West Gallery Music Association
Home   About Us   What's New   Calendar   Quires   Articles   Publications   Resources   Pictures   Discussion Forum   Links

From A General History of Music, volume ii, p.57

by Charles Burney

Lovers of mere harmony might receive great pleasure from Metrical Psalmody, in parts, devoid as it is of musical measure, and syllabic quantity, if it were well performed; but that so seldom happens, that the greatest blessing to lovers of Music in a parish-church, is to have an organ in it sufficiently powerful to render the voices of the clerk, and of those who join in his out-cry, wholly inaudible. Indeed all reverence for the Psalms seems to be lost by the wretched manner in which they are usually sung; for, instead of promoting piety and edification, they only excite contempt and ridicuIe in the principal part of the congregation, who disdain to join, though they are obliged to hear, this indecorous jargon. There can be no objection to sober and well-disposed villagers meeting, at their leisure hours, to practice Psalmody together, in private, for their recreation; but it seems as if their public performance might be dispensed with during Divine Service, unless they had acquired a degree of excellence far superior to what is usually met with in parish-churches, either in town or country, where there is no organ.

All these particulars concerning Psalm-singing may appear superfluous; but the History of Psalmody during these times, is not only the History of Music, but of the Reformation, in some parts of Europe, where little else was to be heard, except these lamentable strains, and the comfortless doctrines and terrific denunciations of fanatical preachers ...

Charles Burney, born 7 April 1726 (old style) in Shrewsbury, died 1814


Home page   |   Resources Index   |   Books Index   |   Recordings Index   |   Literary References