Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Dissenting Praise: Religious Dissent and the Hymn in England and Wales

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Dissenting Praise: Religious Dissent and the Hymn in England and Wales

Article excerpt

Dissenting Praise: Religious Dissent and the Hymn in England and Wales. Edited by Isabel Rivers and David L. Wykes. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, Pp. xiii, 299. $102.00.)

What is it about hymns, anyway? How do they connect us to our communities and to people around the world? Why are ancient hymns still loved in today's modern world? When did denominations begin using their own specific hymnals, and how were texts from other churches included? Dissenting Praise, a concise, welldocumented collection of essays, addresses these issues and more. The authors and editors are all to be commended for covering such a large topic. The book is the product of Dr. Williams' Centre for Dissenting Studies in London, and it is a testament to the scholarly endeavors of the institution. Williams (c. 1643-1716) was a prominent nonconformist minister in London who left his library of more than 7500 books for the use of his colleagues. Many scholars have since added their collections to the original library. In 2004, Isabel Rivers, professor of eighteenth-century English literature and culture in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary, University of London, and David Wykes, director of Dr. Williams' Library, founded the center to bring the remarkable resources of the library to the attention of scholars and to demonstrate the importance of dissenting hymnody.

For example, E. Wyn James reports that, even as denominational Christianity is waning, Welsh crowds still sing hymns at national rugby matches. James states that the "development ... of the Welsh congregational hymn coincided with the Methodist Revival and phenomenal growth of evangelical nonconformity" (229). Nicholas Temperley's chapter on the music of dissent provides a detailed history of both the tunes sung in dissenting churches and the evolving attitudes toward music in churches. His section on the different musical styles preferred by the various strains of the early Methodist church is particularly interesting (211-18). …

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