Matching Text and Tune
John Peck advised in 1837:
The leader should not choose a tune which requires the repetition of some of the
words, unless he wish to give emphasis to these particular words. On no account
should he set a tune to words which would be broken and mutilated by the
repetitions of the music; and to guard against this evil, before fixing on a tune in
which the lines, or parts of them, are repeated, he should carefully look through all
of the verses. Devotional feeling has been greatly hindered, and sacred music has
frequently been rendered ridiculous, by carelessness in this respect.
Many compilations include similar advice. One reason why church musicians may not always
have found this instruction easy to follow may be gleaned from the following, written by
G. Gay in 1827:
A knowledge of metre is not a sufficient guide to the choice of tune. I knew a clerk
who made it a rule of holding up a certain number of fingers, as a private guide to
the choir at the opposite end of the chapel... Having a large selection of tunes to
each metre numbered alike in all our books, which long experience has taught me to
provide, I am generally happy with the device, and the number is quickly
communicated through the whole orchestra with exceedingly little bustle ... I find
this method to be nearly as good as if the hymns were sent to me before the service...
Things of this kind should be done as quickly as possible; for no place is looked to
more than the singing gallery; even the pulpit is scarcely expected to be more holy
... Those who are enemies to choirs, can magnify motes in the gallery, while beams
in any other place be unobserved; let our choristers be circumspect, that they may
no longer be thought unworthy to manage their own work.