South Church Music History
South Church Music History

Music History Project Blog

December 30, 2014


On Easter Sunday morning in 1948, the congregation of South Church dedicated a new hymnal.  It replaced "The American Hymnal", which had been in use at the Church for about 40 years.  The first indication that a change was in the works came in 1946, when the music committee announced that it was reviewing various hymn books, with the intent to replace the one they were currently using.  Two years later their choice was "The Pilgrim Hymnal", 1935 edition.  We have no written record of the search process, or what it was that specifically led them to choose "The Pilgrim Hymnal".

What do we know about this book?  Surprisingly little.  What we know comes mostly from the writing of Henry Wilder Foote in his wonderful book, "Three Centuries of American Hymnody".

"The Pilgrim Hymnal" was first published in 1904, and was not well received.  The reason?  Speculation is that it had to do with denominational bias.  During the 19th century the hymns and hymnals were created and published along denominational lines.  The Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopals, Unitarians, Congregationalists and other denominations had their own hymn books.  But in the early twentieth century a change began to take place.  The hymns and hymnals became more universally created and received.  The denominational lines began to be broken.  The 1904 edition of "The Pilgrim Hymnal" was created for the Congregational Churches, but contained a large number of hymns from other denominations, like the Unitarian.  The publishers were anxious to use hymns of other denominations, but the Church members were not quite ready for the change.

115 of 547 hymns in this book were written by Unitarians, and that fact was made very clear to all who opened it.  Why were the Unitarian and other denominational works included?  Because they were beautiful hymns......well written and well composed.  However, the Congregationalists were not quite ready to accept the works intended for another denomination.  The result?  The first edition was not well received.

In 1912 "The Pilgrim Hymnal" was revised and published again, this time with no other denominations listed at all.  Hymns from the other denominations were included, but all mentions, including the Unitarian sources, were deleted.  The result was a well received book.  And by 1948, the year that South Church began to use it, "The Pilgrim Hymnal" was popular throughout the Congregational World.

By 2014 "The Pilgrim Hymnal" had been revised 28 times, and had survived 110 years.  How does a hymnal last that long?  The answer is best expressed in the preface to the 1912 edition, by the editors, Charles Noyes and Charles Ziegler.  "The hymnal, with the new reason, may now claim to be 'the product of the churches for which it is prepared'. It has been tried in worship, and reshaped in the light of their experience, approval, and criticism.  It loyally maintains the continuity of hymnology in our free churches, for though catholic (meaning 'Universal') in its inclusion of whatever is good and seviceable for us, from hymns ancient and modern of all communions, the substance of it consists of hymns which our fathers sang and of present day successors of that stock."

A hymnal remains in use for 110 years because it changes, as needed.  It is not static.  Noyes and Ziegler said it beautifully:  It is "The product of the churches for which it is prepared."

"The Pilgrim Hymnal" - imagine how many people throughout the World, during 110 years of use, have held this book and used it to sing the praises of God, in worship!   For those of us at South Church it will forever be seen as an important part of the history of our Sacred Music.

Ronald Smith

October 28, 2014


I've been trying to figure out which hymnals were used at South Church, and exactly when they were used.  Seems simple, but it isn't.   Bulletins, Annual Reports, Committee Reports, and other documents may list hymns that were sung, but they almost never mention the "book".  After all, the "book" was there, in the pew or in a book rack attached to a pew.  Pick up the book, flip through the pages to find the hymn, and sing.

I started my quest by looking at all of the old hymn books that I could find inside the Church building.  There were several in a storage closet on the first floor, and many more up on the third floor, in the Minister of Music's private office.  I looked through each book, and made a few interesting discoveries.

Discovery number 1:  Some of the books did not originate at this Church, and may never have been used here.  They came from places like Phillips Academy, West Parish Church, a Lawrence Church, and a couple of colleges.

Discovery number 2:  Some of these books were meant to be used in Youth Sunday Schools, not in adult Worship.  That doesn't make them any less interesting to us, but it does narrow the number in the collection that might have been used for Congregational Singing.

