A Short History of English Church Music by Erik Routley, Eric Routley, Lionel Dakers

By Erik Routley, Eric Routley, Lionel Dakers

Starting from the medieval interval to the current day, this can be a short background of church track because it has constructed throughout the English culture. defined as "a fast journey", it presents a wide ancient survey instead of an in-depth research of the topic, and likewise predicts most probably destiny traits.

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Come, Holy Ghost' is a melody of which Mozart could have been proud—perfect in its way, but its scale is that of the hymn tune; indeed it must be one of the earliest of those 'hymn-anthems' which later became so popular—being pieces in the hymn style so arranged as to sound best when sung by a choir. 'Turn thy face from my sins' is hardly greater in scope, and perhaps less captivating in execution. As for Crotch—the famous (I am tempted to say notorious) 'Lo, star-led chiefs' is a monument of comic Handel.

But before we slip into the familiar clich£ which says that all puritan opinion is repressive of the arts, there is one statement which will serve to correct the historical skid. This is that the puritan opinion we are dealing with here was exceedingly sensitive about what happened in church; it is a mistake to extend that opinion to the rest of life. And the sensitiveness to what went on 18 A Short History of English Church Music in church was the result of a new kind of thinking about what the church, at public worship, was for.

Maurice Greene, among the younger contemporaries of Handel (1695—1755) rates as a major church musician of this period; John Travers (1703—58) perhaps hardly so, even if there is a certain rumbustious bonhomie in his 'Ascribe unto the Lord' (TCM 184). William Boyce (1710-79), best known as an editor and collector, had a noticeable original talent. But if one stands away from most of this later music one begins to see rhetoric increasing and a sense of vital musical structure receding. I cannot think that it is altogether prejudice that makes me feel that, for proportion and musical vitality, the hymn tune Magdalen College of William Hayes (EH 457)—a masterpiece in miniature if ever there was one—has as much real music in it as twenty pages of his own or most others' longer choral works.

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