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.

'I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also.'

To those my friends,
known and unknown,
clergy and church musicians,
who belong to the happy band of working believers.


Ch. HOME | Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | History Charts
1. The Origins
2. The Structure of the Services
3. Origins of the Service Music
4. The Music
5. Types of Service Music
6. Harmonised Music before 1500
Books and Music recommended for further study
7. The Book of Common Prayer
8. Musical Problems of the Prayer Book
9. Choir Music to the Death of Gibbons
1. General
10. 2. Technique
11. 3. The Repertory
12. Three Composers
13. Organs and Organ Accompaniment to 1600
Books and Music recommended for further study
14. Churchmanship and the Prayer Book from 1559 to 1662
15. Congregational Music from 1549 to 1662
1. Responses and Psalms
16. 2. Metrical Psalms and Hymns
17. Congregational Music from 1549 to 1662-5.
The Performance of Psalms and Hymns
18. Choir Music.
1. The New Technique
19. 2. Choirs
20. 3. The Repertory
21. Restoration Organs and Accompaniment
Books and Music recommended for further study
22. The Church
23.  Congregational Music: the Establishment of the English Hymn
1. The Eighteenth Century
24. 2. The Nineteenth Century
25. Choir Music
1. General
26. 2. Composers of the Tradition
27. 3. The Music
28. 4. The Better Composers
29. Organs and Accompaniment
Books recommended for further study
30. Churchmanship and the Prayer Book
31. The 1928 Revision
32. Priest's and People's Music
33. Congregational Music
1. The Psalms
34. 2. Hymns and Hymn Books
35. 5. Principles of the Hymn
36. Choir Music
1. Recovery
37. 2. Church Music and Composers
38. Modern Organs
1. Public Worship
2. Music and the Apparatus of Worship
3. Parson and Musician
Books and Music recommended for further study
General Bibliography
Glossary of Musical Terms
I. Pre-Reformation
II-V. 16th - 20th century
VI. General
Index to Music Examples


This book is the outcome of lectures attended and delivered at the College of S. Nicolas, Chislehurst, Kent, during the years preceding 1939;
it therefore owes a debt of gratitude not only to the staff of the College, among whom were Sir Sydney H. Nicholson, the Warden of the College, Dr Ernest Bullock, the Director of Musical Studies and Dr C. S. Phillips, the College Chaplain, but to many outside lecturers of whom one remembers with particular gratitude Dr E. H. Fellowes, the late Dr H. C. Colles and the late Bishop Frere.
But though the book lays no claim to originality - or to exhaustiveness, for that matter - it cannot saddle these authorities with the opinions here expressed whose original purity has doubtless suffered a change in their travel through my own mind. 

It became clear, however, that some such book was needed by students of church music which brought together the knowledge scattered through many famous authorities; church musicians need lo equip themselves with a full knowledge of their subject in order ultimately to bridge the gap and allay the misunderstanding between the very unmusical parson and the very musical but un-knowledgeable organist.
The better type of church musician today is not merely a good organist: he aspires to understand the history not only of his own musical art but also of its close connection with the liturgy it serves. 

The Royal College of Organists, London, by its inflexible demand for an adequate standard in organ-playing and choir-training, has recently, with the School of English Church Music, instituted the Archbishop of Canterbury's Diploma in Church Music, and it is hoped that the possession of the Fellowship and CHM. Diplomas of the Royal College of Organists, together with the A.C.D.C.M. Diploma (the first official recognition of the organist's work for his church) will become the norm for every serious-minded church musician.

Unfortunately, little has been done to equip the clergy on the musical side of their work.
The curriculum of the theological colleges leaves little or no time for training in running and taking public services and the history of music in worship:
it is indeed true to say that few as yet of the clergy think such matters worth serious thought.
But every parson must ultimately meet and deal with organists and choirs, and sing services, and though not ends in themselves, music and oratory play a vital part in public worship.
It is suggested that a knowledge of the matter of such a book as this would at least make a common ground of approach between the parson arid his organist.

The scope and intentions of the present work need some explanation.
It is not a complete history of its subjects, liturgy and music, but it tells enough of that history to elucidate the principles of musical worship and concerns itself more with the practical lessons to be learned from history than with a comprehensive recital of historical facts.
Too often personal whim is allowed to alter the aim and shape of public services when a perusal of the historical data would act as a corrective.
Innovation, that proof of a living church, should be tempered by the wisdom learnt during two millenniums.
Broad principles appear only from a bird's-eye view of this long period and for that reason this work intentionally omits a mass of detail which, however relevant, tends to make one too engrossed in small issues.
A general historical awareness will add much to the appeal and effect of a service, which may contain a versicle and response sung to music more than a thousand years old, a motet by Byrd and a hymn written in the present century.
The Communion of Saints means at least that we can take the music and liturgical forms made by the saints of other ages and use them to our own advantage, and this book will, it is hoped, stimulate the interest of those clergy and church musicians who have not as yet thought the age-long tradition of their art worthy of consideration.