Discovery number 3:  Several books had handwriting on the first couple of blank pages.  This was very helpful because it usually identified the group that had been using that book...the choir, the Singing Society, or the Sunday School.      The best note was written inside a copy of "The American Hymnal" nearly a hundred years ago.  It said, "Sara Poor, Pew #15.  Hymnal used until Pilgrim Hymnal".  Thank you, Sara.  Your simple note saved us hours of study.

Two web sites that are very helpful when studying hymnals are:  1), which lists Congregational Hymnals by year published, from 1752 to 1921.  For each book there is a list of every hymn, arranged by number and first line. 2)  has digitized copies of many historic books, including hymnals, which you can download for free, or simply study online.

Our status?   For the years 1711 to 1759 and 1911 to 2014 we know exactly which hymnals were used for Congregational singing at South Church. Only 152 years to go.    

Ron Smith                                        



As a result of feedback from blog readers, the format will change so that the blogs will be shorter and posted more frequently.  

October 7, 2014


We knew that there was a Singing Society at South Church from 1820 to 1871.  It was in charge of everything musical.  Each year the members elected their President, who also served as the choir director.  Money from the Parish enabled the society to purchase music and hire organists.

We also knew that another Singing Society existed before 1820, because the annual meeting minutes of the Parish would sometimes mention that Society's request for money, permission to sit together in Worship, or plans to establish a Singing School.  What we did not have was specific information regarding its formation or the year that it was created.

Two weeks ago I visited the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, which has images of South Church historical documents on four unindexed microfilm reels.  I found the constitution of this second Singing Society on the first reel.  It clearly stated that this society was created at South Church in 1803.  Its constitution was an almost exact replica of the one that was adopted by the other singing society, in 1820.

The only other music documents on these four microfilm reels were two undated, handwritten appeals for money.  The 1803 Singing Society sent these to the Parish.  One appeal was denied, the other was approved.

Ron Smith


August 22, 2014 - Two Non-Musical Items

I apologize in advance for not mentioning anything about music in this blog.  Instead, I thought you might be interested in something non-musical that I learned as I was reading the South Parish meeting minutes from the 1700s. 

Two seemingly insignificant, and unrelated notations appeared in the minutes, both of which appeared to have some deep historical significance behind them.  Ultimately, as I looked into this I realized yet again the difference between history that is made by "Governments" and history as it is lived by common, ordinary people.  I'm much more interested in what was happening to families in their homes, and worshippers in their churches/Meetinghouses.  Remember, the Parish Meetings were conducted by the townspople, and the minutes were written by ordinary inhabitatnts of the town, who were selected by vote.

The first curious notation involved the way some of the dates were written.  Occasionally the year was written with a slash, and an extra number added, like so:  1732/3, or 1713/14.   You may have seen dates similarly written while doing family history research.

The second curious notation involved money.  In 1795 the financial entries in the minutes were written using dollars and cents instead of the British monetary system of pounds, shillings, and pence, for the first time.

I turned to the Internet to get the background on both of these issues.  Here is a very short summary of what I found:

1) The dates:  There were two different calendars in use in 18th century Europe.  The Julian calendar, ordered into use by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, was used in England, and other "Protestant" countries  The second calendar was Gregorian, which was "authorized" by Pope Gergory XIII in 1582.  The "Protestant" countries did not recognize the "authority" of the Pope, so resisted the transition to the Gregorian calendar.

One of the major differences between these calendars was the date they used for the start of the new year.  For the Julian calendar the new year started on March 25th, for the Gregorian Calendar the new year started on January 1st.  Therefore, between January 1st and March 25th of each year it became customary in England and the colonies to designate the year using two numbers, one number for each calendar.  After March 25th, each year,  only one number was needed.   Parliament came to the rescue in 1750 when it passed an act which changed the calendar system in England and the colonies to the Gregorian.  This meant that the date of the new year for everyone became January 1st.  It didn't become effective until 1752. And, if it became effective in February, that year,  it would have been written 1751/2.

2)  Onward to the money:  From 1708 to 1795 the financial entries in the South Parish Meeting Minutes were written in pounds and shillings.  In 1795 the first entries using dollars and cents appeared.  (It was amusing to see that the first few notations had the words "dollars"  and "cents"  written above the numbers, with no decimals used.)

