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under the shadow of the altars of the most high God! How comes it to pass that music, the heaven-born gift of the infinite Being to his church, has been suffered to play the harlot in the highways and among the hedges of the profane world; to be decked with all cosiliness by their hands for their uses; but to return in rags and ignominy to minister in the presence and service of Him who gave it? She has been driven from the sacred retreats of her home, and lingers, half-divested of her divineness, in our theatres, or revels in wantonness in the opera. We have observed that the reason of this, is the giving of the concerns of our church music into unscientific hands. This has arisen through parsimonious considerations growing out of a narrow view of the importance of the subject. In David's time the “chief musician” was found in the church, under royal patronage; and we hope to see the day when the church throughout this land shall be seen offering unto God the first and best fruits of all our increase in this divine art.
Much of the music of the church in this country is burdened with serious imperfections, arising from two causes. First, the nature or construction of the music performed; and, second, the manner of its execution, or performance.
As the latter is intimately associated with the former, we shall not dwell upon it, but confine our attention, as is more consistent with our present object, to what we regard as the chief and radical cause.
Any one will see that it is absolutely essential that musical compositions designed for the holy offices of the church, should have a distinct and peculiar character. The musical performances of the opera, or stage, or the airs associated with licentious songs, would be as much out of place in the tabernacles of the Eternal, as the blasphemous orgies of hell in the courts of heaven. It is clear that sacred music should be as far removed from any style which produces, so to speak, secular emotions, as earth is from heaven; or, as the solemnity and awe of a worshiping congregation are removed from the selfish eagerness of the market-place; or, as the holy, calm, and pure joy of the Christian, is removed from the delirious pleasures and excitements of the carousal. It must have a peculiar and fitting character, suited only to purposes of devotion. It should be capable to embody and express clearly, in its mysterious tones, the whole experience of the Christian; nay, the whole experience of the human soul. The wail of the remorseful, the supplication of the contrite and penitent, and the exceeding peace and lofty repose of the triumphant Christian, should be heard in its solemn cadences. But the passions, which in secular music
are permitted to run wild in fierce riot, should, in the music of the sanctuary, appear chastened as by reverential awe, and inspired as with holy hope.
Ballad tunes, which may have been introduced into portions of the church through necessity,—there being a want of genuine and appropriate compositions adapted to the metre,-must be rejected as entirely unsuitable, through their general style and associations, to the great and solemn uses of worship. In private, before the home altars, it may be expedient to reclaim and use these, but not in the congregation. Psalmody whose harmony is elaborated with a profusion of dissonances and diminished intervals, is utterly unfitted for congregational purposes. It is impracticable for use; and besides, the effect thus produced, in most cases, is inconsistent with that simple grandeur and majesty of style which are befitting the exercises of public worship. On the other hand, those meagre and paltry productions,—the offspring of amateur professors,—whose prominent quality is a kind of juvenile simplicity, and which (with shame be it said) are much in vogue among many of our congregations at the present day, should be discarded as utterly inadequate to the dignity and purposes of the office they aspire to. The performance of such "stuff,” for music 'twere libelous to call it, is an evil, the magnitude of which can only be truly measured by the degree of susceptibility of any congregation to good or evil impressions, or by the capacity of the soul for suffering. Their utter impotency in themselves of exciting any emotion, save, perhaps, that of disgust, is sufficient evidence that they are not the suitable medium through which the praises of a worshiping assembly should be addressed to the Majesty of heaven. So far from lending aid to the noble sentiments of the poetry, and bearing upward the soul of the worshiper as by a "chariot of fire and horses of fire,” they rather serve as but the coffin which receives and entombs those utterances as they fall lifeless from his lips.
Many times have our religious sensibilities been shocked, and our heart pained, by the performance of profane and inappropriate melodies in the house of God. We have more than once heard in the place of prayer the very same airs which resound through the halls of revelry and the chambers of licentiousness. And will it be supposed that the young Christian, just rescued from the worship and love of the world and pleasure, can be improved and advanced on his way to heaven by these light and sensual melodies ?-melodies which necessarily remind him of the excitements of the theatre or other scenes of dissipation!
It is the performance of these various and inappropriate styles of composition which has unsettled and debased the taste of our congregations, and destroyed that unity of effect so desirable in all sacred services.
The evil of which we here complain, will not be considered an unimportant or imaginary one by any who appreciate a lofty musical standard, and are conscious of the intimate relation that exists between music and our religious sentiments. Take music froin our churches, banish it from our altars, divorce it from our religious ceremonies,-it would be like robbing the soul of its wings,-like sweeping the sun from the heavens,—we should feel the absence of it in the profoundest depths of our hearts. As an aid to devotion, appropriate music is invaluable. It is also an aid to faith, and revivifies our drowsy sensibilities. In some mysterious manner it reveals to us, dimly and vaguely it may be, a vision of the glory from which we have fallen, and of that perfection to which, assisted by divine grace, we may attain.
