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Chapter One - The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton.

(The mythical village of Shepperton is thought to be Chilvers Coton, in Warwickshire, where George Eliot grew up.)

And the singing was no mechanical affair of official routine; it had a drama. As the moment of psalmody approached, by some process ... as mysterious and untraceable as the opening of the flowers or the breaking-out of the stars, a slate appeared in front of the gallery, advertising in bold characters the psalm about to be sung, less the sonorous announcement of the Clerk should still leave the bucolic mind in doubt on that need.

Then followed the migration of the Clerk to the gallery, where, in company with a bassoon, two key bugles, a carpenter understood to have an amazing power of singing counter and two lesser musical stars he formed the complement of a choir regarded in Shepperton as one of distinguished attraction, occasionally known to draw hearers from the next parish.

The innovation of hymn books was, as yet, undreamed of; even the New version was regarded with a sort of melancholy tolerance, as part of the common degeneracy in a time when prices had dwindled, and a cotton gown was no longer stout enough to last a lifetime; for the lyrical tastes of the best heads in Shepperton had been formed on Sternhold and Hopkins.

But the greatest triumphs of the Shepperton choir were reserved for the Sunday, when the slate announced an ANTHEM, with a dignified abstinence from particularisation, both words and music lying far beyond the reach of the most ambitious amateur in the congregation. An anthem in which the key bugles always ran away at a great pace, while the bassoon evey now and then boomed a flying shot after them.


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