EARLY CHRISTIAN MUSIC
WHILE Roman music went on its way from simplicity to bombast and then to decay, a new force arose in music -- the worship of the Christian Church.
In the earliest days of the Church, the music was of a simple but effective character. Most of the converts were of the humbler classes, and so not well versed in the intricacies of the Greek modes. The music they adopted for their chanting and singing was therefore simple and expressive rather than involved. It is probable that the hymns which echoed in the days of services in the catacombs were not greatly different in style from those in our modern hymnals.
According to a report of the Proconsul Pliny, made for the Emperor Trajan, the singing was at first individual. Pliny wrote of the Christians, "They claim that their only fault or error consists of this, -- they convene at stated days, before sunrise, and sing, each in turn, a song to Christ as to a God." But it is possible that the word invicem, or "in turn," referred only to responsive chanting of the Scriptures; for in the time of Origen, in the second century, the whole congregation sang together. St. John Chrysostom describes this practice in the words: "The psalms which we sing unite all the voices in one, and the canticles arise harmoniously in unison. Young and old, rich and poor, women, men, slaves, and citizens, all of us have formed but one melody together." The custom of allowing women to sing with men in the psalms lasted until the Synod of Antioch abolished it, in the year 379. At least one woman became publicly identified with music before that; for a noble Roman convert named Cecilia, afterwards made a saint, is described by writers of the second century, when she lived, as having "lifted up her voice in praise of the Lord." Some accounts state that she became a martyr to her faith under the Prefect Almacus; but that gentleman's name is not to be found in any historical narrative.
The rise of choir-singing came about somewhat as in the case of