excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 169 (397 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 169 (397 words)

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Musical letters from Abroad

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But I am forgetting the psalmody. There is neither organ nor choir in Mr. Noel’s chapel. The singing is entirely Congregational, and is led by a precentor, who occupies a secondary pulpit in front of that of the minister, and who, in addition to his singing duties, reads the notices. He gives out the hymn, proclaiming its number, and also at the same time gives the name of the tune; then he reads a stanza which is immediately sung by all the people, and in like manner the succeeding stanzas are read and sung. It is not easy to see why the stanza is read before it is sung, since all the people have hymn-books, and many of them also tune books. The singing of the psalms was as good as may be expected where choir tunes are used for congregational purpose. The tunes here were altogether too difficult for the people’s use; difficult in rhythmics and difficult in melodics. The attempt too, to sing in parts, was not in all cases productive of the greatest good; for example: We stood by the side of a young man who was furnished with a tune book containing only the bass part. In the first tune we sung out the bass with as much voice as we could conveniently command, but with the second tune we were unacquainted, and could not therefore join in the exercise. This was observed by the young man, who drew near and held out his bass part, thus enabling us to sing. But he, while he was looking carefully first at his hymn book and then to his tune book, so as to be sure and be right, was, with his bass part before him, singing all the way the treble part, two octaves below the pitch! How a little knowledge may expose one’s ignorance!

The general effect of the singing was, notwithstanding these drawbacks, very good, vastly better than some of the attempts at musical display which we have witnessed in churches in England and on the Continent; and if it was not musically attractive, it was religiously edifying, and served to revive the affections and lift them upwards.

The standing position was observed in singing, and the sitting position in prayer. The people generally had Bibles, and often referred to the texts which the preacher quoted.

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excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 169 (397 words)


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