least diatonic, which is not necessarily the
same thing. Perhaps this distinction may usefully be
made clear by a single and simple example : It is easy
to harmonize the plainsong tune “Pange Lingua”
(“E. H.,” No. 326) in the key of C throughout, save
for the concluding chord, which would be the “final”
of the mode a chord of E minor (or major). The dif-
ference between this diatonic method and the right
modal way may be most easily shown by these two
harmonizations :


& ^ ^

\ –
-&- -&- ^
^ ^2 8 1 i
t {(*) : :
\ v^
G n 1

Mode HE.



Plainsong accompaniment should generally consist
of simple progressions common chords and first in-
versions. But there are occasions when this simple
basis may be fittingly elaborated by the use of passing
notes and diatonic dissonances the dominant seventh,
however, being rarely, if ever, touched. Chords may
be changed during the recitation, such changes taking
place on an accented syllable ; and much may be done
by contrasting a gently moving organ part with the
vocal monotone of the recitation ; and, on the other
hand, during the mediation and ending, by a sustained
organ part against which the vocal inflection moves as
passing notes. The vocal part should not, as a rule, be
duplicated in the top line of the accompaniment. The
whole of the organ part may effectively be placed above
the voices, quiet stops only being used. The plainsong
may be used as a bass of the accompaniment. The
texture of the organ part may vary from two-part
harmony (or even a single line of counter-melody) to
widespread full chords (not necessarily loud). The
possibilities are almost infinite. There is, in fact, a
world of beauty in this by-path of music that is rarely
explored, mainly because textbooks inevitably do little
more than exemplify the bases. The best accompani-
ment is a matter of improvisation, not of the printed
page, and proficiency calls for long study and experi-
ence. It will then be seen that the simplest type need
not be dull, nor its development distracting. As to
power : the antiphony of cantors and full, or boys and
men, will permit even demand ample contrast which
need, however, be neither violent nor restless in effect.


Unaccompanied plainsong in a resonant building is
satisfyingiy beautiful, and it should therefore be so sung
on occasion, and for that reason, not (as the purist main-
tains) merely because it was unaccompanied in the
early days of the church. The reason for unaccom-
panied singing in the primitive church was the prosaic
one that organs were few and far between, and on the
few that existed the player (or literally the thumper
pulsator organorum) could do Httle more than deliver the
notes of the chant* As soon as organs became frequent
and more tractable, accompaniment became general.
At the beginning of the plainsong revival in England,
it became chromatic too, the result being a dreadful
hybrid that is not yet quite extinct. We have no quarrel
with the Solesmes enthusiasts so far as harmonic sim-
plicity is concerned ; but we see no point in an accom-
paniment that must be “small in volume/’ “reduced
to a minimum,” “xinobtrusive,” or used merely as “a
support to the voice/’* To take the last point first,
choirs unable to sing unsupported should leave plain-
song alone, seeing that, according to Solesmes, it
must be sung throughout with half-voice and with an
ever-recurring pianissimo both effects demanding
either skilled singers or a prohibitive amount of prac-
tice. As to “unobtrusiveness,” plainsong accompani-
ment, like any other kind, should surely, justify itself
as a thing of rare beauty, “to the good” in worship,
adorning the plainsong without drowning it ot inter-
fering with the flow of the chanting. In short, if the
psalms are to be sung, whether to plainsong or to

* “Elements of Pkinsong.”


modern chants, we fail to see why both voices and
organ are to be reduced to a perpetual mezzo-piano,
regardless of the character of the text.*

Another point on which the parish church organist
should not allow himself to be over-Solesmesed, so to
speak, is in the treatment of the Gloria Patri. The “cor-
rect” use is to regard it merely as a couple of verses
of the psalm, to be sung antiphonally. But in effect this
often leads to an anti-climax. For example, when the
antiphony is between cantor and choir, the second half
of the Gloria may fall to a single voice. The effect is
never good ; we have known instances where, the
cantor being feeble, the ending to a jubilant psalm has
been almost ludicrous. Even when the psalms are sung
by boys and men in alternation, there is something in-
conclusive about an ending by boys alone. We have
never heard an argument in favour of this method,
which overlooks the obvious fact that the Gloria Patri
is not a part of the psalm but a Christianizing appendix ;
and as a doxology it clearly ought to be treated as a
chorus, and with a due degree of power.

The plainsong methods we have questioned the
monotonous use of the half-voice, the unduly long
break at the colon, the characterless accompaniment,
the frequent anticlimax due to the antiphonal treatment
of the Gloria Patri, and, above all, the infliction of
monotonous uniformities are all opposed to the

* A consistently quiet treatment of such choir-music as the
Introit (among which are some of the loveliest examples of pure
melody in existence) is, however, called for by the character of
the music, which often suggests a solo voice or semichorus.


primary laws of musical interpretation, and they are
no more tolerable in plainsong than in any other kind
of music. And at long last, even when due admira-
tion has been given to the Solesmes monks for their
patient and valuable research, the fact remains that
some of their findings are admittedly no more than

If plainsong is to be used by ordinary people, the
accent should be shifted to the second syllable song.
Song is something to be sung ; its performance should
be (i) vitally related to the text with which it is asso-
ciated, and (2) subject to the inspiring tenets of good
natural singing. Plainsong has its own rhythm, its own
modal system, and no musician with a sense of beauty
will do anything to damage either ; but he may well
question its right to any methods of performance
today that are not based on universally accepted and
acceptable principles.

The new and growing use of this ancient and beauti-
ful music, if only it be vital and reasonably fitting, is to
be welcomed as one of the most beneficent influences in
church music today. Its adoption will become more
general with a fuller realization both of its idiomatic
differences from, and its spiritual affinity to, the best
church music of later periods. But we are con-
strained to warn our fellow-enthusiasts in the cause
of true chanting that few, if any, normal choirs and
congregations will be able to sing plainsong in the
manner of the monks of Solesmes. Even if they
could they wouldn’t ; for to them plainsong will not
be a subtle and delicate antique, to be sung sotto voce


and accompanied on the organ’s softest stop (which is
surely what is meant by “reducing the accompaniment
to a minimum”) ; it will be just a simple and beautiful
kind of church music, to be sung, as we may be sure it
was sung centuries ago, with both vitality and variety.



A the nature of hymn melodies has already occu-
pied us in considering congregational singing
in Chapter IX., we begin our discussions here
with a glance at the resources of today, because so great
a wealth of material carries with it both problems and
responsibilities, besides being bound up with the burn-
ing question of choice of tunes, which often means the
dropping of old friends in favour of possible new ones.
It is a truism that modern hymnals are too large, yet
there is ample justification for bulk. John Wesley’s
ideal book, described in his “Preface to a Collection of
Hymns for use of the People called Methodists” (1779),
is now impossible : “What we want is, a Collection not
too large, that it may be cheap and portable ; nor too
small, that it may contain a sufficient variety for all
occasions.” What would he have said to the 1933
successor of his Collection ? It contains nine hundred
and eighty-four hymns, and well over a thousand tunes,
besides chants, etc., the whole filling a thousand and
forty-two pages. Somebody has said that the perfect
hymnal, when it comes, will contain no more than about
a couple of hundred hymns ; and no doubt that number
represents approximately the total of hymns and tunes
that have won universal acceptance. But it is also true
that the hymns and even more emphatically the tunes


concerning which people feel most strongly are the
many hundreds that the perfect hymnal will not in-
clude* Nobody grows warm about the standard tunes ;
they are, in fact., so taken for granted that the omission
of, say, “St. Anne/’ from a new hymnal would cause
surprise rather than indignation. It is otherwise with
tunes that may be called favourite rather than classic.
“Eventide,” “St. Anatolius,” “Hollingside,” “Melita,”
“Nioea,” “St. Columba,” “Abends/ 5 “St. Clement/’
“Maidstone,” “Regent Square/ 3 “Golden Sheaves/ 3
“St. Gertrude/’ “Amelia/’ and a hundred others of the
kind, chiefly by the composers that made “A. & M.”
an epochal book : to omit these is to raise a storm of
protest from all sorts of people. A hymn-book is an
anthology, and it must be inclusive rather than ex-
clusive. This being so, it must take into account, not
only the contemporary output, but also the revival of
old tunes. One of the best features in modern hymnals
is the prominence given to eighteenth-century tunes
that had almost been forgotten. To the compilers of
the original “A. & M.” such tunes, no doubt, seemed
secular, or savouring of dissent ; today they are widely
enjoyed for their melodious and singable character, and
(not least) for their Englishness. A few examples come
to mind at once “Richmond,” “Mount Ephraim,”
“University,” “Retirement,” and many others that
were popular in the old “west gallery” days. But the
chief reason why compilers of hymnals now cast their
nets wide is that they cannot ignore the present move
towards improvement in church music. The reformers
may sometimes have been tactless and over-zealous.


but there can be no denying the steady improvement
that has been wrought in church music, and in no de-
partment more than in hymnody the one most diffi-
cult to tackle, because of its popularity. Practically
every hymn-book produced during the past twenty
years has, in a greater or less degree, played its part in
the reform movement, and it has usually done so in
the only common-sense way, i.e. by including good new
(or revived old) tunes as alternatives to popular and
inferior examples. This has involved a very large in-
crease of material an increase that may be only tem-
porary. For the supersession of a bad tune by a good
one seems to be an affair of three stages : first, the two
appear side by side ; next, the inferior tune is relegated
to the appendix ; and, finally, it is dropped. Stages one
and two are exemplified in the two editions of the
“English Hymnal.” In the 193 3 edition over a hundred
tunes have been added, room being made for them by
the dropping of duplicates and the placing of about
fifty others in the Appendix. As a large proportion of
the fifty are from Victorian sources, we may expect to
see the next edition dropping them altogether. If the
tunes that take their place were obviously superior,
nobody would complain of that; but it is difficult
to resist an impression that most of the substitutes,
though entirely free from sentimentality, are also
deficient in appeal and singableness ; and some of
them are so markedly in the fashion of today that
they will soon be as much out of date as the Victorians
whose place they have taken.

In the matter of hymns, hymn-tunes, and hymn-sing-


ing, the church musician will do well to remember that
the views of the more intelligent type of layman may be
considered with profit, on account of the extra-musical
considerations involved.

Let us take, for instance, two public utterances that
may be held to express the views of a considerable pro-
portion of church folk. The first was an article in a
daily paper on “The Choice of Hymns” by a dean who
was formerly headmaster of a famous public school
where, no doubt, he had ample opportunity of observing
the type of hymn and tune that “goes.”

He began by saying what a good many of us have
felt for some time past : “It is fashionable today to sneer
at ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern/ and I should myself
prefer the ‘English Hymnal’ ; but I think the fashion-
able abuse is largely undeserved.”

After discussing the important part played by as-
sociation (a point too little considered by compilers
of hymn-books), he goes on : “I am not a blind ad-
mirer of the ‘English Hymnal/ I am infuriated on every
occasion when they suggest that I should sing the un-
gramtnatical sentence, ‘Hail thee, festival day P ; and
there is plenty in it to criticize. But it certainly marks a
great advance. Still, I shall always be grateful to ‘Hymns
Ancient and Modern 3 for having shown the way, for
having introduced me to many good and some beauti-
ful hymns, and for having for the first time done some-
thing to show the wealth of singable religious poetry
which the nation possesses.”

