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.

Chapter 31 - THE 1928 REVISION

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The compilers of the 1928 Revision set themselves to make a book where the 'plain needs' of the modern man were 'plainly met', but recognising the mistrust of change in so many churchpeople they printed the 1662 Book side by side with their own. It is not our business here to discuss how well modern needs were plainly met by their book. Despite its obvious good sense in most matters, a few small but knotty points made the effect of its publication disastrous: it pleased neither high nor low churchmen and was not given parliamentary sanction. But no one could or would quarrel with nine tenths of the Book and it has had a tremendous sale and has been drawn upon in all kinds of unofficial ways: in certain cases it has been permitted to be used. It is a typically English, one might almost say Gilbertian, state of affairs; except by those with a strong sense of their legal duty the book is used by everyone. It is thus possible that the book may help to crystallise public opinion and so one day make an acceptable revision as possible as it is inevitable. Meanwhile, if we leave aside those controversial matters which prevented its legal acceptance, the book is from every other point of view admirable. The result of liturgical research, it does an important work in clearing away many untidy ends in our services and helping to give them a new reality. With the object of showing the psychological and artistic insight of the liturgical forms of our services we may here fitly summarise its contents.



In the preliminaries the 'Alternative Order how the Psalter is ... to be read' gives proper psalms for every Sunday in the year and for other important occasions. The reading through in course of the psalter each month is rightly not interfered with, but the new Order avoids inappropriate psalms appearing on Sunday, the only day on which most people go to church. In the reprint of the psalms at the end of the book, where, fortunately for church musicians, still no change is made in the Coverdale translation, certain fiercer passages are recommended for excision. An 'Alternative Table of Lessons' is followed by an 'Alternative Calendar' which regularises many feasts customarily kept. A note gives the rules for referring feasts which fall at awkward times and many alternatives to the old collects, epistles and gospels are given in their place while the Appendix notes collects, epistles and gospels to be read on minor festivals.



The results of recent liturgical work are to be found in the new versions of the Occasional Services. Here the printed page shows clearly by careful selection of type-faces the structure of the service and the purpose of the ritual acts. The baptismal and confirmation services, already widely used, are models of good, clearly set out 'orders of the day', the headings showing to the uninitiated exactly what is being done and where a new section begins. The Catechism remains unaltered. In the Solemnisation of Matrimony the rather crude diction of 1662 is replaced by more pleasing phrases and some small concessions are made to the changed 'rights' of women. Liturgically this service is a mere prelude to the communion service and this is made clear by a new rubric noting that the psalm is the introit and the Our Father starts the communion which is provided with its proper collect, epistle and gospel. The arrangement of headings in the Visitation and Communion of the Sick is also excellently done. In the Burial of the Dead a clear distinction is drawn between the service in church and the committal at the graveside, the former alone being recommended for use at memorial services. The other occasional services, The Burial of a Child, The Churching of Women and The Commination, do not as a rule affect the church musician. An Appendix, besides supplying references for the collects, epistles and gospels of the lesser feasts, gives a translation of the medieval offices of prime and compline which as yet have no musical settings other than plainsong adaptations, it also contains An Exhortation which may take the place of the Commination and A Devotion which is really the ancient priest's and server's preparation for the communion service with the mutual confession omitted: it is directed to be said by priest and people in church and in an audible voice, a direction which accords with the ideals of the reformers but is not always followed.



