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that kind of recitation, and that the very points which we use as a division in each verse were used by the Jewish Church for that purpose. Rabbi Elias, moreover, in his Book of Accents, c. ii., states that after the Massorites had begun to place the points and accents in every verse, they first considered where the end of the verse ought to be, although they had it in the law by a tradition from Moses, and then they added two thick points in this way : throughout the Bible. Thus one set of singers sung one sentence, and the other set the following one. An instance of this division, where the second clause of the sentence is clearly supplementary to the first, and intended to be sung by the “company" after the “ chief of the singers," is found in Psalm cxxxvi.
Singing has always formed part of the Christian worship: it was countenanced by our Blessed Saviour Himself when on earth, as were all other Jewish customs and ceremonies which were not abrogated by the fulfilment of His holy mission and His perfect atonement.
Historians concur in their testimony as to its use in the early Church: Theodoret says that Flavianus and Diodorus ordained in the Church of Antioch that the Psalms should be sung interchangeably by a choir of singing men divided into parts.
1 The colon is still adopted in all Prayer-books, which are set forth and “ pointed as they are to be sung or said.”
Among the epistles of St. Hierome is extant one written under the name of Paula and Eustochius, addressed to Marcella, entreating her that she would come to Jerusalem. Among many commendations of the place, this is one: “Here are divers languages, but one religion, and so many quires of singers as there is diversity of nations."
In the same epistle he adds, “Here in Christ's village there is no pride, but all plainness, and beside the singing nothing but silence; the husbandman holding his plough singeth hallelujah, the harvest-man sweating at his labour doth solace himself with psalms, and he that cutteth the vine singeth some of the Psalms of David."
Sozomenus (lib. iii. cap. 39) says, that the clergy of Antioch divided themselves into two parts, and did according to their accustomed manner praise God with hymns and songs.
Socrates attributes the use of singing anthems and psalms, not to Flavianus or Diodorus, but to one “ auncienter” than they, St. Ignatius the Martyr.
The best method of practising singing is a question which remains to be considered.
Without entering very fully into it, the editor thinks that the congregational singing of the metrical version cannot for a moment be compared to the chanting of the Prayer-book version. In the one case we have a translation unequalled for simplicity, dignity, and fervour ; in the other a paraphrase, in which, for the most part, all these characteristics are sacrificed to obtain the rhyme. Besides this, in selecting tunes to the metrical Psalms, no heed is, in general, paid to the sense of the words, the character of the Psalm, or the length of the verses ; frequently a tune is selected which requires one line to be repeated over and over, to the utter destruction of the sense; whilst the organist hurries through his duty without either feeling or devotion, and the charity-children scream at the top of their voices, as if it were their duty to overcome the organ. It is much to be regretted that the clergy have not generally cultivated a knowledge of Church music; it is this ignorance which has thrown the duty on the clerk; the incompetence of the clerk calls for the assistance of the children, and they perhaps are left to the instruction of an organist who knows as little about it as any of the others.
The practice of chanting is, however, liable to many abuses; but it possesses this advantage,
that when well performed, it expresses the sense of the words much more perfectly than any other mode.
The introduction of the metrical version into the service of the Church was not compulsory, nor does it appear
that it was ever intended to form so prominent a feature in our Church service as it has done of late. The collection was evidently taken in hand with the intention of displacing the irreverent and ungodly songs that were then in use in private. The title of a black-letter copy in the possession of the editor runs thus: The whole booke of Psalmes collected into English metre by Thomas Sternhold and Jo. Hopkins, W. Wittingham and others. Compared with the Hebrew, with apt notes to sing with all. Newly set forth and allowed to be sung in all churches, and of all the people together. Moreover in private houses for their godly solace and comfort, laying apart all ungodly songs and ballades, which may tend only to the nourishing of vice and corrupting of youth. London, fc. 1558.
It has been a continual complaint, not only in comparatively recent times, but centuries ago, that this style of reciting, or“ tuning" of the Psalms, was subject to many faults and imperfections, principally arising from the wrong dividing or accenting of the words.
Rhodogenus, and all the divines,” says an ancient writer, “ do testify that the prophet had a great mystery in the harmony of Psalms. Whence to sing Psalms is to sing the praises of Almighty God with a certain joy; in which matter there is such diversity (more is the grief), that every one seems to have a several fashion of singing. Neither do they observe the statutes and precepts of their forefathers, but every one sings Psalms and other things even as they list."
“I know not what fury possesseth the minds of those to whom this charge is put over,” says the same author, alluding to the performance of the services in some churches, "for they are performed with such haste, confusion, and mockery, that neither one voice can be distinguished from another, nor one syllable from another, nor one verse throughout a whole Psalm from another -an impious fashion, to be punished with the severest correction. Think you that God is pleased with such howling, such noise, such mumbling, in which is no devotion, no expression of words, no articulation of syllables ?"
Such was the complaint near 300 years ago : how exactly does it describe the practice of
' Andreas Ornithoparcus his Micrologus, translated by Dowland, Lutenist, 1609; a most excellent treatise.