This is in pleasant contrast to the attitude adopted by
reformers in a hurry, who are apt to forget the gratitude


that is always due to a pioneer. After all, when one
book has shown the way, it is not hard for a second
one to come along and improve on its predecessor in
regard to weaknesses that were due to the taste of the
period rather than to the shortcomings of the compilers.
Moreover, most of the sweeping opponents of ”Ancient
and Modern” do not take into account the edition of
1904, which is free from many of the faults of previous
editions. In fact, some of its excellences caused its com-
parative failure : it made too big a break with conven-
tion, and (to name one important point) its hymns
for mission services do not include one example of the
trivial, sentimental type a detail in which the “English
Hymnal” shows surprising weakness.

The other article on the subject was entitled “Hymns:
Problems of Verse and Tune,” by a well-known nove-
list. This is what he had to say concerning the latter :

“The tune must always be a terrible problem. I
wish I had means of judging how the changes of
taste particularly, which the authors of “Songs of
Praise’ aimed at inaugurating, are really working
out in practice. What they gave us was better than
anything we had before, and we cannot be too
grateful to them ; but what they gave was still
only a contribution and it had conspicuous faults.
On the literary side, the search for poetry went too
far and wide ; we find congregations invited to
sing together words that hardly suggest song at
all even in the less exacting conditions of private
life ; while a particular smack of taste, a flavour of
sufficiency deriving in part from folk-song wor-
ship and In part from a dryish sacerdotalism, tends


to domineer in the music, and is, I think, already

“We think there is much in this : many of the new
tunes that are too obviously influenced by folk-song and
the ecclesiastical modes begin to show signs of wear ;
a decade or so hence they will probably be superseded
either by another and more natural type of new tune, or
(perhaps even more likely) by a reinstatement of the
best of the nineteenth-century tunes they were intended
to displace.

As to the use of folk-tunes for hymn purposes : there
are two main tests quality, and freedom from too
obviously secular associations. Can it be said that all
or even the majority of those pressed into service in
modern hymnals pass both ? High quality may excuse
some hazard in regard to the second testj because the
secular associations are transitory often, indeed,
merely local. The secular origin of some of the best-
loved of German chorales has long been forgotten ;
and the splendid risk taken when a mediaeval love-song
became the Passion chorale and “Innsbruck, I now must
leave thee” was sacredly parodied into “O world, I
now must leave thee,” and gave “Innsbruck” to the
Church, has been amply justified. The incorporation
of an unquestionably fine folk-tune into a hymnal is,
then, valuable salvage work. But the glamour of the
“folk” origin of an air ought not to offset characteristics
that, however desirable in an unaccompanied solo song,
may become fatal defects in a hymn-tune. Had some
of the more jingling of the “English Hymnal” folk-
melodies occurred in a set of nursery rhymes by the


Rev. John Bacchus Dykes they would at once have been
recognized for what they are examples of mere com-
placent tunery, so to speak.

The folk-tune vogue will pass in hymnals, as already
it has almost passed in composition ; and it is becoming
plain that many of the new tunes are less good than they
appeared to be, and that certain of the old ones are
less bad than we were led to believe. On this point our
novelist says :

I rather resent not being allowed the familiar
tune of “Eternal Father, strong to save/’ with
that fierce rush in the bass. Is it so bad? I liked
it when I was a boy. I like it now.

Pie need not be ashamed of his liking for “Melita” :
plenty of musicians still regard it as a good tune, de-
spite the melodic weakness in the fifth line brought
about by the rising semitones. Above all, it has one
great merit in a hymn-tune it really “goes/ 5 and con-
gregations of all kinds sing it. The tune that displaces
it in “Songs of Praise” is a folk-song with a charm of
its own. But, as “strength” is the quality our re-
formers demand in hymn-tunes, it has to be pointed
out that “Lodsworth” is not strong. However, its chief
weakness is its repetitiveness. This is a good example
of the ease with which distinguished musicians may
miscalculate in compiling hymn-books. There can be
little doubt that, judged purely from the melodic point
of view, “Lodsworth” is superior to “Melita.” It has
a better “line” ; and there is a climax. But when we look
elsewhere than at its melodic curve, we soon see why it


may be an excellent folk-song and a poor hymn-tune,
In addition to the monotony brought about by its re-
petitiveness, there is a kindred defect in its implications
of cadences. Folk-songs are independent of harmony :
hymn-tunes are not. Even an unaccompanied melody
can no longer be judged purely on its merits as a tune
in rise and fall : our people to-day are aware of its
harmonic implications. So we cannot be deaf to the
fact that of the six lines of “Lodsworth,” five end on
the tonic and one on the supertonic. “Eternal Father”
consists of four six-lined verses, so a little arithmetic
will show how many times we hear the same chord.

We discuss this tune at some length, because it is only
one of a good many instances of folk-song being em-
ployed as hymn-tunes without due consideration. No
wonder the novelist critic asks if “Melita” is, after all,
a bad tune. The answer is that it is not bad, nor is it
very good, but that, as a setting for the words, and as
material for congregational singing, it beats “Lods-
worth” all ends up. Why, then, was it dropped in
“Songs of Praise” and relegated to the Appendix in the
“English Hymnal” ? The answer is easy : It is trebly
damned : (i) it was a popular “A. & M.” tune ; (2) it
was Victorian ; and (3) and worst of all it was by a
composer whose name in “reforming” circles has be-
come almost a synonym for meretriciousness.

When all is said (much of it justly) in deploration of
Victorian tunes, it is surprising to discover how many
are still indispensable. Even the new edition of the
“English Hymnal” contains nearly a hundred, for ex-
ample. Will the 1990 edition contain as many of the


folk-songs and modal tunes of the neo-Georgians ?
What is the secret of the success of the best of the old
“Ancient and Modern” tunes ? It used to be said that
they owed their popularity to a few luscious chords ;
there was a good deal in that., so far as Dykes and
Barnby were concerned, but we doubt if their detractors
have ever taken sufficiently into account their far more
important quality of singableness. Some of them may
be poor to play, or even to listen to when sung ; but
hymn-tunes are for singing rather than for hearing.
Again, their rhythm was unenterprising, it is true ; still,
this defect is one that is more apparent to the listener
than to the singer. But an unenterprising rhythm is
also a rhythm without traps : too many new tunes con-
tain rhythmicand structural schemes that are striking,in-
genious, unusual, interesting but which are pitfalls for
a congregation, except in places where congregational
practices are held, or where there is a strong choir that
really leads in hymn singing (not all strong choirs do).

Similarly, archaisms in harmony and melody may give
keen pleasure to musicians ; but they mean little or
nothing to the layman, who, indeed, is likely to be put
off by them. And even musicians find that archaisms
don’t always wear well, and soon reveal a touch of

In thus controverting the controverters of “Hymns
A. & M.,” our one desire is to offer such timely
stimulus as we can to the appreciation of that admirably
serviceable work. The Church cannot be too mindful
of its debt. But we yield to none in our gratitude for
the breath of fresh air which the “English Hymnal”



and (at about the same time) the 1904 and 1909 (His-
torical) editions of “Hymns A. & M.,” both brought
into the hymn-tune world. We deplore equally what
we believe to be the melodic affectations of the new
school and the harmonic weaknesses of the old.
Excesses mar both, as excess always must mar the
music of the Church. The choice of chords for their
own sweet sake was bad ; is the choice of melodies on
the ground of their “folk” or other origin, rather than
of their intrinsic merit or suitability, any better ? Our
hope and belief is that a risen taste, in debt to both,
will choose and demand the best of both, and future
hymnals will consummate their excellences.

The first impression one gets as a result of much
experience in churches of various types, is that the
admirable enterprise shown by the compilers of recent
hymnals is notimitated by theusers. Investigation would
probably show that the choice of hymns in a normal
parish church is surprisingly limited. There are, for ex-
ample, many fine things in the “English Hymnal” that
we, personally, have never, or very rarely, heard sung,
during the thirty years of the book’s existence. Now,
as popular taste is most directly influenced by the songs
and hymns that people sing communally, it is clear that
the possibilities for good presented by contemporary
hymn-books are not being developed. At present the
favourite hymn of the parson, the organist, the choir,
or of some influential parishioner, is too prominent in
the music lists. Instead, there ought to be a regular
system of adding to the repertory ; where congrega-


tional practices are held, a new hymn even two
should be learned on every occasion ; and the hymns
so learned should be used fairly frequently during the
ensuing month or two, in order that they may become
established. The choice of hymns is generally made by
the parson or the organist : it should be a joint affair, the
ecclesiastical and musical sides being alike safeguarded.
This co-operation will make it easy to extend the reper-
tory. The organist should always have ready a few fine
things of differing types, suitable for various seasons
and occasions, and should work them in judiciously.
In drawing up the monthly music list for the parish
magazine, the people’s musical part should be as care-
fully considered, not only for its fitness, but for its
variety and appeal, as the music for the choir. How
often is it ?

Note that word “appeal.” There are two wrong ways
of using such a treasury of new and old as the “English
Hymnal.” The first is to disregard both new and old,
and to stick to the familiar numbers that are in practic-
ally every hymnal. The second is to make too little
use of the familiar, and to choose largely from the most
difficult, antique, and austere examples of which the
“English Hymnal” contains perhaps rather too many.
This fault is not common, but it exists in varying de-
grees, and always with unfortunate results. We know
at least one church that was emptied in six months
by the introduction of the “English Hymnal” and its
maladroit use by a parson who held the view that the
fitness of a hymn-tune was shown by its differing in as
many respects as possible from those that made “Ancient


and Modern” the most popular of hymnals. All his
choices were no doubt intended to be fitting, but few
made any appeal to ordinary folk. And in this connec-
tion the chooser of hymns, as of every kind of music
for popular use, needs to remind himself constantly that
there are many kinds of good music ; that in some of
them the goodness is discernible only by the trained
musician ; in others by some sort of specialist ; in yet
others by the crowd but only on thorough acquaint-
ance. Finally, and happily, there is the land of musical
goodness that makes instant appeal to the untrained
no less than to the trained musician. The music of
which this may be said is truly universal ; it is enormous
in quantity, and it embraces every type, from the sym-
phony to the simple organ voluntary, from the oratorio
to the Anglican chant. Popular musical education
must begin with such things. Parsons and organists
with a taste for medieval melodies, Genevan psalm
tunes, and German chorales are apt to forget that their
liking for such things is usually the result of long
familiarity or of special study. They must not expect
their congregations to share their delight at once if

Although unison singing is desirable in the congrega-
tion, it may easily be overdone in the choir. For a choir
consists of more or less trained voices of varying com-
pass, and tenors and basses alike are reasonable in
objecting to long stretches of singing at a pitch that is
too low for the one and too high for the other. Long
processional hymns in unison, unless very moderate in
compass, are a real infliction on the choir : the alterna-


don of boys* (and women’s) voices and men’s is an
improvement, but the result is apt to be monotonous
unless the organist is able to vary the harmonies. The
best arrangement in a long procession is a mixture of
harmony (unaccompanied, if possible), unison, boys,
men, with free accompaniment, and occasional short

This question of tenor and bass compass has been
too little considered in hymn-books that adopt a pitch
suitable for the congregation. In the “English Hymnal/’
for example, the pitch is often so low that the basses are
at times working hard with barely audible results, and
the tenors are restricted to their least effective register.
Let the convenience of the congregation be considered,
by all means ; but the choir should not be forgotten,
especially as a very slight rearrangement of the parts
will often solve the difficulty.