The Alternative Orders for the Divine Offices and the Holy Communion are more interesting. Those of morning and evening prayer begin at the versicle 'O Lord, open thou our lips', thus omitting the preparation and so making the first versicle have some real point. There is, indeed, little to be said in favour of the practice of singing a hymn either during the entry of the choir or before the preparation; it spoils the penitential character of the opening and the meaning of the first versicle, especially if the hymn is of the festal type. Such a hymn might with some justification be sung if the preparation is omitted as in the Alternative Order, though even this makes the first versicle redundant. [Unless, of course, the psalmist's phrase 'open our lips' is meant to be taken not only not literally but in a doubly Pickwickian sense, as it were.] Processional and recessional hymns sung at the start and finish of a service mar the ends of the service, the former ruining the penitential opening and the latter forming an unnecessary ante-climax after the ending provided— the psychologically just and artistically perfect act of the blessing. The psychological and liturgical point of a procession is that, as in the secular world, it is an act of praise, witness or penitence in its own right. The liturgical Procession, like a workers' May Day procession or the procession to the Whitehall Cenotaph on November llth, sets out to express something like witness, prayer or praise: it starts from the chancel, may or may not make a 'station' (e.g. at the Cenotaph to lay wreaths, or in church at a new window which is to be dedicated) and then returns to the chancel for the next bit of liturgical business. In such a Procession the music is part of the processional act, though not indispensable. The 'processions' at both ends of morning and evening prayer are not liturgical 'Processions' at all: they are merely the orderly entry and exit of the minister and clerks before the service begins and after it has ended. After the Creed, the point as to who should sing which response is still left a little vague, but the printing of Christ, have mercy upon us in italics seems to indicate, as at the beginning of the communion, that the priest sings the first and last Lord, have mercy upon us, the method followed in the reprint of the responses issued by the School of English Church Music. It is made quite clear that matins and even­song end at the third collect; anything done after that, except apparently the singing of the anthem, is at the discretion of the minister.



The structure of the Litany is made more clear. Ending essenti­ally at the Our Father, the Litany proper is followed by a section headed 'A Supplication' consisting of a versicle and collect preceding an antiphon, here restored to its correct form, with further versicles and responses leading to the two ending prayers. In the performance of the Litany the use of the procession on special occasions adds much to the psychological effect. Cantors may be used instead of the minister for the first part before Our Father, the procession beginning to move at the words: 'Remember not, Lord, our offences.' A station or halt is best made at the Our Father, by which time the choir should have returned to the chancel steps. The collect at this point had no Amen in Cranmer; the Amen is better inserted here, as in the 1928 Book, so that the following antiphon and psalm-verse retains its true antiphon structure. According to tradition the cantors alone would intone O Lord, arise, the cantors and people con­tinuing with help us, and deliver us, etc. Gloria Patri might also be sung the first part by the cantors alone, the cantors and people joining in at As it was. The last 0 Lord, arise would be sung like the first, or the whole might be sung by all as suggested by the printing in the 1928 Book. During the singing of the antiphon the clergy and choir return to their stalls so that the remaining responses and collect are sung in the chancel. The 1928 Book makes it clear that when the Litany is used, as it effectively can be, as the introduction to the communion, it ends before Our Father. Our Father is then said by the priest alone as usual and the communion has begun.



Much is to be praised also in the printing of the canticles. Venite, which, it is suggested, should end at verse 7, the rest being deemed irrelevant when this psalm is used as an introduction to the psalms of the day, is provided with a set of seasonal invitatories to be sung as antiphons before and after. Their musical setting presents a small problem; they might be pointed and sung to the chant used for the psalm, or sung always to one special chant transposed to fit as in the adaptation issued by the Church Music Society to the music of Gibbons. [A setting of the Invitatories adapted from Orlando Gibbons, S.P.C.K., for the Church Music Society.] In Te Deum, always a problem when it has to be chanted, four sections are clearly indicated, the last of which is only a set of versicles and responses of a penitential type for the most part and might reasonably be omitted on occasions of special thanksgiving. Verses 5 and 6, and 11, 12 and 15 at the ends of sections 1 and 2, being indented on the printed page, need some special musical treatment like unisonal or unaccompanied singing. Four single chants would possibly bring out best this structure. Benedicite is similarly divided and should be treated musically in accordance. Psalm 51 is given as a further alternative to Te Deum and the seasonal use of all three has much to be said for it. In Benedictus a small refinement might be introduced, that of making verses 6 and 7 run thus, as in the New Testament version:

  1. To perform the oath: which he sware to our forefather Abraham,
  2. That he would give (= grant) us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies: might serve him without fear;

The small alteration makes the meaning clear. In Quicunque vult, which is seldom sung as directed in the 1662 Book on account of its supposedly intransigent attitude, [Perhaps we are a little squeamish nowadays. Quicunque vult may be speaking sober facts, and we are imparting the wrong meaning to the word saved which occurs so frequently. The laws of the universe operate whether we like them or not.] some improvement is effected by a revised translation set out in four sections and the suggestion that the offending verses may be omitted; it may also be shortened by singing only two sections at a time. No musical setting, aside from a simple chant in the Cathedral Prayer Book, has ever been forth­coming for this 'creed'; it is perhaps unsuitable for singing, being rather a dissertation than a lyrical outpouring, and would possibly gain by being read by the minister as the rubric suggests.



