THE SINGING CHURCH - an outline history of the music sung by choir and people. By C. Henry Phillips B.A., D.Mus., A.C.D.C.M. sometime Lecturer and Sub-Warden of the College of St. Nicholas, Chislehurst. First published in Mcmxlv by Faber and Faber Limited 24 Russell Square London W.C.1. - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004.



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With protestant interference during the reign of Edward and the Catholic persecutions of Bloody Mary to warn her, Elizabeth determined to tread warily, but her careful attitude could not stop the rift created by the first Act of Uniformity [See page 57.]. The advanced faction, all of whom had fled to Frankfurt and Geneva during Mary's reign, returned to England when they saw the bloodless methods of the new queen. In their hearts nothing short of the abolition of the Prayer Book - any prayer book - would satisfy them, and the history of the next eighty years is the story of their continual nagging at ceremonies and vestments until the Book of Common Prayer was ousted in 1645. The 1559 Book, founded as it was on the protestant Book of 1552, could not succeed in pleasing the 'Roman' Catholics any more than it did the captious 'Puritans' as they may now be called. In 1570 Pope Pius V, more downright than his predecessor who had not strongly objected to the 1559 Book, published a Bull of Excommunication against the English Church, which made further conciliation impossible between England and Rome. Those opposed to the Book for protestant reasons included many who unwillingly conformed, others who felt they could not sincerely conform and the Puritan party who must henceforward be considered as anti-church, though they themselves thought they were the true Church and had, while in Geneva, brought out a rival book of Forms of Service. No sooner had James I ascended the throne in March 1603 than the next month a puritan Millenary Petition, purporting to have a thousand signatures, was presented to the king. James called a conference in the following January at Hampton Court and in February issued a few minor alterations; but in reality the Elizabethan Book remained as well as the dissensions.



A Prayer Book was foisted on the nonconforming Scots in 1637 after negotiations between Laud and Maxwell which had lasted for eight years, but it failed to please and never came into general use. Its importance lies in its influence on later revisions: in the 1662 Book it suggested the rubrics concerning the offertory and the manual acts in the consecration; its form of consecration prayer was later incorporated into the Scottish Liturgy, formally adopted in 1731 by the Church of Scotland which had been disestablished in 1688. Through this Liturgy it later influenced the American Liturgy of 1789.



The failure of the Scottish Book may be said to have precipitated the events in England of the next few years. By the summer of 1640 the Puritan party had gained enough power to force the ejection from parliament of the bishops. The episcopacy was abolished, the bishops themselves imprisoned, and the Church became Presbyterian. But it was only an interim measure; in 1643 a so-called Westminster Assembly, consisting partly of lay members, ousted Convocation and overthrew the Church of England. Two years later the 'Directory replaced the Book of Common Prayer for Public Worship of God in Three Kingdoms'. It was forbidden to use the Prayer Book in public or private worship and fines and other penalties were to be inflicted on any minister who did not use, or even spoke against, the Directory.



Puritanism had triumphed. Its services and Prayer Book made illegal, the Church of England as an organisation no longer existed, though its buildings were freely used. The Directory, true to its title, prescribed no forms of service but merely issued instructions on how 'meetings' should be conducted. All vestments were to be put away, the communion-table was to be moved into the body of the church (the minister as in the primitive church facing the congregation), while west-end fonts, wedding rings and burial services were all scrapped. Directions were given for the 'Singing of Psalms' - that is, psalm-tunes - which implied that no choir was necessary.  Music, in fact, apart from psalm-tunes, was strictly banned; organs were silenced, removed, or in some places despoiled by zealots, while many choir libraries were destroyed in fits of iconoclasm. The purifying of public worship was complete. A model was given for all future nonconformist services. The puritan mind, indeed, started its reasoning from the axiom that in public worship all expression is immoral, the inner feeling needing no material manifestation. Carried to its logical end it becomes Quakerism; but most of the Puritans of the Rebellion would not go so far. They allowed kneeling, they allowed psalm-tunes, though they shuddered at surplices and choir-music. As a result the history of nonconformist music is from now on a melancholy tale of hymn-tunes in eight-eight and eight-six. In Germany it culminated in the Bach Passions; in England it reaches its climax in revivalist hymn-tunes and the music of the Salvation Army. Art, say the Puritans, must at any price be banished from the religious gathering; hymn-tunes serve a useful purpose, and they alone may remain.



While Charles II was waiting at the Hague, Presbyterian divines were sent from the House to entreat him not to use the forms and ceremonies of the Book of Common Prayer in his private chapel. If he did, they asserted, he would scandalise all religious men. He replied that he intended to consult parliament about the matter and meanwhile would have surplices worn in his chapel as he had always done. He later promised a revision of the Prayer Book and on March 25th, 1661, the nine surviving bishops and other divines met at the Savoy Hospital intending to make a stand about cere?monies and vestments. The Puritans in their usual manner claimed to be representative of the Church of England and submitted long lists of carping criticisms. The churchmen, feeling their position stronger as the conference went on, answered their captiousness with curt refutations. On December 20th both Houses adopted the Book of Common Prayer, and on May 19th, 1662, it was given the royal assent.



The Book was provided with a new Preface, Cranmer's preface being retitled 'Concerning the Service of the Church'. Scriptural passages were altered to conform to the 1611 Bible and minor alterations to the number of six hundred were made throughout. The Psalter was designedly left untouched, the old version being thought more singable. The musicians, in fact, were considered not only in this; in the famous rubric, 'In quires and places where they sing, here followeth the anthem,' they were given authority for an already old custom. Choirs and their organists settled down to the business of rebuilding themselves, their organs and their repertories.



From now on the Presbyterians, Independents and other non-conforming groups form a sect outside and separate from the legally established church. Within the Church there is also peace for a hundred and fifty years, as the 1662 Book broke little new ground and no doubt churchmen had grown tired of continuous squabbling. The settlement was a decidedly protestant one, showing the influence of the puritan mind. Toleration of some sort had been established and the Church could now go ahead with its services unmolested by the puritan element. If toleration degenerated into lethargy the fault could be laid at the door of secular influences during the next century, of which more later.