Because of its practical bias this work has set itself definite limits.
The development of liturgies and forms of service is dealt with on very broad lines and usually from the point of view of the Prayer Book now in use.
Questions of doctrine are of course entirely omitted.
It is hoped that those who find they are intrigued by what historical data are given will further their studies by consulting the authorities named in the bibliographies.

For the same reason we arbitrarily take English Church Music to mean music written for and still sung in English churches.
Thus Dunstable, Fayrfax, even Taverner have but a line or two, not so much, indeed, as Attwood or Stainer who were possibly inferior musicians.
But they are sung and Dunstable is not. Other names have a place which they could never have in a history of music -
men like Lampe, the pious bassoon player or Dykes, the dabbler in music -
for in the church service a hymn-tune or chant may contribute much to the general effect.
Such tiny art forms can as well be tackled by amateurs as by first-rate musicians;
indeed, Gibbons and Vaughan Williams, both writers of famous and lovely hymn-tunes, are exceptions among the great names.

Let us note that there are two types of music to consider, that of the people and that of the choir.
The music of the minister has had no history, but remains much as it always was.
The proportions of music sung by choir and people will depend on the type of church and its resources;
but each has a history, which must be disentangled from that of the other.
The music of the people has a history that goes back to the publication of the first English Prayer Book and an attempt is made to tell the story of the metrical psalm and hymn and their performance.
Choir music is dealt with by periods for the most part rather than by names, though there is some discussion of the more outstanding composers;
their place in the modern repertory and points involved in the performance of their works are usually given more consideration than an attempted critical valuation of their output.
Lesser composers are treated only when they have made some important contribution to the repertory or when they typify some aspect of their period.
The names of some well-known and sometimes important composers who, to ensure clarity of outline to the book, are not treated at all, are given at the end of each part;
in the same place are given lists of music recommended for further study;
the study of works so recommended, though important, does not form part of the purpose of this book.
When individual works are discussed in detail they have without exception been selected because they are universally sung and can be easily procured for a few pence.
With some licence the long period from Croft to Wesley has been treated as one.
The excuse is offered that this tidies the book considerably, while to the lay mind there is little difference in kind between an anthem of Boyce and one of Wesley -
not so much as, for example, between Rejoice in the Lord of Redford and that of Purcell or the settings of Salvator mundi by Tallis and Blow.

The organ as the accompaniment instrument par excellence in church has been given a short chapter after each section where the historical data are used to show how the discriminating organist will employ his modern instrument in music of the period.
Part 6 stands apart from the rest of the book; it is an essay for which the author must accept the full responsibility of purely personal opinions. 
The bibliographies, it is hoped, are the link between this outline book and that corpus of literature, which probes more deeply into this extensive and absorbing subject.
These books may be looked upon as the beginnings of a library for serious and practising clergy and church musicians.
Some charts at the end attempt to give the historically minded student an idea of the panoramas in time of the work of bygone days.
As a parson with no inherent interest in architecture might yet read a work on that subject which concerns his daily business, so the professedly unmusical parson may find here some help in understanding the story and function of music in public worship.
To assist any such a glossary of simple musical terms and conceptions is added;
but it must be admitted that a word with an experienced musician who has a piano at his command would do better service.

Like all other gebrauch music, church music must be judged by its fitness in the service.
To apply that standard will sometimes result in what look like queer valuations.
The same is true of ballet music, opera, incidental music to plays, dance music.
Separated from its ballet counterpart Petrouchka makes, most of the time, pointless nonsense;
as much nonsense as a Schumann lied divorced from its text.
The point need not be stressed.
And if one cannot judge a church composition from the printed copy, neither can one assess it with a mind out of sympathy with the church service.
As well ask one who hates dance music to distinguish between a good and a bad dance-tune arrangement or one who loathes Opera to discuss the relative merits of Faust and Gotterdammerung.
The litany, for example, looks bald to a degree in the music copy.
Sung in procession with cross and candle in the half-light of some cathedral it comes to a new life.
The litany is, indeed, more than the words, more than the music;
it is a piece of corporate expression, a liturgical act. It is psychology as much as music.
The kneeling, the rising and the slow walking are as much part of it as the dancing in Petrouchka, it might well, in fact, be thought of as a kind of expressive dancing in slow tempo.