Mention has been made of free organ accompaniment
of unison singing. This is far from easy, demanding
not only a thorough knowledge of harmony and con-
siderable technical skill, but also some of the ready
invention of the improvisor. At its best it is of great
effect. Our bibliography contains some works on the
subject that will be useful.

Just as the immense resources of modern hymnals
are still barely tapped, so the potentialities of hymn-
singing are rarely realized to the full ; and probably the
facts are not unrelated. A plain service containing no
other music than a few fine hymns, heartily sung by all,
lacks nothing of dignity or beauty ; and when this
hearty congregational hymn-singing occurs in a service


at which mote elaborate, but not less worth} 7 music is
well sung by the choir, both types gain from the con-
trast. But both must be equally good in their different
ways, and no doubt the objections made to choir music
are often based on some lack of effectiveness due to the
absence of this contrasting of the massed singing with
that of a skilled choir. An example of this value not
to say necessity of contrast is shown in cathedrals,
where congregational hymn-singing is now encouraged
instead of being frowned on as it seems to have been
formerly. The singing of a cathedral .choir is never
more delightful than when it is thrown into relief by
some congregational hymns. Per contra, a first-rate
choir and a half-silent congregation may produce a
chilling effect.

For the rest, there is no better advice than that of
John Wesley in his “Directions to Singers/’ He had
choir-singers in mind, but most of his advice applies
equally to congregations.

“Sing AIL . . . Let not a slight degree of
weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross
to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

“Sing lustily and with a good courage.

“Beware of singing as if you are half dead, or
half asleep, but lift up your voice with strength.
Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more
ashamed of its being heard, than when you sing
the songs of Satan.

“Sing modestly . . . strive to unite your voices
together so as to make one clear melodious sound.

“Sing in time . . . and take care not to sing too
slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all


who are lazy ; and it is high time to drive it from
among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as
we did at first.

“Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God
in every word you sing . . . attend strictly to the
sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is
not carried away with the sound, but offered to
God continually.”



PROBABLY at no point is music in so great
a danger of hindering the worship which it ex-
pressly sets out to help as in the Divine Office
whether the music be that of the most elaborate choral
celebration, or of the humblest service of the “Lord’s
Supper” (as it is often named in the Free Churches),
or in the Varying orders and grades of services of
Holy Communion which lie between those two ex-
tremes. It is clear that in so vast a range of possible
utterance from the elaborate choral settings down
to the corporately spoken word (which often, by the
way, drops to barely more than a confused murmur)
the range of responsible choice and the dangers of
possible offence, whether by redundance or short-com-
ing, are equally vast.

There are devout worshippers who find their wor-
ship hindered by any elaborate efforts of choir and
organ ; and there are also musical churchmen sincerely
concerned who would desire no music at all in this
service. These people deserve mindful regard from
their musical servants. No one can justify or uphold
the use of music or any other thing that draws the
well-disposed worshipper’s attention to itself, at this
of all services. On the other hand, who would forbid
its use, if it enhances and intensifies the innermost end .



of the service itself? True we may not unsafely attrib-
ute some part of the devout worshippers’ shrinking
from music to the bad usage of good music ; though
some must be due also to painstaking usage of intoler-
ably self-important music.

Whatever music is right and fitting for this solemn
service, it must never fail to fulfil three general con-
ditions :

(1) It must be such music as is intelligible to the

congregation present ;

(2) It must be such as can enhance the significance

of the words to the worshippers ;

(3) It must be within the power of those who

sing it.

In this order of church music there is at present
conspicuous need for clear thinking, better adjust-
ment, and then indefatigable preparation of such
music as is deemed fit.

There are, in effect, three primary means of utterance
which have to be considered and adjusted, each in its
due proportion, for edifying. These are : Speech, Song,
Silence. Corporate speech as in the spoken Confes-
sion ; corporate song or chant as in the Kyrie, Creed
and at other great moments ; and purposeful silences
which can be the most dynamic means of all on occa-
sion more thrilling than the most thrilling music, more
helpful than the very words that prepared the way for
the silence.

Let us suppose that in practice these three really
have their integral part to contribute at the Com-
munion, under ideal circumstances. Possibly this may


not be so ; a service may be rightly desired leaving out
one of the three. But let it be our working hypothesis
here for the moment that not even the most primitive
village congregation does well to be without some sing-
ing and some silences to enhance the chiefly spoken
word ; and that not even the most ornate choral cele-
bration in the cathedral, with the most glorious music,
should deprive its worshippers of the boons of silence
and the spoken word each in their fitting places. This
seems a reasonable supposition.

Now village A, we will imagine, begins musically
at “zero.” Yet the benignant parson does well to in-
troduce one appropriate hymn at the helpful moment,
in which all present can unite. The rest of the service
gains. Village B is better equipped, having learnt
to sing simple responses as fluently as they speak them.
So they sing the agreed hymn plus the Kyrie, beau-
tifully and naturally uttered together, to some such
simple strain as Merbecke. They do this because they
find it more orderly, more unanimous and more
inspiring than the mixed spoken effort. And here at
once is opened up the whole avenue of musical
advance along which we may find true congregational
song travelling. At villages C, D, E, more and more
becomes possible ; gradually it becomes practicable for
all to join with heart and soul and perfect decorum
in all the greatest moments of utterance in the service,
and even to sing back the two boundless replies to
the celebrant’s “Lift up your hearts” and “Let us give
thanks unto our Lord God,” at that wonderful moment
of the Service.


Of Merbecke’s unique pioneer work (under Cran-
mer’s direction) in this regard we shall needs have much
to say. He showed the way. He opened up the natural
avenue of advance where congregations can ultimately
rise to a form of sung worship more thrillingly inspiring
to all taking part than is generally realized, and this
as naturally as in spoken worship.

But before we consider the possibilities and obliga-
tions which Merbecke opened up, let us take a momen-
tary leap beyond all village attainments and imagine
the attainments of cathedral A or parish church A
where the musical equipment is at its best, and the
devotion no less irreproachable. What are the propor-
tions of music, speech and silence there, say, on Easter
Day at choral celebration ? Our three first conditions
named above still apply: (i) The music made there
also is acceptable, natural, intelligible ; (2) it reverently
enhances the service ; (3) it is within the powers of those
using it. But much of it has now grown so entirely
beyond the powers of the congregation that they must
for the most part silently co-operate. If they cannot do
this it is wrong. Wesley’s ” Communion Service in
E major,” for example, answers our three tests nobly so
far as choirs are concerned. It is intelligible, eloquent,
practicable. But no congregation must try to join in.
Hosts of similar settings will occur to readers, all
involving the same exclusion of any word from the
congregations. Is this exclusiveness wrong ? By no

The question of absolute right or absolute wrong is
at long last beyond any one judgment, or any two, or


any committees. Yet we do well to seek diligently here
for a clear view of the whole range and in this way for
a sane judgment. For these we find pressing need to-
day. There is much muddle. A clear view of the field
might enable all schools of thought to reach a more
refreshing tolerance of each other’s thoughts, and to
revise and extend their aim. And when this is once
attained, though it may be beyond everyone’s powers
to determine the actual good or the bad of it i.e. of
the music here, the spoken word there, the silences
here or there yet it is both urgent and practicable to
decide what is fitting or unfitting, what is duly con-
siderate or inconsiderate for worshippers in each time
and place.

The extreme uses of all three means may possess
fitness and show due consideration for extreme needs.
But the all-silence extreme, the all-musical extreme, the
all-spoken extreme are each of them in turn unlikely
to meet the Church’s normal needs. In spite of this,
there can scarcely be a better preparation for those
who are responsible for the adjustment and bettering of
our efforts to meet this highest of needs than to experi-
ence and ponder over the ideal beauty of these three
extremes at their best : (i) The silent service of a
Friends’ meeting house (we mean the all-silent meeting
which, we gather, is now rare); (2) the all-spoken early
service at some village church, where the celebrant
utters each word with perfect regard for its spiritual in-
tention; (3) the all-music, say, of Bach’s B minor Mass
or of Beethoven’s Mass in D. To contemplate all three
of these experiences (as we do in vivid retrospect at this


moment) helps us to attain an unforgettable evaluation
of the elemental powers of silence, speech and music.

But this done, the immediate reaction seems to be
not towards the adoption of any such extremes,
but, instead, towards a fervent conviction that each
factor must be given its place everywhere. All-silence
is glorious ; but it can soon prove too inarticulate for
Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones in their humble service. All-
speech is direct, companionable, straightforward ; but
it can be inadequate for a congregation that could
naturally rise to song when song is needed. All-music
is admittedly capable of dissolving the poet Milton
and others into ecstasies that “bring all heaven before
their eyes”; but to bring, let us say, Bach’s stupendous
Sanctus (which, incidentally, took its rise in the
Lutheran Church) into any English Church next Sunday
would be like offering a farmer a Niagara to irrigate
his small holding. When Cranmer and Merbecke, at
the inauguration of the Service in the vernacular,
sought some “devout and solemn note” for their pur-
pose, the former declared in a letter to the King that
they wanted to find music that might “much excitate
the hearts” of the worshippers to true devotion. Pre-
cisely ; is not this still what we most seek to adjust
today to the needs and abilities of each of our choirs
and congregations, four hundred years after the event?
We would urge that any desire to determine a uniform
and literal “right or wrong” as to music at the
English Communion Service be recognized as out of
the question. Equally we would urge the banishment
of any criteria based on personal taste. Both are,


we venture to think, impertinent. But what is both
pertinent and urgent is for all schools of thought to
study (as Cranmer and Merbecke sought to study) the
English worshipper’s practical and ideal needs and
capacities when worshipping in English, lovingly and
au fond y and not to rate them either too high or too low.
A faithful and courageous facing, on the part of clergy
and choirmasters alike, of the perpetual questions of
fitness and considerateness must bring some drastic
revisions in more directions than one, correcting, im-
proving we hope out of all knowledge both the easy-
going unmusical and the complacent musical services.
And we must no longer consent to fall with
vaguely amiable tolerance between too stools. There
is a natural music, a primal “native note,” for the
simplest congregations; for fervent speech naturally
tends to sublimate itself into song. There is equally a
music for the most skilful choir to contribute to the
whole, for song tends (just as naturally) to elaborate
itself beyond mere chanting of the words that evoke it,
and to grow richly eloquent; and the greater the
emotion behind the words which move us to music,
the more expansive the music tends to become. What,
then, is most needed? Recognition of both these
means and adjustment of them to their true end.
Faithful enthusiastic development of both the congrega-
tional note and the choir’s music, but with a clear
guiding line drawn between them. After that, our
authorities need more carefully to adjust both orders of
musical effort to the particular needs and powers of
each community. Vision and common sense together


can agree to bring this about. At the moment they do
not seem to agtee well.

