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.

Part Five - SINCE 1871


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By the turn of the century the Tractarians had grown in influence and numbers and much care was being lavished on the sung eucharist which in many churches had become the only sung service on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, just as the first translators of the Latin breviaries had gone to corrupt modern French sources, so the 'Ritualists' followed and copied contemporary Roman furnishings and customs which are now considered even by the Romans as over-ornate and decadent. The present century saw the beginning of much research into the history and principles of the ancient liturgies and though the work is by no means ended the general plan is clear. By the unearthing of the simple beauties of the Sarum Use a national liturgy was given into the hands of those who wished to use it while a general pruning took place, at any rate theoretically, in the Roman Use; in liturgical change, however, movement is slow and prejudice tenacious, and those 'Catholics' who had become familiar with the ornate and corrupt Roman service were loth to turn to the simplicities either of Tridentine Rome or of pre-Reformation Sarum.



During the reigns of Edward VII and George V the 'Catholic' movement grew enormously and its ideas began to filter outside its own parishes. As ever, the majority of churchgoers were set against change, but many churches tried a compromise on Sunday morning, though a few ousted sung matins and lost their congregations; in some a sung eucharist was tried on great festivals, or once a month, or on alternate Sundays; in others both services were sung every Sunday with half the congregation at each, a tiring business of two and a half hours continuous work for clergy, choir and organist, and calculated to drive growing choirboys from church for ever. More recently, especially in parishes where all social types are found, the experiment of a parish communion at an earlier hour, say 9.50, has been successfully attempted: the music is kept congregational, hymns are liberally inserted instead of the propers, a nave choir is formed to lead the singing—which gives the organist unrivalled opportunity to meet his critics—and the busy housewife is able to hurry back in time for cooking the equally important 'Sunday Dinner'.



Such new departures were all made within the framework of the Prayer Book; both low and high extremists, however, were trying other experiments not to be found within its pages. Many churches retained the eighteenth and early nineteenth century practice of singing the eucharist as far as the Prayer for the Church Militant, when to the pointless accompaniment of a hymn the choir and people filed out leaving a scattered remnant to continue the service said; this arrangement could be preceded at discretion by matins, and it may be noted that Frere recommended that matins could be used as a preparation for the eucharist, Benedictus of matins being used as the mass introit and followed by Our Father. He never of course suggested that the people should leave before the canon. The idea is interesting, but besides making a very long service, especially if sung, it duplicates the section headed in the 1928 Book The Ministry of the Word, so that with the epistle and gospel there are four lessons. Other churches which might be characterised as 'low modernistic' made up their own services, shuffled the canticles into different places and sang their social service hymns from Songs of Praise. At the other end a handful—a growing handful in some dioceses—went more and more Roman by inserting lengthy passages of the Latin mass and omitting many portions of the English mass, so that the silent congregations got no help from their too protestant Books of Common Prayer. Little new bits of ritualistic refinement were added and devotional services, sung before the reserved Elements, were tacked on to evensong. The Book of Common Prayer was indeed becoming less and less useful in the very low and the very high services, but the trend of thought in both types of church showed that there was a growth in devotion to the church and a developing social awareness which were not met by the protestant and unenthusiastic Book of 1662.