We always judge of the merits of musical, as of other compositions, by their power to elevate the soul, and to stir up deep and strong emotions. In this aspect, and in view of all we have previously said in this paper, the work under consideration gives many evidences of excellence and superiority. The editor has ever kept his eye on acknowledged standards, and appears never to have lost sight of this purpose through the entire and vast variety of compositions which he presents to us in this work. He abjures those innovations and vulgar eccentricities which shallow science and distorted taste have rendered somewhat fashionable, to the manifest injury of devotion and the decline of a pure standard. The hymn tunes in this work are generally rendered in equal time,-showing a delicate appreciation of an important element of ecclesiastical effect, so often marred by the run-and-jump rhythm of those triple and compound movements with which too many of the tune-books of our choirs are so abundantly supplied. Common sense and the best authorities concur in the decision that equal time is the measure best adapted for psalmody designed for the use of the congregation. To make our idea more generally intelligible, we will take, for instance, the tune of Old Hundred, which, by its popularity and extensive use in the church through many successive ages, is proved to be singularly well adapted to the sacred purposes of public worship. The reader, if he will take the trouble to analyze the peculiarities of this tune, will find that its exceeding charm, and its adaptedness to almost every psalm and hymn, lies in the simple and unembarrassed majesty of its
style;—which, heard even out of the church, and in those places where men are the most immersed in the business and pleasures of the world, is capable of filling the heart with an overpowering solemnity, and of awakening the dread sentiment of responsibility to high Heaven. It has no eccentricities, no startling points, yet it penetrates the deepest recesses of the heart, and envelops the soul in an atmosphere of celestial melody! Now let the reader sing this venerable tune in triple time,-making every other note twice as long as the preceding one,—and he will apprehend our meaning, and perceive the serious mischief which such an apportionment of time would introduce into this composition, entirely destroying the effect above described.
The varied quality, compass, and pitch of the human voice, evi. dently indicate that God designs that he should be worshiped with harmony, and not with melody alone, in the great congregation. And, also, that one individual shall exercise as many notes of his peculiar scale or compass of voice, as another, in the glad chorus. The meager harmonization and blundering counterpoint of many tunes which are employed in the worship of the congregation, exclude the possibility of this design ever being realized, so long as they are the adopted medium of praise. They compel, too often, the voices which accompany the principal melody to pipe on in a wearisome and impotent monotone, or else they carry them without their appropriate sphere and compass, and thus at once defraud both singer and people of their efficient and legitimate service. The science of the editor of the “Sacred Harmony" has provided against these evils by the judicious and effective distribution of his harmony, and the rich and varied motion he has given to the several parts.
Music, as we have before hinted, has in this department of the science been gradually approximating perfection. The age in which we live is enlightened and critical, and we everywhere sce efforts making to approach a lofty and intellectual style. In the history of church music, as in everything else which regards the nature of progress, it has happened that, first, the heart, the affections, and sentiment, came and bowed at the foot of the cross and before the altars of Christ, and then the intellect followed and sat with docility and submission in the holy place. So at first, simple melody, expressing sentiment and feeling, resounded in our churches, and in its passionate tones the sentiments of hope, and love, and faith, found a voice. But to-day, in our exercises of worship the utterance of feeling is not enough. The intellect, thought, demands a voice, and wishes to be heard in the solemn chant
demands in the form of music to do honor to our holy faith, to increase the ardor of devotion, and to contribute something to the life of the soul. Our author has evidently had this in view in the preparation of the work before us; and we are convinced that, in this respect also, this work-both in its melodies and its harmonies, in its voice of sentiment and feeling, and in its musical utterance of thought, of ideas—will be found to be all that is desired.
In all sacred pieces, the music intended as a medium of approach to the “high and holy One," or as an expression of the calm, intelligent, and tranquil joy of the Christian, the composer should remember that “God will have mercy and not sacrifice." Oppressed with the weight of infinitude and eternity, and penetrated with a sense of those fearful responsibilities which reach away through the unending future, he will seek a subdued and thoughtful style—such a style, in a word, as he would think proper in such a frame of mind and feeling to address to the ear of the Almighty.
The best models of counterpoint have evidently been adhered to in this work. The parts are suitably distributed, and the singer is never tortured by having a note assigned him which he cannot reach, and which is not within the province of his part. In this respect the work is deserving no little praise, and is decidedly superior to most of the tune-books now in use. The work is supplied with an organ accompaniment, in which the parts are written in their proper place. This is one of its crowning excellences, and one which will be readily appreciated by organists—especially those who are unacquainted with figured harmony. By inducing a proper manner of taking the harmony, it will greatly contribute to a pure and efficient style of organ playing, wherever the work under review is introduced. When it is considered how much the organ is capable of contributing to the majesty and power of sacred music, this remark will not be thought unimportant.
No instrument was ever invented, or, indeed, can be devised, more appropriate to the solemn offices of the sanctuary, than the organ. The compass of its voice seems to be almost infinite. With wondrous fullness it expresses every emotion, feeling, sentiment, and passion, of the human heart. In its mysterious tones the profoundest affections of the soul find a voice; but when it is touched by profane and unskilled hands, no irreverent word from the lips of the preacher could be more painfully and readily realized in ils inconsistency and effect upon the hearers,