Vision contemplating the whole field may see room
in every service for the apt contributions of silent
intervals, of speech, of simple (people’s) song, and of
that more eloquent and illuminating music which lies
beyond the congregation’s vocal powers but not beyond
their spiritual needs. But Commonsense demurs at the
attempt to give them all place. It sees insuperable ob-
stacles. For example, it reasonably protests against the
sudden transfer from spoken to sung words by clergy
or choir. We all know how artificial the effect can be
when good speaking ceases, a note is sounded, and
bad singing begins, to fall back again at a later point
into speech. But it does not follow that natural speech
and natural song are incapable of naturally merging
into and serving one another at fitting moments.
Apart from the obvious fact that sincerity in the use
of both is the great merger and unifier, our two friends
Commonsense and Vision, sitting side by side on any
choir committee, really can collaborate to avoid himpi-
ness and artificial joins in both visionary and practical
ways. Even perfect speaking will refuse to join up to
perfect singing if no allowance is made for the nature
of both at the join I Thus the speaking voice lies
generally lower than the singing voice, is generally less
effortful, more carefree ; and (perhaps most important
of all) syllables are seldom, if ever, sustained in speech as
they are in song. It must sound artificial, not to say
uncommonly foolish whether speaking or singing
when a reader abruptly changes his style of utterance


in these four ways suddenly raises the pitch, suddenly
increases the effort, suddenly betrays anxiety, and sud-
denly and arbitrarily lengthens every important syllable.
The truth is that neither Vision on the one part nor
Commonsense on the other find any necessity whatever
for either of these four happenings. They can all be
removed. Let it but be faithfully tried in a single church
diligently for a single year, and we imagine that church
would have worked out quite a useful sum and offered a
serviceable example to every congregation in the land.
Song such as Merbecke attempted to give us arises out of
speech as spontaneously as a bud breaks out of its stem,
or as the bud itself in due time breaks into full bloom.
Curiously enough, in the midst of this chapter the
writer was called away to play the harmonium at a
tiny village church for the simplest form of Sunday
morning choral Eucharist. The school-teacher sat
at his side and directed him to play two voluntaries ; to
accompany the Kyrie (Merbecke), the Ascription before
and after the Gospel, and two hymns. As one who
signed the Report of the Archbishop’s Committee
(quoted elsewhere in this book) it was a humbling and
reproving experience to the present writer to hear
how beautifully and naturally the spoken words of
the celebrant and the sung words of the village choir
could blend with and fulfil each other. Indeed, the
spoken words became unconsciously like sung words.
For example, this is how the Sursum Corda was spoken :

Lift up your hearts.


Speech and song naturally merged and mingled. This
does not mean that the Committee’s urgent desire to
promote unity and consistency of utterance (whether
spoken or sung) is not to be followed and even pressed
upon those still unmindful of it. It only means that
there are far more ways of attaining this end than at
least one of the signatories of the Archbishop’s Com-
mittee’s Report had realized. One thing was singu-
larly clear at this restrainedly musical service. The
Merbecke melody did fit its purpose astonishingly. It
was the “devout and solemn note”; “for every syllable
a note”; we took it at a speaking pace yet it proved
such as could “excitate the hearts” of this village
congregation and choir to devotion ; and it was very
notable that at the greater moments especially in the
Gloria in Excelsis the merely spoken word was quite
inadequate. It failed completely to “excitate” the
singers to devotion. They became listless enough to
look this way and that, and not even keep together as
they said the great words : . “we praise, we bless, we
worship, we glorify” … it all was positively belied, in
casual, inadequate speech. Was this the choir’s fault ?
The rector and choirmaster received the suggestion that
the preparation of the Gloria should be their next task,
with manifest gladness. And this brings us to dwell
upon the Merbecke which seems to answer to and fulfil
our needs more completely than any service so far made
available to villages, towns and cathedral cities alike.

We are unwillingly constrained to speak critically of
the present confused views both of the nature and the
fitting use of Merbecke’ s music, in the hope of hastening a



happier understanding of both . But first let us try to catch
sight of the ideals which are at the back of Merbecke’s
work and which seemed to have animated all he wrote
and given it its lasting practical and exemplary value.

Our readers will have realized that it is precisely
when corporate speech grows in unanimity that it
nourishes itself into more volume, more orderliness,
more contagious oneness, and so tends to merge into
something very like primitive melody. Cranmer and
Merbecke had prescience to recognize that what hap-
pens in unpremeditated song and primitive, melodic
impulse was likely to be an important factor in their
premeditated supply of notes for the moving moments
in vernacular worship. And they obviously knew that
not only short ejaculatory people’s utterances such as
“Hallelujah!” “Hosanna!” “Kyrie!” or, in the secular
field, ” Hurrah I” tended to break into song in the
rough, but that all ‘fervent words, all words that crystal-
lize emotion, including those that matter deeply to us
all, have the same inherent music in them. Merbecke
seems quite clearly to have made it his mission to dis-
cover and base his “noting” of the English upon this,
taken together with, and never ceasing to regard with
veneration, the existing church melodies. For, like all
intuitive and trusty reformers, he showed profound
knowledge of, and reverence for, existing melodies and
their uses. He held them within his mind. The old
were present with him as he formed the new or one
may almost say as the new formed themselves out of
and around the old through his formative mind. A
study of the first liturgical melodies in the “Booke of


Common Praier Noted”* (1550) together with the cor-
responding plainsongs in the older Latin services seems
to reveal more and more close likenesses and reverently
adroit adaptations of the old to the needs of the new.
Never, would it seem, did a “disciple of the Kingdom”
fulfil more than Merbecke the role of one who takes
out of his treasure “things new and old,” But his task
was, as Cranmer foresaw, to meet the worshipper’s need
of direct utterance “in the vulgar tongue,” both in
natural speech-rhythms and speech-inflections. There
exist two musical pitfalls in such a case to be avoided.
Melodic elaborateness and all contrapuntal or harmonic
complications are the dangers. Either kind, admirable
in themselves, might fatally tend to obscure the words
as uttered. Only the simplest speech-melody within an
unstrained vocal compass could serve. But within such
severe limits, great and moving eloquence is possible,
provided no musical consideration is allowed to over-
ride the paramount verbal needs ; provided, indeed, that
the words are allowed to forge their own melodies spon-
taneously. One small example from the Creed seems to
speak volumes both as to the actual process and as to
Merbecke’s attitude, so manifestlya blend of courageous
reverence for the old and humble search for the new.
Take the following :
Cte – do in u – num De – urn.

* A good nineteenth-century facsimile reproduction of this,
published by Pickering, can still often be picked up at a reason-
able price.



How good it would have been if Merbecke could have
retained this venerable strain and set the corresponding
six English syllables to the age-old seven-note melody
of the seven Latin syllables :
be – lieve in one God.

But this is not fitting; two notes to the word “God”
seem neither natural nor supportable. For it is nowhere
the custom of reverent English speech thus to elongate
the strong, short, incisive word God. So this is truer
to the needs of the case :

(/ 1
., i
i/iY gy

if) 2?
I be – lieve
one God.

But again this makes “too much of a song” on the little
word in. We find in the sequel that Merbecke actually
gives this word no notes of its own at all, but goes
straight to the penultimate note G for the word “one,”
and moreover proceeds to double the time-value of the
latter word “one” (on G) so that the lesser preposition
should do no hurt to its greater companion :
in one God.

That is better. But now we see a serious blemish
threatening in the adapted plainsong. Merbecke dare


not leave it in its ancient form. The two first notes
are splendid to the Latin :

Ore – do.

But to give such prominence to the first personal
pronoun in the English translation “I believe” is
obviously as wrong as the prominent fling of the
melody on the first syllable of the word credo was
right ! Merbecke sensitively and stout-heartedly took
this in hand. Two versions are to be found. In both
the first two notes have given place to low-lying notes :

I be – lieve in one God.
be – Heve in one God.

Both duly place the “I” of the believer on a low note
from which the phrase grows upward. And it is not
hard to see how aptly both seem now to place every
single word of the humble disciple’s profession of
faith. The rising phrase is a new creation, but still
anchored to the old on the crucial words : One God

There is perhaps no more typical example of this
natural process of forging speech-melody for inspiring


congregational purposes than the following Merbecke
fragment :


=-=-i i-

And the third day He a -rose a -gain ac – cord – ing

3 $&-

~& d 22 1 1 F

to the Scrip -tures, And as-cend – ed in – to heaven.

Notice the all-important speech-rhythms of the words
“arose again” and “ascended.” It is strange, indeed,
that Merbecke failed us at the supremely fitting point
for song in this service. After the Comfortable Words,
the Sursum Corda seems to call out for melodic utter-
ance. Merbecke gives nothing but a monotone speech-
rhythm on C, thus :
Lift up your hearts.

An increasing number of devout worshippers find it
most helpful (as indeed is recommended by the Arch-
bishop’s Committee) to substitute the traditional plain-
song of the Latin Mass (Sarum use) and this in all
cases, syllable by syllable :
Sur – sum cor – da.
Lift up your hearts.

The present writer sees in Merbecke’s speech-rhythm
above, and in the hundred odd pages of his liturgical


music, a cleat preclusion of this gentle and moving
Latin song from the Merbecke music. It can be imagined
to fit beautifully into almost any other setting in exis-
tence. To introduce it, however, in Merbecke’s works,
seems as unfitting as to complete an inspired Gothic
church with an inspired Moorish dome. Moreover,
Merbecke here opened another door altogether which
should faithfully be kept open. Is it, we may ask, either
Christian or even intelligent to bar that door to the
hundred and more beautiful inflections that sincere
utterance of these wonderful words in English may
readily reveal and that can crystallize into melodic form
highly suited to congregational use ? Is this devout
“native note” to be rightly suppressed at this of all
points, in this of all services? We are constrained,
rather, to believe that Merbecke here challenges his
followers to note his speech-rhythm and build upon
it as humbly and courageously as he built upon his
predecessors 3 work in his far lonelier pioneer work.

Congregational Communion, then, must ever tend to
natural, orderly, fervently unanimous delivery of the
words appointed to be uttered, whether in speech at
quieter moments as in the Confession or in song at the
thrilling moments such as the Sursum Corda. Mer-
becke’ s was no exclusive solution. It leaves room for
every effort both like and unlike itself; itself is the
type of many possible solutions.

Other writers in his own day seem to have written
on similar lines settings of liturgical parts. Kindred
efforts are being made anew today. We are glad to
be able to refer to the large and steadily growing


supply of music for the Holy Communion fitted
mote and more admirably for use wherever there
is a capable choir and a singing congregation. The
choir part is usually in simple polyphony, often modal
in flavour, and designed to be sung without organ.
There is often no setting of the Creed, nor, in some
instances, of the Gloria, the implication being that for
these portions Merbecke or plainsong may be sung by
choir and congregation. The brevity of the parts
allotted to the choir enables the Office to be sung
in reasonable time an important point in churches
where Mattins is also sung and the simple and eccle-
siastical character of the set portions minimizes the risk
of display in the choir, or distraction or estrangement
in the nave. On the congregational side such a ser-
vice might be made still better by the occasional use of
other music than Merbecke for the Creed. The tuneful
“Missa de Angelis” might well be drawn on. It is more
elaborate than the twelfth-century plainsong Creed now
widely used ; but it is also easier, and likely to be well
taken up in quarters where the severity of the older
plainsong might be a hindrance.

