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AMONG the eminent public services of the late Dr. Worcester, his labors to improve the influence of our " psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs," were not the least in importance. His "Christian Psalmody," first published in 1815, was very favourably received; although it was obliged to contend with serious objections from those who prefer to have Watts unabridged and unaltered. The "Selection of Hymns from other Authors" was evidently made with his characteristic discrimination of judgment and refinement of taste. The "Key of Expression" gave the whole work a peculiarity and a value, which have been justly appreciated.
So strong, however, was the predilection of the community for Watts entire, that Dr. Worcester was induced to edit the work which has since been extensively known as "Watts and Select Hymns." To this work a liberal patronage has been afforded. It has been introduced into very many of our churches, and holds a high place in public estimation. Spurious editions of it having lately appeared, and the materials for an improved selection of hymns having greatly increased, a new edition has been strongly urged by many gentlemen, whose judgment is entitled to respectful consideration.
A new edition of "Watts and Select Hymns" is therefore now offered to the public. The Selection has been enlarged by the addition of 240 hymns and 30 "Occasional Pieces." The whole number of "Select Hymns" is now 474. The hymns selected by the present Editor are numbered in continuation of those in the former editions, and commence with "Hymn 237," p. 655. For the convenience of the numerous churches in which the former editions are used, it has been thought best to add the new hymns, rather than destroy the existing arrangement, by making a classification of the whole. If such a classification had been made, it is obvious that the new edition could not be used in connection with any of the previous editions.
The evil which arises from the heterogeneous arrangement of the Psalms and Hymns in all the common editions of Watts, has long been very seriously felt. To diminish it as much as possible, without making a new book,-very special attention has now been given to the "INDEX OF SUBJECTS." The Editor will be much disappointed, if it shall not appear that he has greatly improved the work in this particular. The references throughout are made to pages, and will bear examination in respect to general accuracy and precision. There is also but one "Table of first lines ;" and each line is referred to the page upon which the corresponding psalm or hymn may be found.
In enlarging the Selection, the Editor has aimed to increase
the variety of good hymns, which are more directly suited to the circumstances of the times, and are also likely to be of permanent value. It was, however, impossible for him to obtain hymns of high character, for all the special occasions, which the diversified movements of the age have called into existence.. He has endeavoured to pass by productions which are merely ephemeral; so that the new Select Hymns may more nearly correspond with those, which have received the seal of public approbation. High authority could be given to confirm his decision, in regard to almost every hymn, which has been added. Want of room compelled him to omit many hymns, which otherwise would have had a place in the Selection.-This edition will be found to be specially enriched with hymns, which relate to the life and glory of Christ,—the alarming condition of the unconverted,the feelings of the convicted and the penitent,-the diversities of Christian experience,―the benevolent operations of the church,-the institutions and ordinances of the gospel,-to times and seasons,— more particularly, the solemn periods of sickness and death, eternity and judgment.
Very seldom has the Editor allowed himself to make any alteration in the phraseology of the hymns. In almost every instance of material change, an intimation is given of the factas on p. 676.
The designation of tunes, and the application of the "Key of Expression" to the new Select Hymns, have, with a few exceptions, been made by an experienced teacher of sacred music.
For the information of those who are not acquainted with "Christian Psalmody," it may not be irrelevant to state that the psalms and hymns of Watts, which are enclosed in brackets, are so marked, to indicate that they were, for some reason, omitted in that work.
In regard to other points worthy of consideration, the Editor avails himself of the Preface to the former editions.
"The effect of public psalmody is often exceedingly marred by a psalm or hymn being sung to an ill-adapted tune. The leaders of singing choirs are not always persons of good taste and judgment; and the best qualified leader cannot always, at the moment, so fully possess himself of the sentiments of the portion given out, as immediately to recur to a tune well suited to express them. It might, therefore, it was thought, be highly useful to sit down at leisure, and refer each psalm and hymn, not merely to a proper key, but to a suitable tune.
