South Church in Andover has a long and proud history, starting with the “celebrated” birthdate of the Church on October 17th, 1711, when the first minister, Samuel Phillips, was ordained. 302 years later, while its history has been well documented and published, there has been one somewhat overlooked aspect …….. Music!
This may seem difficult to accept, considering the importance of music in the life of any Christian Church. A Christian Worship service without music, or a Church without a music program is almost impossible to imagine. And yet, for the more than 300 years of history at South Church, there has never been a comprehensive study of its music. This project, therefore, seeks to correct that. It is focused on our Sacred Music History.
The South Church Web site (www.southchurch.com) gives a wonderful overview of the current music program. And it is our hope that in the near future we will also be able to “give” a complete overview of the origin and history of that same music program.
Many questions come to mind, like: How did the early Puritans view the inclusion of music in the early Church? Who was the first person to play the organ during a worship service at South Church? What type of music was acceptable for inclusion during a worship service in 1825? Who were the music leaders during those 302 years? And where did they come from?
When were musical instruments first utilized during worship services, and what instruments were used?
How was the tradition of “lining out” practiced in the 18th century at South Church?
What hymnals were used over the years, and why were they chosen? Why was there no volunteer choir in 1930, and why did the Music Committee refuse to consider having a volunteer choir? Why did rationing, during World War II, cause serious damage to the South Church organ? For what reason would members of the South Parish Union Singing Society be fined 12 cents in 1820?
We’ve been fortunate to have excellent guidance from historians at the Andover Historical Society, and Congregational Church Library; the Archivist at Phillips Academy; and other researchers at research centers nearby and a distance away. We have also worked many hours combing over countless documents in search of facts concerning our musical history. We have learned so much already. For example, did you know that some very famous organists have played the South Church organ? Names such as Joseph Bonnet of Paris, Pietro Allesandro Yon of New York, Joseph Duprie of Paris and even a blind organist from Edinburgh named Alfred Hollins!
Nevertheless, we hope and believe that there is more information to be gathered; not from a research center, or a book, but from someone with a family history. It could come from someone as near as the Andover Community or as far away as the most distantly reachable email connection.
We are openly appealing to anyone who has personal knowledge of early music history at South Church to contact us and let us know what you have. You may be the descendant of a former Church member, or of an organist, Director of Music, Singer, or Instrumentalist, who has a proud story to tell, and which should be included in any comprehensive history. Or, maybe you are connected to a friend or neighbor who may be interested in our work! Spread the word!
The years for which the need for information is most critical are 1711 to 1820, and 1871 to 1900.
However, any information may prove helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us. The best way to us is via email. Southchurchmusicproject@gmail.com
Thank you in advance for your support!
Ron Smith, Researcher .
South Church Music Project
41 Central St
Andover, MA 01810
Phone: 978 475-0321
Spread the word and raise awareness about what we do. The best way to do it is through social networking!