The book, it is hoped, will thus form an adequate first textbook.
If it sends the reader to the authorities given in the bibliographies it will have achieved the object of a text-book;
if, in addition, it helps the parson to get a bird's-eye view of a great and ancient English musical tradition and the practising church musician to discover the principles underlying his work, so that real team work is possible by both, it will not have been written in vain.

C. H. P. Easter 1943




facing page 44

The magnificent 'Canterbury' Psalter, a volume of 286 leaves, plus fly-leaves, all 18 by 15 inches in size, is the work of one man, Eadwine, who had finished it at Christ Church, Canterbury, before the death of St Thomas in 1170.
During the sixteenth century it was bound in leather-covered wooden boards and furnished with metal bosses representing the Tudor rose;
it was presented to the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, by Thomas Nevile, Master of Trinity, 1595-1615, and Dean of Canterbury.
Besides the psalter and canticles it contains a kalendar and notes on the Pater Noster and Apostles' Creed.
These are followed in the medieval manner by a treatise on palmistry, another on a system of prognostication, a self-portrait of Eadwine and two plans of the famous water-piping system of the Canterbury precincts.

Three parallel Latin versions are given of the psalms,
(1) the Hebraicum, Jerome's translation from the Hebrew, never used in the services,
(2) the Romanum, the version brought to England by Augustine and in use here till 1066, the correction by Jerome of his Latin version by collation with the Septuagint,
(3) the Gallicanum, the Vulgate or Authorised Version, a Latin version of the Septuagint corrected by collation with the Hebrew text.
Philologically the psalter is important, as the Hebraicum text is interlined with a French version, the earliest known, the Romanum with a similar Anglo-Saxon version and the Gallicanum with glosses in.


When drawing his illustrations Eadwine had open before him a psalter made in the diocese of Rheims in the ninth century and now known as the 'Utrecht' Psalter:
Eadwine then drew his pictures allowing both the psalm itself and the Utrecht picture to suggest his subjects.
Above the illustration here shown is a line from the collect after Psalm 149, below which, top centre, is the figure of Christ flanked by six angels.
Top left are four musicians playing respectively from left to right a long-necked 'lute', the same, drum (tabret) and harp as mentioned in the following psalm.
Of the four figures top right that on the left plays another stringed instrument, while the two inner figures hold unidentifiable instruments shaped like ear trumpets.
The lower groups at the sides show four players of a curved, conical instrument no doubt intended to be trumpets or shawms:
their strident notes are graphically shown by parallel lines issuing from the bell rather in the manner of a modern cartoon. The trumpeters' neighbours (one with a leg missing!) may possibly be praying or more likely performing some rhythmic movement of the hands as in dancing, which would illustrate the psalm very well.
The psalmist's cymbals are not represented. Eadwine's organ seems rather to be a copy of that in the Utrecht Psalter than the result of direct observation, for at this time the Winchester organ had 400 pipes and few were content with his meagre ten, six white and four black (pipes were often painted in England at this time).
His 'casework' is merely a rather pointless frame and he leaves much to be desired in the way of mechanism, for the players' fingers merely caress the base of the pipes, the soundboard shows some unaccountable holes (?), and the wind reservoirs seem of an unworkable pattern.
But the human interest is there with the bent backs of the blowers and the impatience of the players avid as ever for more wind.

The illustration is reproduced by permission of Messrs. Percy Lund Humphries & Co. Ltd. and the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral from their facsimile of this monumental work.
The author tenders his thanks to Messrs. Lund Humphries for facilities to consult the preface of the facsimile.


facing page 45

A corner of a damaged page from the Mozarabic Psalter in the British Museum showing neumes written above the first verse only of psalm 127 (lines 4-7 of the MS.) reading:

Nisi dns ed
berit do
In uano la
qui edific
Nisi dn

The full reading would be:

Nisi d(omi)n(u)s ed(ifica)berit do(mum) In uano la(borant) qui edific(ant earn.) Nis d(omi)n(us custo)dierit (ciuitatem).

The first two lines of the MS. are the end of a prayer attached to the previous psalm, the third line being the heading 'CXXVI Canticum', (Ps. 127 in our Prayer Book).
The MS., in Visigothic script, was made in the eleventh century and used at the Monastery of St Sebastian at Silo, 50 miles from Burgos in Old Castille in Spain at the time when its most famous abbot, St Domingo de Silos, flourished.
Over the initial words of the psalms the rising intonation can easily be made out with a capital letter at 'In uano' where the choir joined in after the Cantor had sung the first half-verse.
Even if the monks at Silo had known the stave notation they might well not bother to use it for the familiar psalms, the first verses only of which are marked with neumes.
Presumably the other verses were pointed from memory.
Reproduced by permission, from a photograph supplied by the British Museum.