Of all the improvements made to the setting out of the services in the 1928 Revision, the Alternative Order for the Holy Communion is the most interesting. The service is divided into sections as follows:

The Introduction Containing the matter as far as the collect for the day.
The Ministry of the Word epistle, gospel and creed.
The Offertory of alms and oblations.
The Intercession Prayer for the Church.
The Preparation confession, comfortable words and Prayer of Humble Access.
The Consecration restored to its ancient length.
The Communion as before.
The Thanksgiving a thanksgiving prayer, Gloria in excelsis and blessing.

This crystal clear arrangement is an obvious improvement in clarity of intention, not congenial perhaps to the conservative mind but actually a return to earlier use. The Anaphora, which in the 1662 Book is purposely split up, is tidied by placing the Prayer of Humble Access in another place—where psychologically it clearly belongs— thus restoring the great eucharistic Prayer of Consecration to its original imposing length and following it immediately by a communal recitation of the Our Father. If a clear break is made before the canon as suggested, during which the celebrant can arrange the Elements on the altar, the general tidying up process will be made plain. By splitting up the Anaphora as it did, the 1662 Book fused the two ideas of consecration and communion, which in the present revision are separated. The actual Prayer of Consecration, by con­taining the invocation clause to the Holy Spirit, ceases to identify the actual act of consecration solely with the words of institution, the whole prayer becoming an act of consecration, built up like a legal document according to the following outline:

ALL GLORY BE TO THEE, Almighty God ... for that thou didst give thine only Son ... who ... took bread ... WHEREFORE ... we ... do celebrate ... HEAR US ... and . . . vouchsafe to bless ... us and these thy gifts ... AND WE DESIRE thy ... goodness to accept this ... sacri­fice ... and here we offer ... ourselves ... and ... beseech thee to accept this our ... duty through Jesus Christ.

Amen and Our Father are then said by all the people. The canon is thus treated as one continuous act starting with praise at Sursum corda, passing to the actual consecration and ending with Our Father.'



For the kyries there are many alternatives; a shortened version of the Mosaic Decalogue with the customary responses, the New Testament summary of the law with the response Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law (for some reason one often hears this done with the wrong response) and for weekdays the threefold kyrie in Greek or English, which may also be said or sung on Sundays after the decalogue or summary. The creed may be omitted on ferial weekdays, the exhortations following being now placed at the end so that they do not interfere with the setting out of the liturgy, while the next rubric announces that the offertory sentences may be sung by the priest or clerks. They are, of course, usually said followed by a hymn, a necessity at this part of the service which in the Greek Orthodox Liturgy is made much of but is very short in our own Use. It might be a welcome change for the choir to sing an offertory sentence in place of or as well as the hymn, though none of the sentences has any well known setting as yet. Improvement is effected in the Prayer for the Church: the section dealing with the king is preceded by a clause 'We beseech thee also to lead all nations in the way of righteousness and peace,' and two later sections are inserted, one a prayer for work in the mission field and the other a thanksgiving for the work of the saints. A shortened version of the confession for use on ferial weekdays precedes the comfortable words which are aptly followed by the Prayer of Humble Access. After the communion of the priest and people the thanksgiving starts with a short explanatory exhortation, much in the Lutheran manner, which makes a suitable beginning to the end of the service.



It is thus made clear that the service ends on a note of gratitude and giving of thanks which some churches spoil by chanting a sentimental Nunc dimittis as the choir file out—surely a liturgical faux-pas; any hymn and any organ voluntary at this point should stress the note of thanksgiving on which the service ends. At the end of the service the 1928 Revision prints Benedictus qui venit as an 'Anthem' to be sung after Sanctus with its Amen; its musical sotting when used with this alternative order should not be less subdued than that of the preceding setting of Sanctus, especially as it is not followed by the Prayer of Humble Access. Anyone who has assisted at a good musical or said service on the lines here laid down will need no convincing of its efficacy and psychological tidiness.