We would here offer a warning against the ever-
threatening risk of musical over-elaborateness. Eu-
phony is beguiling in itself. But the musician at wor-
ship must remain at all points the servant of the
people at worship with him. We must refrain from
elaborating either melody or harmony beyond the
people’s mind to accept or follow. There is for example
an adapted Easter plainsong revived in the “English
Hymnal” (presumably for use) in which more than


twenty notes are set to be sung to the second syllable
of the word “Passover.” This may have been the
sincere melodic expression of rapturous devotion by
men long ago to whom twenty notes in this connection
were more joyously natural than one. But a lovable
ancient church tradition is not of necessity either the
natural or practicable or even adaptable vehicle of an
English congregation at worship today. Our link with
the revered past must be something more vitally akin
than this. Similarly elaborate harmonies of Victorian
days, and descants (of various size, compass and age),
can be devout to the musical enthusiast and devastating
to his congregation.

This brings us to closer grips with the choir’s and the
organist’s true function, at Holy Communion especially,
but in other parts of the service also. Taking organist
and choir together as the potential expert helpers and
leaders of the people, fortifiers and illuminators of the
congregational melody, they can obviously be used
in two ways simultaneously for the one part doubling
the congregation’s melody, and for the other part fitly
adorning it with added harmonies or added melodies ;
these neither obscuring nor detracting from the chief
song, but supporting and enhancing it. That added har-
monies and added melodies can naturally and helpfully
function in this way is unquestionable. Let the simplest
examples be recalled. Here is a truly congregational
phrase from the well-known tune “Nicsea” to Heber’s

Ho – ly, Ho – ly, Ho – ly I



How three strong diapason chords on the organ can
strengthen and enrich it is familiar to all. For a homely
melodic example, we have only to remember our
fathers’ habit of enriching a tune by extemporizing
thirds and sixths there and then in the congregation
a device which, fifty years ago, was called “singing
seconds.” The present writer can remember the zest
with which he looked forward to a tune which went
as follows :

/I – h L – -0 r
f^ xi
{. -N. J*T| –
1 fl V , .,,.,12
‘O -“C7; ^3 –
because he knew that if he stood on the seat with his
ear close to his mother’s face, she would make the
tune uniquely enjoyable by adding thirds :
n i TJ


Descants are a manifestation of this intuition to
amplify, without confusion, the people’s part. But
through all this, especially when half the choir sings
with the people and the other half supplies complete
harmonic accompaniment, it is imperative that the


tendency to hold up the rhythm and harmonically
stereotype it should be resisted. It is interesting to note
how early harmonic enrichment of the people’s melody
occurred in the lovely Lord’s Prayer, by Merbecke’s
contemporary, Stone, recently made available in its
original form by Mr. C. F. Simkins.* Such speech-
harmonies, as they may be called, should be sung in
the same natural shorts and longs as the people’s part.
It seems strange that the custom has grown up of
accompanying with organ harmonies to the exclusion
of choral accompaniment. A moment’s thought and
a week’s experience will convince anyone how ser-
viceable it is to reverse this custom and use the organ
(as it undoubtedly was used of old) to support the
people’s part, leaving supporting harmonies to such of
– the choir as can be spared for the purpose.

A tactful distribution of accompaniment and sup-
port would seem to be best attainable by some such
plan as the following :

1 . Main Portion of Choir. To sing with the people

in the simplest speech-melody of the Mer-
becke type.

2. Select Portion of Choir. To sing accompanying

“speech-harmonies” in the most melodious
ways available.

3 . Organ. To play the chief melody in support of

the people, occasionally supporting the select
portion of choir with their added accompani-

The organ must play speakingly and so meet the con-
gregation who speak singingly.

* S.P.CK.


Only a wod or two need be added at this point as to
the more formal musical settings used by many churches
at the Communion, since they stand in reality in the
same category as the voluntary settings and larger
musical offerings discussed in Chapter XIII., where the
nature and requirements of such settings are fully con-
sidered. What is said there applies with even greater
urgency here. All musical glories must be utterly con-
siderate of the people’s needs. Their welfare is the
supreme concern of every note of music sung. That
means that their silent participation must be realized ;
indeed, it should be made as easy to hear and take part in
as to speak or sing and take part in the very worship
itself. ,

And now we must turn once more from general con-
siderations to offer such criticisms and suggestions as
we are able on the situation today in regard to the
present use and abuse of Merbecke, In his setting the
English Church has something that might have long ago
become a priceless possession, i.e. a setting of the Com-
munion Office that could be joined in, with confidence,
by all church folk, in parish church and cathedral alike.
But the opportunity has not been fully used, owing to
a variety of causes. At the time of writing there are
fifteen editions ! All differ in some respects from one
another, and some from the original, in the method
of setting forth ; in one passage, “sitteth at the right
hand of the Father,” the melody has been altered
for reasons that seem to us to be insufficient (the
more so as the original is both superior on musical
grounds and had become familiar to congregations


before the change was made) ; there are two schools
of thought concerning the method of performance,
one maintaining that the music is plainsong and
should be notated and rendered as such: the other
holding that, as Merbecke used notes of varying lengths
(the relative values of which he plainly set forth in a
preface) the music belongs rather to the measured type,
to be sung freely, yet with musical as well as verbal
rhythm ; and there is similar divergence of view as to
harmonization, the plainsong party claiming that the
music is modal, the other side seeing in the setting a
mixture of modal and modern tonality most fittingly
harmonized in the style of Merbecke’s day. After careful
consideration of all the arguments, it seems to us that
Merbecke’s setting is, as Dr. Colles says in “Grove,”
“neither plainsong in the technical sense (notes of
undefined value) nor mensural music (notes of strict
value) but a typically English compromise between the
two.” Merbecke’s accentuation and his indications of
speech-rhythms in note-values are adversely criticized
by those who, in ignorance of the true nature of music
itself, take them fixedly. When Parry set Milton’s line,
“O may we soon again renew that song,” using, like
Merbecke, three values of notes, he indicated lengths on
the first and fourth syllables and shortness on the fifth,
and this much in Merbecke’s manner :




Sing in stock-values, and you violate both Milton’s
and Party’s inspiration ; but do not adversely criticize
Parry if you fail to understand that quavers that grow
on musical branches can no more be sung to stock size
than leaves on nature’s branches can be found to be
ever exactly alike. Merbecke has been plentifully abused
recently. Let his light-hearted critics abuse Parry, who
also was a devout speech-rhythm composer and not
impeccable. Let them do more for their own good
and treat Parry as they have treated Merbecke :
O may we soon a – gain re – new that song.

in order, forsooth, to help choirs to truer English-
inspired speech-values than Parry’s well-meant mark-
ings, and they will reflect: is even mensural music
ever fully written to the eye? Is music as free as
branches in nature, and never made to measure ? What,
then, were Parry and Merbecke most keen to do ? To
help their singers by a few careful pattern-suggestions
to unify their utterance without loss of freedom ? Are
the equal notes of plainsong notation meant to hamper
that very freedom ? With such thoughts in mind, we
would beseech our plainsinging friends to reconsider
the whole position again and again, as we have done
and intend to do, with larger conceptions of the true
nature of song, plain or adorned, of music mensural or

Regarded as a bridge between, and combination of,


ancient and modern methods of setting a prose text,
and sung accordingly, Merbecke’s service is, we feel,
of greater historical interest and far more effective than
either the strict plainsong version on the one hand, or
the modernized Stainer edition on the other.

An exemplary congregational setting of the Commu-
nion Service that would set the standard is an ideal
that the church has not yet achieved, owing to this dis-
turbing variety of editions. Is it too late to do what
ought to have been done a few decades ago ? The
Roman Church is setting the example in trying to
arrive at an agreed form of the Ordinary of the Mass ;
cannot the English Church arrive at an agreed Mer-
becke ? A representative body of clerical scholars and
practical musicians could surely be relied on to meet this
need. Publication difficulties ought not to be allowed
to stand in the way. They could perhaps be overcome
by the simple expedient of throwing open the rights of
publication, a proportion of the proceeds of sales being
devoted to a number of church music causes that will
command general approval, e.g. the School of English
Church Music, the Plainsong and Medixval Music
Society, and the Organists’ Benevolent League. The
editions should include some that may be bound up in
the most widely used sizes of prayer-books.

To conclude : what should be our attitude musically
to the Divine Office, and, in it, towards each other,
musicians and congregation alike ? The musician must
not suffer surprise if so profound a service move him to
attempt the impossible, Le. a music so full, so musical


(compared with the spoken word that actually evoked
his music), so elaborate as to be unacceptable to the
ordinary worshippers. And worshippers should, for
their part, regard tolerantly and gratefully the musician,
if great words move him to expansive music. But both
must give and take in agreement. Only the most perfect
music perfectly rendered is just good enough for the
humblest worshipper at this of all services. We must
ruthlessly cut out everything in the nature of display.
All must be subject to the occasion and the spirit of it.
Congregations for their part can frankly accept sincere
music, taking part silently as they do in the sincere
reading or singing of a great prayer when one alone is
uttering but all are praying. This is only really hard to
do when shortcomings (on one side or on both) make
it so. Let us musicians for our part revere the sub-
lime attainments of Bach’s B minor and Beethoven’s
Solemn Mass in D. Yet let our music at the Com-
munion be in all ways as simple as it can and only as
elaborate as it must. Simple or elaborate, let our care
for and practice of it be never-ending : for it is certain
that in this mystic Service above all others, when we
have done our utmost we shall most vividly know our-
selves to be unprofitable servants.



^T^HE -word “voluntary” in the caption serves as a
I reminder that anthems and settings of the can-
ticles are not obligatory, save in cathedrals and
collegiate churches. Their use elsewhere, however, is
admissible, and may be desirable, provided again that
certain simple conditions, like those already noted in
other connections, be observed : (i) The introduction
of such voluntary music and the frequency of its use
should have due regard to the traditions both musical
and otherwise of the church, and to the needs and
desires of the congregation as a whole ; (2) the examples
chosen must be of good quality both as music and as
church music ; (3) they must be well within the capa-
bilities of the choir.

The first of these conditions raises again points of
vital importance on the human side. For musical issues
musicianship is needed, but for human issues clergy,
choir and choirmaster need only be thoroughly human ;
and we can all see that if at any point the musical and
humane are momentarily at variance, the latter must be
given first consideration. It is one of the choirmaster’s
responsibilities to see that they are reconcilable.

“I like So-and-So’s anthems,” said one of our greatest
living bishops, “because there are always plenty of

225 15


words to them.” It is inhuman to ask a bishop, to
whom ideas ate very life itself, to spend five minutes
over an idea which engaged his mind for half a minute
at most, and therefore leaves him for nine out of ten
minutes healthily impatient to get on. The anthems
he liked gave him clues, something to ponder in known
words which unknown music expounded.

Most readers will know of the famous dean who,
having a copy of the anthem always placed in his stall,
exclaimed to a friend : “I look at the price, and when it
is three-halfpence, I know I’m all right ; but when I see
“price sixpence/ I tremble I” Was this a lack of educa-
tion in the dean, or of the humane touch in the music, or
both ? When we say “lack of education” here, we mean
many things, many aspects of education. Least of all do
we mean education in purely musical questions. From
infancy that dean’s eye had been trained both by use and
teaching, and also by deliberate exercise, to detect and
enjoy visible beauty in objects of every kind, whether
in nature or in art and handiwork around him, and
also to detect and abhor ugliness and shortcoming.
But what “Eton and Balliol” dean, or, indeed, what
literary genius, soldier or statesman can say that from in-
fancy his ear had been exercised and taught (self-taught
or otherwise) to detect and admire audible beauty and to
detect and abhor audible ugliness ? All this will, doubt-
less, be changed some day ; and a chapter on anthems in
a book on church music fifty years on will be at no pains
to put this point we now are endeavouring to make
clear. Yet we suspect that in every such book, for ages
yet, choirs and composers alike will still need to be


exhorted to be sensible enough to consider and meet
the needs of worshippers, from the bishop to the
humblest member of the congregation.

