The History of American Church Music

The History of American Church Music

The History of American Church Music

The History of American Church Music

Excerpt

Preparation of this History began with work on a series of lectures which I gave in August, 1950, at the School of Church Music, Evergreen Conference, Colorado. When Dean Williams first proposed the subject to me the preceding summer, my immediate reaction was one of doubt as to whether there was sufficient material available on the topic, as well as of serious question as to whether or not it would be possible to present it in a positive manner. Earlier impressions, gained through the many aspersions which have traditionally been cast upon American church music, had left me with a fear that most of the subject would have to be covered in a negative manner, a constant condemnation of the bad practices of the past with little that was good to relieve the gloomy monotony.

Once I began to dig into the sources of our musical history, I was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite to be the case. There was much that was worthy, and there were many occasions on which we could well be proud of our musical forebears. It is to be hoped that some of this corrected impression may be conveyed to the reader. While there are many incidents which appear humorous to us today, and many practices which border on the maudlin, fundamentally this work is able to record the sincere efforts of many generations of Americans whose sole aim was to worship God to the best of their musical ability. As will be noted in several specific connections, their seeming lack of taste merely reflected the current European taste, or rather the universal ignorance of the times.

Another illusion which was quickly clarified was that it would be relatively simple to secure material about music in each of the major denominations, as well as in various parts of the country. In point of . . .

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