facing page 120

The title-page of the book from which this page is reproduced by kind courtesy of the owner, Mr William J. Amherst, shows that the copy is one of the 'Fourteenth Edition Corrected and Amended' in 1717, the original having appeared in 1677.
In this edition the music is 'Composed in THREE PARTS, CANTUS, MEDIUS & BASSUS:
In a more Plain and Useful Method than hath been formerly Published.'
The tune here shown is the 'Old 100th', here called 'Proper Tune', the melody and bass of which are given first, then the Medius - with G clef - and lastly the Bassus alone.
Note that the key signature is two sharps only (F-sharp being given twice) t the necessary G-sharps for the key of A being inserted as accidentals.
The alia breve time signature is here equal to 21, which if obeyed makes the whole much less heavy than when sung four in a bar. Note the interesting barring of the first half of lines one and three.


facing page 121

A type of instrument used in many private chapels in the middle of the eighteenth century and still occasionally to be found in use.
At this period most village churches managed the accompaniments to their hymns and psalms with winch organs and gallery orchestras.
In 1767 no English organ could boast a set of pedals, even though the larger instruments had two manuals.
The instrument shown, which has a small pedal in the centre for operating the bellows, is by Snetsler, usually known as Snetzler, and is now in the Permanent Collection of Antique Musical Instruments of Messrs. Rushworth & Dreaper, Liverpool, who have generously granted facilities and permission to reproduce.


facing page 156

The picture shows a 'cello and bassoon playing in unison and a clarinet - who alone seems to watch the beat - playing the melody, with four men at the same stand also, presumably, singing the melody.
Allowing for painter's licence it seems unlikely that any I real harmony is being attempted by this gallery choir of 1847.
I Webster, whose father intended him for the musical profession, attended the school of St George's, Windsor, and some of the originals of his figures are still remembered in the village of Bow Brickhill, where the painting was executed.
It may therefore be considered an authentic document.
Further information will be found in the pamphlet 'Bow Brickhill' by the Rev. R. Conyers Morrell (1934).
The original of this painting is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum who have generously granted permission to publish. Crown copyright reserved.


facing page 157

Singing from Magdalen Tower in the early morning of May 1st each year has a romantic and a realistic aspect.
The first plate, from a painting by Holman Hunt (who made two versions between 1888 and 1891) catches the spirit of the occasion in the manner of its time;
the figures are all portraits taken during service time in chapel.
The second, from a modern press photograph, gives the realities.
Included in the music sung is the Hymnus Eucharisticus of Benjamin Rogers The Holman Hunt picture is reproduced by permission of the Museum and Art Gallery Committee of the Corporation of Birmingham (the other version, slightly different, is in the Lady Lever Collection at Port Sunlight), the press photo by courtesy of the Oxford Mail.


facing page 228

Some of the choristers of Canterbury singing carols in the crypt on the site of the first church of Augustine.
The boys without surplices are 'probationers ' who have not yet attained the status of 'singing boys'.
Singing boys later become 'choristers' and are then on the foundation with all its rights and privileges.
From a photograph by The Times.


facing page 229

The picture shows the scene at the opening service of the 217th meeting at Gloucester in 1937, with clergy and civic representatives of the three cities of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester standing below the orchestra.
Beginning as combined services for mutual betterment of the three cathedral choirs about the year 1716, the festival had by 1724 acquired an orchestra for the performance of works by Purcell and Handel and was sponsoring secular evening concerts outside the cathedrals.
Boyce was appointed conductor in 1737 and in 1759 Messiah was first performed at the festival.
In 1869 Sullivan conducted his The Prodigal Son and so began the practice of producing native oratorios which resulted in the happy connection of Elgar with the festival.
It is perhaps a pity that the original purpose of improving the service music has rather been lost sight of:
such a purpose need not exclude the performance of other music.
From a photograph by The Times.


facing page 229

To appreciate the ingenuity of this giant console, completed in 1939, from which all the organs of the cathedral are controlled, one must imagine the thousands of hidden electrical connections between the stop-knobs and pallets.
The design, by Willis, is an attempt to supply accompaniments, however and wherever needed, in the varied services of a large modern cathedral.
We may, in fact, think of such a console as a symbol of the conception of what a cathedral in a great city must do for its many types of congregation.
From a photograph kindly supplied by Messrs. Henry Willis & Sons and reproduced by courtesy of the Dean of Liverpool and Messrs. Willis.

Music example 50 is taken by kind permission from an old choir book in the possession of Mr. Wilfrid Norman of Wheddon Cross.
The author is indebted to the proprietors of Hymns Ancient and Modern for permission to reprint versions of hymns from the Plainsong Hymn Book.