Yet another reminiscence may help us here. We once
heard an eminent cabinet minister excitedly commend
an anthem he had just heard. He did it with the air of
a man who had made a sudden discovery. “It was all
so exciting 1” he exclaimed enthusiastically ; “there
was the cry of a soul in trouble, getting no answer to
prayer ; then you heard the enemy overwhelming him,
and the greater cry and horror ; then the music gave us
the utter loneliness of blank despair, and at last the
picture of rest.” Such were his ideas. The reader may
have guessed that the anthem was the overworked
and sometimes musically despised Mendelssohn’s “Hear
my Prayer.”

From these three typical instances we may deduce a
useful fact or two about all our efforts at illumination and
exposition of spiritual experiences in terms of music,
Le. in anthems, elaborate settings of canticles, cantatas,
voluntaries in short, in all voluntary church music.
The bishop asked for words; the dean required
brevity ;* the statesman’s need was the human touch.
To all three, and to three million other such men today,
most music is at present what St. Paul calls a “tongue.”
They had rather hear five notes sung with understanding
than ten thousandinatongue. But then fivenotes sung
are gone in a second or so. How are they to be remem-

* Incidentally, of course, it is to be remembered that “price
ijd.” often means a well-known classic, and the Dean’s tastes
may have been Handelian.


beted ? Imagine that five words appeared in a motto
or inscription at the east end of every church (say, at
anthem time) for one moment, and then disappeared
from sight; would the bishop, dean, statesman and
everybody else get good hold of it, and be grateful ?
This brings us to thevexed question of musical repetition
of words in anthems. Our critics will realize that there
is such a thing as anthem architecture that accounts
for verbal repetitions. They do not call pillar upon
pillar, arch upon arch of their favourite cathedral “vain
repetition” ; nor do they laugh at such a feature. When
they cultivate an eye for church architecture they should
try to cultivate an ear for musical architecture too.
This is not asking a hard thing. It is not harder
to acquire the hearing ear than the seeing eye, but
the latter is rarely given the consideration that is
its due.

Having said this, we are free to admit the absurdities
and complacencies of the repetitions in foolish anthems.
There is, for example, a notorious work called “Ruth”
in which many pages of loud chorus are devoted to
repetitions of the words “and his name was Boaz,” to
say nothing of other astonishing examples of an unbe-
lievable convention. However, this is not the place to
enter into the problems of words and music which face
us today. Absurdities are still rife in almost every vocal
field. But we can perhaps usefully summarize the needs
and just desires of our congregations in regard to all
set music at services. We must ask them to respond to
Beauty made audible as they would to Beauty made
visible in God’s House. But that being said, we must


take care to give them the teal article, both in com-
position and in rendering. And the ideas underlying
the anthem must not be an enigma, vaguely expounded
musically. The bishop asked for plenty of words, but he
really required ideas; abundance of clear thought under
the beautiful sounds. If Nature abhors a vacuum,
our higher nature, our creative mind, must needs
abhor it still more. This is the lesson of “Hear my
Prayer.” Mendelssohn made no secret of the manly
ideas behind it all. Better, fitter music will succeed it.
Men will stand on Mendelssohn’s shoulders and bene-
fit by his faithful genius. But they must embody the
thoughts and feelings and aspirations of the worship-
ping Christian as articulately as he did\ and the more
mystically beautiful church music becomes, the greater
its obligations to be articulate. Wesley knew this secret.
“The Wilderness” was rejected by musical adjudicators.
But it is a human document, a vivid new thing, a spiritual
music, though with plenty of musical defects, which
even a pedestrian doctor of music can detect. It sur-
vives these defects . And on simpler lines, such an anthem
as the old “Lord, for Thy tender mercies’ sake” (especi-
ally with the beautiful final Amens of the more recent
Church Music Society’s edition*) fulfils the same needs,
demands and desires of all men, if perfectly sung. Of
the work of living writers, it may not be invidious to
single out two as examples of elaborate and modern
anthems which yet fulfil the common needs described.
In “Lord, Thou hast been our refuge,”f Vaughan
Williams has broken new ground. Not the slowest
* Oxford University Press. f Messrs. Curwen.


imagination can fail to be quickened by the alternation
(for double choir) of the serene Christian hymn, to its
familiar St. Anne, sung by one choir in a whisper, with
the sublimely dark Jewish pathos of the original psalm,
chanted by the opposite choir in a land of despairing
recitative ; and the final merging of both Jewish and
Christian utterance into a prayer that the God of all
would “prosper the handiwork ” of all. Nor can the
plain man, if responsively inclined, miss the seven
imaginative facets of a well-known hymn, “O quanta
qualia,” which Dr. W. H. Harris has given to the seven
stanzas in his anthem, “O what their joy and their
glory must be.”* But now we must turn to the ques-
tion of local traditions.

There are churches where entirely congregational
music is a tradition : at others canticle settings are cus-
tomary, but anthems taboo ; at yet other churches,
plainsong is used for psalms and canticles, and an-
thems sung only very rarely. The proportion of set-
tings or anthems in any of these circumstances should,
in our judgment, neither be increased or lessened with-
out careful consideration. The musical traditions of
a church, especially when those traditions make for a
congregational type of service, are often a strong unify-
ing element, not to be hazarded, but preserved. True,
their preservation may raise a problem, for a skilful
choir often finds in the simple round of services a lack
of outlet for its zeal and ability. A good solution is
the occasional performance of extra-liturgical music.
In the shape of monthly, or less frequent, recitals of
* Oxford University Press.


choral and organ music (preferably after the evening
service, which may well be slightly shortened for the
occasion), this is being done increasingly in churches
and chapels where exist the apparently incongruous
elements of a simple service and a first-rate choir. The
recital may be of short works of the anthem type, a
cantata, a seasonable portion of “The Messiah”
there is hardly a limit to the field of choice. In places
where good amateur instrumentalists are available all
sorts of possibilities soon reveal themselves. We know
a suburban Wesleyan church where there are monthly
recitals, the programmes ranging from Elizabethan
motets to a Bach cantata, from an “Elijah” selection
to a substantial choral work by Parry. Better far this
occasional music-making, which members of the con-
gregation may choose or not to attend, than weekly
anthems and settings for which, owing to long
custom, the real and general desire has still to be

Our second condition given at the outset of this
chapter brings up once more the question of taste.
There is a lot of muddled thinking on this point, many
people having made up their mind (apparently without
first using it) that a piece of music is just a piece of
music, and so something to like or dislike, but impos-
sible to classify as good or bad.

A little reflection will show that there is in the whole
of music a vast range of works of every conceivable
style including dance music concerning whose excel-
lence there has long been agreement among musicians,
A similar state of things exists in every art, of course ;


yet many a normal person of good education who can
readily distinguish between good and bad work in
literature and the fine arts becomes vague concerning
musical standards. It must be remembered that books
and pictures, sculpture and architecture, are sufficiently
related to real life to enable him to recognize, and to be
influenced by, the more obvious technical virtues and
defects. No mere colour-scheme, however pleasing,
will reconcile him to, e.g., a piece of ludicrously bad
perspective. With music he is on a far less assured
footing, being conscious only of what sounds pleasing.
Appreciation of a composer’s craft is beyond him : he
is not easily persuaded that music, to be indisputably
good, must comprise among its elements certain im-
portant factors of which only the musicians are aware.
A clumsy bass, a bad “join,” poor part-writing, weak
“lay-out” of harmony : to the expert ear these are what
the false perspective and incompetent drawing are to
the eye of the intelligent non-musician. It has to be
said frankly that, to be of value, an opinion on
musical quality must be based on musical under-
standing and a considerable degree of familiarity with
the corpus of music in common use. As with the
general, so with the particular ; and anyone with an
all-round knowledge of the church music repertory
will find little difficulty in choice, so far as quality is

Contrary to popular opinion, then, the question of
good and bad quality in music is not one of mere taste,
nor even of agreed fitness only, but of standards of
good workmanship discernible and generally accepted


by those qualified by knowledge to give advice. Taste
is personal., and the fact that it often leads to a deliberate
choice of the bad no more damages the case for a
standard of quality in art than deliberate misconduct
weakens the case for a standard in morals. It is as-
tonishing that today, after more than a decade of
broadcasting, with all its opportunities of self-educa-
tion in such matters, there are still intelligent people
who think they can dispose of a question of musical
choice, whether it be of a wireless programme or of
a piece of church music, by a mere assertion that they
“know what they like.” Incalculable harm has been
done to the cause of church music by the toleration
even respect with which this attitude has been viewed
by both clerical and musical authorities. Of all the
signs of weakness in direction none is worse than that
implied in the remark, “We must give the people what
they like.” But who are “they” ? In what way have
“their” likings been ascertained? And why is it so
often assumed that the liking will be for music of
various degrees of badness ? In even a small congrega-
tion there will be found markedly different tastes and
degrees of musical knowledge. Some folk have an in-
stinctive appreciation for the good in music, as others
have in dress, furniture, food, etc. ; and to these have
now to be added the growing number whose musical
perceptions are in a constant state of development
through the agency of broadcasting, (The fact that
this development is often unconscious makes it none
the less real.) The time is rapidly approaching if,
indeed, it is not already here when to give a con-


gregation the music It likes will be to give it nothing
but good.

The second half of our second proviso must not be
forgotten : the music must be good church music. The
principle is best put logically : All fitting music is good,
but not all good music is fitting.

In regard to both quality and fitness there will
always be a proportion of music that is on the border
line ; and (especially so far as style is concerned) most
of these debatable examples will be found to belong to
periods of decline in music generally, or in church
music in particular, or even in church life itself.
More than once the decline in church music has coin-
cided with the advance in secular music has even been
due to that advance. For example, the Haydn-Mozart-
Beethoven period was one of the greatest in the his-
tory of music so far as development of the art and its
resources was concerned ; but it was one of the worst
for church music, partly for that very reason. As there
was no corresponding growth on the lines of the two
great polyphonic schools that reached their culmina-
tion in Palestrina and Bach, church music became sub-
merged, and the difference between music for the church
and that for the opera and the concert-room became
almost negligible. A similar state of things is seen in
English church music of the Restoration period. The
chief developments were in the direction of harmony,
instrumental forms, and music for stage purposes. (The
low condition of the devotional life of the church it-
self was also a factor.) That is why the greatest natural
genius in English music, though organist of Westmin-


ster Abbey, wrote comparatively little church music
that can be used today without some allowance being
made for the period and circumstance of its origin.

This question of “making allowance” is one of con-
siderable importance ; it means a temporary adjustment
of the listener’s views and tastes, and without it a great
deal of fine music that has become of doubtful fitness
through the passing of time and changes of taste could
never be heard. That this adjustment is not to be
sweepingly condemned as a mere temporizing with in-
feriority may be shown by many instances, of which we
choose one of the most familiar PurcelTs “Rejoice in
the Lord.” Judged by present-day standards of what is
ecclesiastically fit, it may be condemned. Yet its naively
cheerful strains and secular rhythms may be helpfully
sung and heard not only by “naively cheerful” people,
but by all those who are able to appreciate its sincerity
and to “tune in” to the composer and his time.

