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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There seems little doubt that English organs before the Commonwealth were conservative in their tonal scheme compared with continental organs of similar importance. Dallam's organ at York Minster, begun in 1652, had two manuals, the Great consisting of a 'recorder' stop as the sole contrast to the usual ranks of diapasons and the Choir merely of one flute and one recorder; there were no pedals, no reeds, no mixtures, the only mutation stops being a twelfth and a twenty-second. The organ at Magdalen filched by Cromwell for Hampton Court was very small: built by the first generation of Harrises in 1637 it was a two manual-instrument, the Great having two open diapasons, two principals, two fifteenths and two twenty-seconds while the Choir had one stopped diapason, one fifteenth and a recorder. Tonally, a continental stimulus was needed and it was the Commonwealth that indirectly provided it.


CONTINENTAL INFLUENCES: THE RESTORATION ORGAN | You tube logo fanfare (p whitlock - temple church organ)

In August 1643 parliament passed an order abolishing 'superstitious monuments' and in the following May it went farther and passed an act for the demolishing of 'monuments of idolatry and superstition' among which were counted church organs. Only a few instruments - as, for example, those at St. Paul's, York, Durham and Lincoln - survived the Commonwealth; the others were demolished like the Norwich organ or removed and sold to private enthusiasts. Builders and organists alike had to find other pursuits and by 1660 the only competent builders were the Dallam firm, Thamar of Peterborough, Preston of York and Henry Loosemore of Exeter. Thomas Harris, a member of an old pre-Commonwealth firm, had gone to France to earn his living in a country where organs were not classed as superstitious monuments; full of continental ideas he re-established himself in England at the Restoration with his son Rene (Renatus) who carried on the business after his father's death in 1672. A German builder, Bernhard Schmidt, better known as 'Father Smith' was appointed 'organ-maker in ordinary' to Charles II and given a workshop in the palace of Whitehall. In the organs of Harris and Schmidt we first see the influence of continental tonal schemes though they contained no Pedal organs. Extant instruments of these two men which still retain some of the original pipe-work show that both Harris and Schmidt were masters of the art of pipe-making and -voicing, though in a famous competition held in the Temple Church where both erected an organ in 1664 that of Schmidt was judged the better. It was Schmidt who erected the instrument in the new St Paul's, a three-decker of twelve, nine and six stops; its erection caused friction with Sir Christopher Wren who, when asked to allow the organ to be enlarged beyond the original scheme, called it a 'confounded box of whistles'. Here it would seem that the architect was in the right in his refusal to enlarge the organ chamber in defiance of the original plans; it is seldom, however, that church architects can be made to see that the organ chamber must be an essential and well-thought-out part of their plans.



The organ accompaniments of the period could not be said to lack variety, but the instruments were wanting in the deeper toned pipes played from a separate Pedal organ which give the characteristic effect of a held pedal note with shifting harmonies above. Sixteen-foot tone was, however, to be found on the Great and Choir and it was the common practice to play the bass on a sixteen-foot manual stop and the upper imitative or filling-in parts as found in many anthems of the period on the other manual, usually the 'chayre' organ. It is thus not an anachronism to use the pedals when performing works of the time and no doubt plenty of sparkling reeds were to be heard in the strongly rhythmic anthems of Purcell's day. The favourite stops of the period were the 'cornet' and 'trumpet' which were usually arranged so that the notes below middle C could be cut off allowing the player to accompany a trumpet melody with a softer stop on the same manual.



A word may be said about the pitch of organs at this time. It was not kept constant even by the same builder, Schmidt, for example, calling a note produced by a pipe a foot long A in Durham and C in Trinity College, Cambridge. Since 1495, the date of the famous organ at Halberstadt (A = 505.8), the pitch had been steadily sinking until in 1690 the Hampton Court instrument had A = 441.7 and in 1713 the organ at Strasbourg had A = 393.2. The mean pitch used from Purcell till the early nineteenth century made A = about 420, which is little different from the modern French 'diapason normal' of A = 435 at 59 - Fahrenheit, equal to C = 522 as used by the BBC today. To get a true idea, therefore, of the pitch of Restoration music as the composer heard it we should transpose down not more than a semitone. We have seen that music of the sixteenth century must usually be transposed up a tone or more as the ecclesiastical pitch between 1570 and 1625 was high: but there is no real need to transpose Restoration music as the compass of the voices - apart from the difficult counter-tenor parts - gives no trouble to the present-day singer.



Accompaniments during the seventeenth century were not treated in the careful modern manner; even in 1760 Boyce, when the full choir is singing, is content to give only a figured bass leaving its decoration to the ingenuity of the performer. Most of the published accompaniments are the work of modern editors; those edited before 1900 need careful scrutiny for chords are sometimes inserted which the composer never intended. Many old piano scores of Handel's Messiah, for example, always give the dominant seventh in the perfect cadence whether it appears in the voice and orchestral parts or not; in the typical Handelian and Purcellian inverted cadence the penultimate chord of the sixth is often made into a dominant seventh inversion thus: Example 43 example 43. example 43. The tenor G of the first chord should of course be F. The same editions of Restoration and eighteenth century anthems are perhaps too conservative in their slavish following of the voice parts, for there is no doubt that men like Purcell and Blow played a much freer accompaniment during the full sections of their anthems much as a modern imaginative organist accompanies a hymn or psalm when a good choir is singing. The final chord which is frequently left without a third in the voice parts might perhaps be filled in on the organ, especially when it is the final chord of the whole composition. In the verse and recitative portions of anthems it behoves the accompanist to keep his part as simple as possible, though occasional imitation of the solo voice parts is quite in keeping. The typical arrangement of two imitative parts (written out by the composer) over a figured bass sounds fuller if provided with quiet accompanying chords though this would not have been possible with Restoration organs which had no pedalboard. Finally, to retain the spirit of this music contrast rather than shading should be the rule: few places will be found where the crescendo or diminuendo is of the essence of the passage. The swell-pedal had not yet been thought of.




A New History of the Book of Common Prayer, Procter and Frere

(Macmillan, 1952). The Background of the Prayer Book, C. S. Phillips (S.P.C.K.).


Hymnody Past and Present, C. S. Phillips (S.P.C.K., 1937), is the most recent book on the subject and gives the results of research done since the publication of the Historical Edition of Hymns A. & M. But the Historical Edition gives excellent illustrations and should be studied in conjunction with Phillips.


English Cathedral Music, E. H. Fellowes (Methuen, 1941).

Voice and Verse, H. C. Colles, (O.U.P., 1928). (Studies the technique of suiting words to music.) Henry Purcell, Denis Arundel (O.U.P.). Purcell, J. A. Westrup (Dent, 1937).


The best way to study the style of the period is to 'browse' in Boyce's Cathedral Music.  Most of the following are published separately, and are recommended as being representative of their composers:

Up to 1650



Sing we merrily.


Deliver us, O Lord our God.


Short Service in the Dorian.


O Lord, grant the king.


O pray for the peace.


Sing we merrily (seven-part).


In the beginning.


Lord, let me know mine end.


Services in D and A-minor (for the Short a cappella type of service).

Cooke's boys



Services in the Dorian and F.


I was in the spirit.


I beheld and lo.


My God, look upon me.


Bow down thine ear.


Let thy hand be strengthened.


Salvator mundi.


Hear, O heavens.


Rejoice in the Lord.


Services in G-minor and B-flat.


Thy word is a lantern.


Thou knowest, Lord. Remember not, Lord.


Jehova, quam multi sunt.


The ways of Zion.


Prepare ye the way.


Awake up, my glory.


Awake, awake, put on thy strength.