"The grand defect of our public psalmody, in general, is the want of proper expression. Should a preacher deliver a sermon in an unanimated, monotonous manner, not varying the movement, or quantity, or tone of voice, nor even observing the pauses-be his sermon ever so good, or his pronunciation ever so exact-his hearers might sleep, and his labor be lost. So the best psalm may be sung to the best tune, and every note, in the
several parts, be sounded with the utmost exactness, and yet the performance have little interest or effect. That performance of psalmody, and that only, is entitled to be called good, in which the movement, quantity, and tone of voice, are well adapted to the general subject, and so varied as justly to express the different thoughts, sentiments, and passions. This, it is confessed, is an attainment of no small difficulty; and requires no ordinary degree of judgment and taste, attention and practice. Its importance, however, demands that every thing which can be done in aid of it, should be done. To assist singers extensively, in this essential, but neglected part of good psalmody, no method appeared more eligible, than that of so marking the psalms and hymns by means of certain symbols, as to indicate, as correctly as possible, the requisite variations of movement, quantity, and tone of voice."
"In assigning particular tunes for the several psalms and hymns, regard has been had, not merely to the different key, but also to the peculiar air and character of each tune, and its appropriate adaptation to the psalm or hymn for which it is assigned. If, therefore, in any instance, the leader of the choir, for some particular reason, think it not best to sing the tune, or either of the tunes referred to; still the reference may be of use, as a direction to the sort of tune suitable to be chosen.
"Of the several parts of this undertaking, that of marking the psalms and hymns with reference to expression, was not the least difficult. To indicate, indeed, all the variations, which a skilful and well-practised performer would observe, were impracticable; to designate some of the principal of them only, is what has been attempted. The method adopted for this purpose is simple, and easy to be understood.
"The movement is divided into five degrees, which are supposed to be indicated by five vowels, in Roman letter: viz. a-very slow; e-slow; i-common; o-quick; u—very quick: but in the actual marking, the 1 is omitted; as it was deemed unnecessary for passages requiring only the common movement to be marked. The quantity of voice is also divided into five degrees, which, in like manner, are indicated by the same vowels in Italic letter: viz. a-very soft; e-soft; i-common, but omitted in the marking; o-loud; u-very loud.
"In some passages a variation is required both of movement and quantity. The Pathetic in general, and some other kinds of sentiment, require the slow and soft; this expression is denoted by the letter p. The Grand requires the slow and loud; this expression is denoted by the letter g. The Beautiful requires the quick and soft; this expression is denoted by the letter b. The Spirited requires the quick and loud; this expression is denoted by the letter s.
"Some passages require not any considerable change from the common, either in movement or quantity; but either a peculiar
distinctness of utterance, or some peculiar distinction in the tone or modulation of voice. This expression, or rather these varieties of expression, are denoted by the letter d. This symbol is, indeed, not so much to indicate the particular manner of performance, as to arrest attention, and notify that some peculiar manner is required. Where it is applied, however, whether to passages marked as quotations, or to such as express abhorrence, scorn, indignation, or any other passion or feeling, the judicious performer will, in general, readily perceive the requisite expression.
"If a psalm or hymn begins without any symbol of expression, it is to be considered as common, until some symbol is applied. When any symbol is applied, that is to be considered as being continued, until some other occurs. The short dash (—) after any other symbol, denotes the passage to be in all respects common.
"The general character of each psalm or hymn, as before intimated, is intended to be designated by the tune, or tunes, to which it is referred; and in applying the symbols of expression, each passage of the psalm or hymn has been considered relatively to the prevailing character of the whole, and to the bearings of the several passages. Hence, some passages are marked differently from what they would have been, had the psalm or hymn to which they belong, been of a different prevailing character, or the passages with which they stand connected, required different kinds of expression.
"In the Punctuation, regard has been had to musical expression. In some instances, therefore, different points or pauses are inserted, from what would have been used, had the grammatical construction, only, been regarded. The dash is intended to denote an expressive suspension. In order to good expression, a distinct and judicious observance of the pauses, is absolutely
"In reference to persons, the relative who is preferred to that, because it is better for musical sound. For the same reason, in reference to things, that is preferred to which."
"It only remains for the Compiler and Editor humbly to commend the work, in its several parts and forms, to the candour of the religious public-with the devout hope, that it will promote their improvement and delight in the high praises of GOD; and above all, to the favour of HIM, who is "fearful in praises," and whose approbation is the highest meed-with the fervent prayer, that, under his gracious blessing, it may contribute to the advancement of his great salvation, and to the glory of his adorable NAME."
To these sentiments of a revered and beloved parent, I would humbly and cordially subscribe.
SAMUEL M. WORCESTER.
Amherst College, Jan. 20, 1834.
TO FIND ANY PSALM OR HYMN BY THE FIRST LINE.
ACCORDING to thy...
A charge to keep I have... 705
All mortal vanities..
Behold, the blind........