We have been somewhat discursive on this question
of quality and fitness, because we are convinced that
much of the confusion of mind that exists amongst
clergy, organists and congregation alike is due not to
lack of the necessary large-mindedness so much as to
a lack of the historical sense. In the Preface to “A
History of Music,”* Professor Buck says :

“… the history of a thing music or any-
thing else seems to me to be not only the most
interesting part of it, but also the one part that
must be known before the thing can be under-

* Benn’s Sixpenny Library.


stood. Yet of the millions of music lovers in the
world, but one here and there has ever even dipped
into a history of music.”

To many this will be a hard saying. Perhaps only a
minority will share Professor Buck’s feeling that the
history of a thing is the most interesting part of it. But
nobody can, after reflection, deny that to understand
anything we are in a better position the moment we
know its history, and there can be no real church
musicianship without power to grasp the glory of all
schools and periods. These matter more than names,
because all great composers possess the power to
feel forward and backward. Even such a man as Boyce,
for instance, can show three styles in a single anthem.
Thus, his “Turn thee unto me” opens with nobly
emotional polyphony that might have come from the
greatest of the Elizabethans ; the second movement is
a treble duet in the tuneful, homely, even complacent
style of Boyce’s own day ; the third is a florid fugato
suggestive of very good Handel. The study of musical
history is full of such examples of the slow merging of
school into school. The Boyce anthem remains a fine
work despite its seeming confusion of styles ; the large
mind will hear its unity ; and to those with a sense of
history the confusion is not a defect, but a point of
great interest.

Having embarked on this historical digression, let
us carry it a degree farther, and pause to point out how
throughout the ages English church music has its
unifying points of contact. Of many, let us take one
easily verifiable example. Here is the last line of the


Sarum form of the hymn-tune “Veni creator spiritus” :*

Observe the beautiful suavity of the flat music’s first
accidental : it was an early convention (with a common-
sense vocal reason) that when the B lay between two
A’s, it should usually be flattened. Now see Tallis,
centuries after this hymn-tune was written, using the
progression harmonically, with added beauty brought
about by the juxtaposition of flat and natural :

— — –



And here, from a multitude of examples of the period,
is Gibbons’s version, stronger, as befits the text,
“Hosanna to the Son of David” :
* For ease of comparison all the examples appear in the
same key.


PurcelTs constant employment of the device left it
unexhausted, and we find Samuel Sebastian Wesley,
in his evening service in E, playing with it for a
page or two thus :





The progression has been maintained with very few
breaks throughout the story of English music, especi-
ally English church music (the rarity of its use by the
later Victoria n school was probably due to the strong
element ot’false relationship), though Wesley made, pet-
haps, the most poignantly developed use of it on record
in his anthem “Man that is born of a woman” ; it has
been treated in a variety of ways (the Elizabethans and
Purcell did not scruple on occasion to sound both flat
and natural together !) and our living composers of
church music still find good use for it. The devotional
power of that B flat has been everywhere recognized.
Organists will recall an exquisite instance at the double
bar in Bach’s “Schmiicke dich” ; and in the “Et re-
surrexit” of Beethoven’s “Mssa Solemnis” it appears
with electrifying effect

All this shows, we hope, that the study of musical
history and style can be of great interest ; and its prac-
tical value soon becomes apparent to those who take


seriously their responsibility as choosers and inter-
preters of the church’s music.

The third proviso concerning the use of non-
obligatory music is that it should be well within the
capabilities of the singers.* This needs emphasizing
rather than pointing out, and the emphasis should be
on what we will call the two-fold margin of (i) safety
and (2) interpretative scope. The first is rarely wide
enough, because church choirs, like amateur dramatic
societies, are apt to grudge that last little bit of work,
that final pinch of pains, the importance of which per-
haps few but professionals realise fully. Only to
amateurs is vouchsafed the optimism that in the face
of a dozen shaky leads and untidy ensembles, can
express itself in the typically English and happy-go-
lucky phrase, “It’ll be all right on the night 1”

The standard of church choir singing would go up
at a bound if, say, a hundred choirs, scattered about the
country, suddenly became zealots, smitten with a
passion for perfection. No longer would they be con-
tent with first performances that are virtually final re-
hearsals ; their zeal would express itself in a new slogan,
even breaking out into a rough rhyme : “It shall be all
right On the last practice night.”

The margin for interpretation starts at this point*
The excellence of that first singing will inevitably be
mainly of the letter ; every subsequent practice and
rendering will reveal more and more of the spirit, until

* The accompaniment of much modem church music is so
difficult and independent that the capabilities of the organist and
the resources of his instrument have also to be considered.


real interpretation is achieved. If it be argued that both
zeal and standard alike are unattainable by church
choirs, we ask objectors to explain away the fact that
town and village choral societies of men, women, and
children of exactly the same type as those in church and
chapel choirs (many, in fact, are members of those
choirs) can in competition festivals reach and some-
times pass the 90 per cent, mark, often in music making
more demands than that which the church choirs of the
same calibre would be called on to sing in church. We
know all that can be said in reply that the com-
petition choir has only a few songs to study, and can
spend many months on them; that the stimulus of
competition helps them ; and so on. But a very large
proportion of the church-choir repertory consists of
familiar and very simple things, the amount of new
music to be studied depending on the time and energy
the choir is prepared to give ; and as for stimulus,
ought church choirs to need any more than that pro-
vided by the honour and privilege of their position ?
Happily, there do exist church choirs whose aim at
the best is constant. They may be heard in village and
town alike ; and they belong to no particular parts of
the country. Being situate in Wales or Yorkshire has
little to do with the matter “little” rather than “no-
thing,” because the Celt brings to choral singing tem-
perament, and the Yorkshireman vocal energy, to a
degree not usual in other parts of the country ; but the
things that count are the aim and the effect. So you
may hear very bad choirs as well as good in Wales and
Yorkshire ; and vice versa in. East Anglia, Wessex, the


Midlands anywhere, in fact, and sometimes in the
oddest and most surprising corners. But one thing is
significantly certain : whatever the vocal resources may
be, you will never find a bad choir where there is a good
choirmaster, so the moral is plain.

Here, then, is the position of the choir and choral
musician generally towards anthems and all other
voluntary music. The obligation is not in the under-
taking. They are free to undertake anthems or not ;
but this very freedom of action defines their obliga-
tion that the choice shall be fitting and the singing

Instead of giving lists of suitable music, we have pre-
ferred to consider the general principles by which
choice should be governed. Lists, after all, say little
or nothing on some crucial points, nor can there be
finality about such guides ; good new works, such as
those referred to earlier in the chapter, appear con-
stantly, together with reprints and improved editions
of old ones. The choirmaster should choose for him-
self, and he can do this easily and safely by taking ad-
vantage of the facilities now given by most publishers
of choral music. He should (a) make out a list of likely
works, drawn from catalogues, review columns, etc.,
and send it to the publisher with a request for specimen
copies on approval ; or (U) he should write for a selec-
tion of works of a specified style and degree of diffi-
culty, also on approval. In the latter case it is well to
mention a few familiar things well within the powers
of his choir. (If the choir is very large or very small, or
unusual in balance or in any other respect, the fact



should be mentioned.) The sample copies can usually
be retained for a fortnight, no charge being made if
the copies are returned in due time.

Other helps are to be found in the review columns
of musical journals, which give fairly full details as to
character, degree of difficulty, etc. Not least among the
advantages of affiliation to the School of English
Church Music are the descriptive and classified lists
of parish church music, new and old, that appear in
the journal issued by the School. We add an expression
of regret that the church newspapers now give far less
space than formerly to the reviewing of church music.

The title of this chapter suggests that it ought to
embrace music played as well as sung, so we end with
a brief plea for the organ music that precedes and ends
the service the voluntary. Like the choir’s voluntary
music, that of the organist must be good, fitting for
the place and the occasion, and worthily performed.
With an improved standard in these respects will cer-
tainly come a more responsive and appreciative atti-
tude on the part of the congregation.

The size of the organ and the skill of the player
matter less than is generally supposed : tasteful playing
of quite simple (but good) music will often hold a con-
gregation whose departure might be quickened by the
complex or flamboyant. Organ music before the service
should consist of a set piece or pieces unless the player
is a gifted or at least coherent improviser. Good tim-
ing is necessary. An advantage of the use of set pieces
for in-voluntaries is that it keeps in circulation, so to
speak, much beautiful and suitable music that is too


quiet or meditative for playing at other times. Now
that so much first-rate organ music is broadcast, and
the general public is becoming acquainted with the
repertory, the out-voluntaries ought to be included in
the music list. (We know of some churches where the
in-voluntary is given as well.) The voluntary, both in
and out, may now be made relevant to the service^
thanks to the wealth of organ music, old and new,
based on ecclesiastical themes. Where instrument and
opportunity allow of frequent recitals, the distinction
between voluntaries and concert pieces should be more
clearly made than is usually the case. The organ reper-
tory is far larger, better in quality, and richer in scope,
than is generally realized. Recital programmes con-
sisting mainly of choral preludes and other music more
suitable for use in connection with a service give the
public a totally wrong impression of the instrument
and its resources. A recital, even in a church, belongs
to the concert genus, and while suited in aspiration and
dignity to its environment should yet be as varied,
skilful and attractive as any other form of solo recital.
It has even more incentive to be masterly.



FOR many years it has been clear that there is not
a village church in the country which could not
have its Church Choral Union. This has been
abundantly proved, as already suggested, by the Com-
petitive Festival Movement, where the standard at-
tained by the village choral societies, in part-song,
madrigal and cantata, has been astonishing. The
country only awaits its musical staffing. When anything
remarkable has been done by a small village, there is
always an indefatigable local enthusiast at the bottom
of it all, and with him or her one or more to make
a working committee. The squire’s thoroughly musical
daughter has been trained perhaps at the Royal College
of Music, and has caught the festival and conducting
infection, very likely at a summer school ; and the
“Matthew Passion” itself becomes a village possibility.
But we are not quite there yet ; for the competitive
village or district orchestra is still a rare thing ; the
village church choirs are generally, and almost totally,
incompetent to sing skilled music well enough them-
selves, and are often an unconscious hindrance to the
undertaking because they have not been called upon to
relate themselves to their more musical neighbours the
choral and orchestral societies, nor to work together
with them at “The Messiah” or the Passion music. A



moment’s thought will make it clear to all that the
primal need is co-operation and the agreed mobiliza-
tion of all available and willing musical material, not
only the existing choirs, the congregation and their
friends, but the musical powers of the whole parish,
A music committee with organist and choirmaster, all
musical enthusiasts, and a presiding chairman and
secretary are needed.

Let us suppose that this has been achieved ; and, to
fly high, let nothing less than a devout and adequate
rendering of the “Matthew Passion” some Friday in
Lent be the determined aim of the parish church or
chapel in question. With this in mind it may be helpful
to review the needs and practical possibilities.

