The major musical contribution of the Reformers was the restoration of congregational singing and the use of instruments. John Huss (1372-1415) of Bohemia and his followers (called Hussites) were among the first to bring both back into the church.-'
Luther also encouraged congregational singing during certain parts of the service.' But congregational hymn singing did not reach its peak until the eighteenth century during the Wesleyan revival in England."
In Reformation churches, the choir remained. It both supported and led congregational singing." About 150 years after the Reformation, congregational singing became a generally accepted practice." By the eighteenth century, the organ would take the place of the choir in leading Christian worship."
Interestingly, there is no evidence of musical instruments in the Christian church service until the Middle Ages." Before then, all singing during the service was unaccompanied by musical instruments.'
Jones, Historical Approach to Evangelical Worship, 257. The Hussites created the first Protestant hymnbook in 1505 in Prague. See also Terry, Evangelism: A Concise History, 68.
Jones, Historical Approach to Evangelical Worship, 257. During Luther's day, some sixty hymnbooks were published. More specifically, Luther augmented congregational singing as part of the liturgy. He left a Latin Mass, which was sung by the choir in towns and universities, and a German Mass, which was sung by the congregation in villages and rural places. These two models were merged in Lutheran practice in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The Reformed were opposed to both choral music and congregational hymns. They approved only the singing of metrical (versified) Psalms and other biblical canticles. From their perspective, choirs and hymns were Roman. So Lutheran use of them demonstrated a half-baked reform (Frank Senn, e-mail message to Frank Viola, November 18, 2000).
Jones, Historical Approach to Evangelical Worship, 257. The hymns of Isaac Watts, John Wesley, and Charles Wesley were widely used. Hymn writing and singing swept all Free Churches on two continents during this time.
Liemohn, Organ and Choir in Protestant Worship, 15. John F. White remarks that "to this day there remains considerable confusion of exactly what the function of the choir is in Protestant worship, and there is no single good rationale for the existence of the choir in Protestantism" (Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 186). Liemohn, Organ and Choir in Protestant Worship, 15-16.
Ibid., 19. In the seventeenth century, the organ would play parts against the unison singing of the congregation, thus drowning out the people. Geneva churches tore out the organs from their church buildings because they did not want worship to be stolen from the people (Wilson-Dickson, Story of Christian Music, 62, 76-77). As with the steeple and other embellishments, evangelical churches eventually imported organs from the Anglicans during the 1800s to keep up with the competition. Bushman, Refinement of America, 336-337.
Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, 157.
Church fathers like Clement of Alexandria (of the third century), Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome (of the fourth and fifth centuries) all opposed using musical instruments in their worship. Like Calvin later on, they associated musical instruments with pagan ceremonies and Roman theatrical productions. Liemohn, Organ and Choir in Protestant Worsh/p, 2; Quasten, Music and Worship, 64.
The church fathers took a dim view of musical instruments, associating them with immorality and idolatry.35 Calvin agreed, viewing musical instruments as pagan. Consequently, for two centuries, Reformed churches sang psalms without the use of instruments.""
The organ was the first instrument used by post-Constantinian Christians.' Organs were found in Christian churches as early as the sixth century. But they were not used during the Mass until the twelfth century. By the thirteenth century, the organ became an integral part of the Mass."
The organ was first used to give the tone to the priests and the choir." During the Reformation, the organ became the standard instrument used in Protestant worship—except among the Calvin-ists, who removed and demolished church organs.' The first organ to be purchased by an American church was in 1704.41
The first Protestant choirs began flourishing in the mid-eighteenth century." Special seats were assigned to choir members to show their special status.
At first, the function of the choir was to set the pitch for congregational singing. But before long, the choir began to contribute special selections.' Thus was born special music by the choir as the congregation watched it perform.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the children's choir made its appearance in American churches.' By this time, it became customary for the choir in nonliturgical churches to play special music. (This practice was eventually carried over to liturgical churches as well.)"
Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, 157.
- Jones, Historical Approach to Evangelical Worship, 255-256. The Genevan Psalter, published in 1522, was the standard hymnbook for Reformed churches in Europe and the United States for over 200 years.
Liemohn, Organ and Choir in Protestant Worship, 4. Ibid., 3.
- Ibid., 3,32-33. Wesleyans forbade organs in 1796, preferring the bass viol as the only legal instrument in worship. But organs were installed twelve years later in Wesleyan churches (pp. 91-92). The Lutheran organ became an indispensable feature of Lutheran worship. Ironically, the Lutheran organ music tradition was founded by a Dutch Calvinist named Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck in the early seventeenth century (Senn, Christian Liturgy, 534).
The church was Trinity Church in New York. For a discussion on the first organs used in America, see Liemohn, Organ and Choir in Protestant Worship, 110-111. c Ibid., 113; White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 110. Liemohn, Organ and Choir in Protestant Worship, 115.
Ibid., 125. The First Presbyterian Church in Flemington, New Jersey, is credited with being the first to organize a children's choir. Ibid.
The location of the choir is worth noting. In the late sixteenth century, the choir moved from the chancel (clergy platform) to the rear gallery where a pipe organ was installed.' But during the Oxford Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the choir returned to the chancel. It was at this time that choir members began wearing ecclesiastical robes." By the 1920s and 1930s, it was customary for American choirs to wear these special vestments to match the newly acquired neo-Gothic church buildings." The choir in their archaic clerical clothes were now standing with the clergy in front of the people!"
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