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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.


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