It is surprising that the bishops of the Church of England have presumably never once thought it worth while to compile or order a musical counterpart to the Prayer Book. Two private ventures have been put forward in the three hundred years since 1549: Merbecke's book, which became unusable within two years, and Stainer's well meaning Cathedral Prayer Book of 1891, with its barred, four-part version of Merbecke's service, its harmonised Lord's Prayer and its accompanied comfortable words. What is badly needed is an authoritative book which would give simply and clearly the following particulars for the use of the clergy and choirs in village and town churches, with suggestions as to alternatives which might be used in cathedrals and similar establishments:

morning and evening prayer

  1. Clear directions as to what should be said and what sung at different types of service, remembering that not all the clergy sing.
  2. An agreed pointing of the psalms and canticles with recom­mended chants whose reciting note is never higher than C. (Perhaps an agreed pointing is an unattainable ideal.)
  3. The psalms and canticles paragraphed with suggestions as to how musically to bring out their structure and make their meaning clear.
  4. The various alternatives for singing the responses, Sarum, ferial and festal, harmonised and unison; for the latter a simple organ accompaniment to be used ad lib.
  5. Full directions to the clergy of the Sarum and Roman inflexions for collects, with perhaps some simple explanation to the unmusical of the music type. The appropriate Amens for the choir.
  6. Tables of recommended hymns for all places in the service at all seasons of the year.
  7. Settings, or suggestions for settings, of the new invitatories to Venite.
  8. Suggestions for the performance of Quicunque vult in both translations.

the litany

Three settings might be given, the Sarum with and without accompaniment, a simple harmonised version and some slightly more ornate setting with directions as to the procession and station. [The first, for example, in the Fellowes-Nicholson edition—Four Settings of the Litany (S.P.C.K.) which is somewhat more interesting and beautiful than the bald setting found in the Cathedral Prayer Book.] It may be well to state here that Cranmer's adaptation was not always sung in unison, even in the sixteenth century. Many harmonised versions were made, simple and more complex, like the magnificent five-part setting by Byrd; [Which loses much of its majesty when sung in any four-part adaptation. The same may be said of the Tallis 'festal' responses.] they are available in the Fellowes-Nicholson edition. In sheer beauty the Sarum Litany, now published in English, perhaps out-tops them all.

the communion

  1. Principles and suggestions of what is to be said and what sung in the various types of service—sung eucharist, mass with music, parish communion, etc.
  2. Merbecke's setting with ad lib. accompaniment and possibly one simple modern setting, or suggestions of three or four. The responses to the commandments, the three-fold kyrie in Greek and English and Benedictus qui venit should be included.
  3. Clear indications of the possible ways of reading or intoning collects, epistles and gospels.
  4. The Sarum and Roman Sursum corda with accompaniments for the people's part to be used ad lib. The proper prefaces would also be given in their Sarum and Roman version.
  5. A table of recommended psalms for introits and hymns for all places in the service at all seasons of the year. As at morning and evening prayer it would be necessary to recommend hymns from all the usual hymn-books in use. The Sundays after Trinity could all be dealt with by, for example, giving a list of something like half-a-dozen as graduals, etc. Suitable hymns might also be recom­mended for baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals—a much needed help to the uninitiated who wish nevertheless to choose their own hymns at these 'family' services. The musical settings of these might well be published as a separate book which would concern itself chiefly with weddings and funerals.

Such a modern 'Prayer Book Noted' might well include a set of authoritative gramophone recordings. The production of such a book would be hard only in one or two controversial matters like the pointing of the psalms. The rest of the matter is already in print but is awkwardly dispersed among many different books. Unlike the Cathedral Prayer Book this modern 'Prayer Book Noted' would not seek to suggest cathedral customs for village churches or parish church idioms in cathedrals; each type will obviously solve its own problems in its own way. But the 'Prayer Book Noted' would at least show the principles underlying choice of intonations, responses, hymns and psalms, which musical parts of the service can be tackled by the congregation, what are the functions of the choir in a given church, or how and when to use the organ. Then clergy, organists, even church councils will at least have some helpful authority to consult when problems and differences arise.