(1) First the glory of the aim of it all must be made
clear to all concerned ; without cant or priggishness
everyone must consciously agree that personal powers
and proclivities are to be merged, in unruffled good
humour, into the one great purpose of offering an ideal
musical service to the parish. As in the old days the
people must “offer themselves willingly” with no non-
sense of “I want to sing or play this or that part.” This
is said here, because, from experience, we have found
that failure comes from not having made the vision
clear till after the petty personal “taking offence” has
begun. Tell the whole “expeditionary force” from the
first that they are going to climb a musical Everest,
and they are less likely to trouble about their personal
comfort on the journey.

(2) Next come the series of friendly committee and
unofficial sub-committees meeting over cups of tea


at each other’s houses in older to outline the actual
organization. Who is to be the conductor C.-in-C.?
Who are to be his assistants ? These may include his
chief organist and assistant organist; his assistant
chorus-master for the “Congregational Choral Union” ;
assistant coach for the local instrumental contingent ;
assistant choirmaster for teaching the boys and men of
the regular church choir the chorals ; music librarian
and registrar of attendances at practices. Now it is easy
to foresee that there may be many different successful
solutions. This imposing list of seven major jobs might
very easily be mastered by two indefatigable and friendly
men the conductor of the Choral Union and the
organist of the church in close collaboration. It
might be that three men would do it far better, one of
them imported solely for this emprise.

(3) Here comes the practical question : how much
professional help will be required ? Clearly, the chief
solo parts will call for first-class exponents : above all,
the exacting role of Narrator must be well filled.
Singers will usually be willing to consider a reduced fee
for local enterprises of the sort we are discussing ; and
in many cases it may possibly be best for the local en-
thusiast conducting and the organist to agree that they
will invite a professional conductor to take supreme
and final command, they themselves undertaking all
subsidiary leaderships together. There will probably
be among the chorus a few men quite capable of sing-
ing the subsidiary solo parts : and the solo and con-
tralto arias may be sung by a section of the boys in
unison. The short choruses of disciples could, with


good effect, be allotted to a semi-chorus of men. And
so the organizers would continue to carry out their
absorbingly interesting task of allocation of parts in
domestic conclave.

(4) The first meeting of all who are to take part would
perhaps best be -held in a parish hall or practice room
with a piano. All would have their copies, and the
conducting C.-in-C. accepted and appointed formally
by all. He would perhaps sketch the whole adventure
to those assembled and run through a few points at
the piano, or with the help of his accompanist, and
the occasion should again be not without a warm social

It should be made clear to all that no limit would be
set to the number of practices. These would depend
upon progress, and everybody must be prepared to
come to as many practices as are needed at all costs
to themselves. It is astonishing how heroic choirs can
become if they see the point of it all clearly enough to
make the effort worth while. Sectional practices have
a special value in developing self-reliance.

And here we want to tell a story of the preparation
and performance of this very work by town and village
choirs in Wales eleven years ago. This particular in-
cident may be helpful to readers who see no way of
rising to such a height in their village or town alone,
but who do see possible means perhaps through
the Festival Movement itself of achieving it together
with neighbour choirs. About twenty-two choirs in
Montgomeryshire agreed in 1923 to prepare the “St.


Matthew Passion’ 5 for combined performance at their
County Festival. Many were very small villages ; and,
as time went on, the task of preparation became too
discouraging to endure. A conference of conductors
met to beg their chief conductor to abandon the project.
After discouraging discussions, a ray of light dawned
in the C-in-C/s mind. He made an appeal to the con-
ductors to meet him again at the same spot two or three
weeks hence and each bringing four members of his own
choir delegates of each part. This was done. The
“delegate choir” which resulted brought the conference
up to some hundred souls. (Not a village but could get
its motor to hold five and assemble at any given point
at a given time.) This particular assembly met in a
valley five miles from a railway station in the music
room of a large private house. The singing that day
was astonishing and unforgettable to all concerned,
and swept all fears before it. The delegates returned
inspired to carry the good hopes to their own choirs,
and the final performance together was assured. It
seems possible that this almost chance happening pre-
figures a way in which every county in Britain could
achieve similar heartening results, and carry the system
further. For there is nothing to prevent the “delegate
choir” from serving any and every village church or
chapel that may desire their help by this neighbourly
“form fours” system of making a picked representative
choir, forty, sixty, or eighty strong, a “flying column”
for service anywhere in the county, diocese or district ;
provided always, and only, that it be used to help and
stimulate, never to usurp or discourage the home team’s


o\vn efforts. We venture to think it a not too distant
dream that all cathedrals and pro-cathedral churches
may some day foster their own choral delegate choirs
(as a matter of course), drawn from every village which
chooses to affiliate with them. In this way, the picked
singers of each unit, each year, would find themselves,
in their year of office, singing shoulder to shoulder with
other picked singers of their own calibre. They would
go back to their own people more able to lead, and
leaven up the lump. No musical glory would be im-
possible. The lesser places would be serviceably united
to their cathedral centres. The mother churches,
daughter churches, sister churches, would all music-
ally realize the “hidden soul of harmony” which makes
them one.

Such enterprises have already been carried out
magnificently in some English centres. The “St. Mat-
thew Passion” was given at Peterborough Cathedral
in 1927, with a chorus of 1,400 drawn from forty
centres ; there were first-rate soloists, a full profes-
sional orchestra ; some of the smaller choirs sang the
chorales only ; the audience numbered 4,000. The
moving spirit and conductor was the cathedral or-
ganist, Dr. Henry Coleman. And much the same sort
of impossible-sounding achievements are brought off
successfully at a number of English competition fes-
tivals, chiefly in rural districts, where the aim is co-
operation rather than competition. The crown of each
day’s work is a concert, the programme being built
round an important choral work, which the choirs


have ptactised during the winter. From it the test-piece
has been chosen, and the judging of the choirs fills
the morning. The afternoon is spent in rehearsing
under a conductor of eminence ; and in the evening
the singers usually about 300 join with the or-
chestra (recruited from the district) and, keyed up to
the situation, reach unexpected heights of accomplish-
ment. At the small Hampshire town of Petersfield
there is a thirty-year-old festival at which this musical
co-operation goes on for four days children, choirs
from villages, small towns and large centres. And
Petersfield is by no means alone. At least half a dozen
other south-country festivals of the kind could be

But perhaps even more remarkable and certainly
more encouraging in its bearings on the future and
possibilities of parish church choirs is the revival of
the Diocesan Choral Festival. This is one of the
musical happenings that seemed likely to be killed by
the war : instead, it is stronger than ever, and better
too, both in the choice of music and in the increased
attention given to responding, chanting and hymn-
singing. Many festivals, indeed, confine themselves to
music within the power of a village choir ; and at the
other end of the scale we see gatherings of town choirs
singing anthems and services of a type that would have
been beyond the power of the same kind of choir
twenty years ago. A few figures, incomplete though
they are, will give an idea of the scope and vitality of
this movement. The Musical Times for 1932 contained
reports of over thirty church choir festivals, most of


them held in cathedrals. The number of choirs and
singers was not always given, but filling in the gaps
from our experience of the size of such gatherings, we
estimate that in 1932 nearly 600 choirs took part, with
a total of about 12,000 singers ; and in 1933 the totals
were even larger. To these must be added a consider-
able number of smaller festivals, reports of which did
not reach the office of the journal, such as small local
gatherings (very important, these, for decentralization
must play its part in the movement) ; nor does the list
include any of the numberless Welsh hymn-singing

All this activity is of the right heartening sort
village joining with village, town with town, with the
cathedral or central large church or chapel as the focal
point. The parson of a tiny parish who had brought
his little body of singers to a festival for the first time
told us that the experience had greatly stimulated his
choir. “Hitherto/’ he said, “they have been difficult
to keep together : now they realize that they are an
entity, with a real place in an army of church singers.”

Can there be any doubt that for all kinds of corporate
music-making the omens are good ? More and more,
people are beginning to realize that the joys of listening
are not to be compared with the joys of doing.

Let us again emphasize the need of adequate staff-
ing. This means a great increase in the number of
trained leaders. It may be long before Parliament sees
the wisdom of spending a modest yearly sum on such
an object. Meanwhile the choirmasters of the churches
and chapels must form the bulk of the general staff


of the vast territorial army of church music makers.
Many are good organists, many are enthusiastic ; but
the proportion of skilled choir-trainers and conductors
is far too small. Here the clergy can and must help (as
has been said elsewhere in this book) by making at-
tendance at a choir-training course, or the possession
of a choir-training diploma, one of the conditions of
holding a post. After all, to do this is merely to apply
to the vital matter of choir-training the test that is
always applied to organ-playing.



IN so endless a matter as this of uniting the duty
called worship with the art called music, our dual
discussion upon it must needs be inconclusive.
Perhaps our best wish will have been attained if readers
are provoked to begin discussion of some of the chief
issues at the point where we leave off.

It is a strange reflection, yet one to which we are both
brought, that in the matter of putting church music
ideals into effect, nearly all is yet to be done yes,
though devoted men have worked ceaselessly for cen-
turies, with love and ability which we can only revere
andhumbly emulate. They have nourished this heavenly
infant-partnership, of worship with music. We all can
but carry on their work and refuse to be discouraged
if it takes our present-day church choirs (of numbers
ranging from four to forty voices) a year’s hard practice
to sing even the simplest and most familiar of church
music with such unconscious efficiency that the prayer
itself is really musical, and the music is inherently a
p ra y er _ a carrier of worship, enhanced by being har-
moniousthat is, made a better vehicle of the spirit
by being purposefully attuned, or at-oned. But to this
end, what is needed on both sides of the equation ?
Endless practice to make choral art daily a little
more able to forget itself; and endless devotion to


render the duty-factor in worship more and more

In the whole range of church music it is of the essence
of the union that the art must grow care-free and the
duty grow unconscious. This double need is indeed
unsparing; but wherever enthusiasm reigns, men,
women and children always will be found ready to
labour unremittingly to this end. Keats has voiced the
rapture all can share, when art and duty begin to forget
themselves in the sheer happiness of their union :

” O world as God has made it, all is Beauty !
And knowing this Is Love, and Love is Duty 1″

And the Christian artist, musical or otherwise, has
his own way of reaching this wonderful position by
considering the lilies* glory and not Solomon’s. The
Christian temper contemplates the natural beauty of
melody and of choral harmony with the very same deep
and loving regard that our Lord Himself paid to the
lilies of the field. This ideal is high, yet easy to com-
prehend, as high as heaven, yet most homely. The
choir that agrees to put fitting Beauty, and only
Beauty, into practice has an endless road to traverse,
week by week. Taking pains for life is, however, only
practical politics for all folk when the goal is seen to
be glorious not by one man here and there, but by a
congenial and painstaking team. When this is realized,
practices innumerable are felt to be no hardship.

Church music must be a life-hobby to the adult
chorister. We can testify from personal experience that
for years the boys of one choir gave ten practices a week


regularly to prepare for two services a week, and found
the effort neither wearing nor adequate. Now that
broadcasting is stimulating public discernment and
continually raising the standard of church team-work ;
and now that the workers of the world are likely to find
themselves in possession of an increasing proportion
(likely to become an established high proportion) of
leisure, it is becoming clear that creative pursuits must
increase. We may reasonably believe that there ex-
ists no more perfect or more permanent outlet for the
inspirited use of creative leisure than that which is
offered to all men and women of goodwill in the
several orders of music that can be used as the voice
of worship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.