I wondered when the formal, Nation-wide transition to dollars actually took place, and predictably, I found my answer on an Internet web site.  It seems that the young Congress of the United States declared the dollar to be the country's monetary unit in 1785.  In 1792 Congress passed the Coinage Act, which created the US Mint, and defined the value of each coin being minted (There was no paper money in circulation.)  So why was there no mention of "dollars" in the Parish Meeting Minutes until 1795, a full ten years after the dollar became the monetary unit of the United States and three years after the Coinage Act was passed?  Was Andover behind the times?

I could find no clear answer to these questions.  There is evidence that some US merchants, in their accounting and ledger books, used the shilling as a type of currency well into the 19th century. And, there are legal deouments in at least one State, from the mid-19th century, which also use the shilling as a unit of value.  My conclusion is that there was a lot of "English" money available to the colonists for many years after the passage of the Coinage Act, so they used it.  Why not?

Imagine the confusion that having different calendars and monetary systems must have caused for the people of South Parish.  And, regarding the pounds to dollars transition, I now feel very comfortable concluding that Andover may have actually been a bit ahead of its time, not behind

Back to music.......

Ron Smith

July 20, 2014 - The Sabbath in 1714

Focusing on the Sabbath in 1714 might seem like a departure from the study of Sacred Music.  Reality is that we are searching for ANY mention of music during the 18th century, and historians who have studied the Puritan Sabbath have given us some clues about how Sacred Music impacted their worship experience.

Meanwhile, the typical Sabbath day in 1714 contrasts so dramatically with our Sabbath day experience in 2014, that it is worth the effort to present it in our Blog.

We're lucky to have a few superb references to consult: 1) Julie Mofford's wonderful book, "And Firm Thine Ancient Vow", which is a history of North Parish Church;  2) Alice Earle's book, "Sabbath in Puritan New England", which is as thorough a coverage of the 18th century Sabbath as you will find;  and 3) Claude Fuess's superb history of Phillips Academy, "An Old New England School", which has specific information about Samuel Phillips.  I've use all three of these books to create an imaginary "report" from the past, which tells the story of a Sabbath day in South Parish Andover, through the eyes of a 14 year old boy, Amos Rasmith.

Except for Fuess, no author gives us information that is specific for South Parish Church.  Therefore, although this "report" contains information that would accurately describe many Sabbath days in many towns in Colonial New England, the specific application to South Parish may never hold up to the critical eye of a professional historian.  For our purposes, however, it just might have enough reality to help us understand what it was like to go to the meetinghouse on the Sabbath in South Parish, Andover, 300 years ago.

"The Sabbath begins at sunset tonight, Saturday.  Mother and Father have been preparing hard for this, as they do every week.   Mother has been cooking food that we will need for the family, and also to share at the nooning hour between services tomorrow. After susnset she will not be able to cook or clean or do anything else that could be construed as work.  We won't even make our beds.  Father has shaved for the last time until tomorrow night.  He also brought in all of the firewood that we might need, and has tended to the animals.  You might think that all of this is a nusiance. Actually it is far from that.  We love the Sabbath.  It is our rest time, from the hard work of making a living in this wilderness.  We get to see our friends from other familes.  Mother and Father get caught up on any news around Andover. And.....they love spending the time in worship.  Surely God sees us and knows that we are there.  He hears our prayers and accepts our thanks for all that he has given us.  He will reward us with a good week if he is pleased, or will punish us with his wrath, if he is not pleased.  The tithingmen will also know that we are there.  We have several of them, keeping an eye on us.  One watches the roads to make sure no one is traveling for work or for pleasure.  On the Sabbath we are only allowed to go from home to the meetinghouse and back.  Another tithingman makes sure that we have attended worship.  If not, there is a fine, and Father says we can't afford to pay it.  Anyway....we wouldn't miss worship for any reason except if we are sick.

None of us have clocks or watches, so we wait on Sunday morning to hear the signal that it is time for worship.  Friends of mine from other towns have told me that they hear a drum beat, or a bell ringing, or...and this is the most peculiar of one town a man blows into a large conch shell, which creates a very loud blast like a trumpet, heard all over their parish.  I don't know what is used to signal us in South Parish because I never seem to hear it.  Father lets us know that it is time.  We set out, together, on our horses.

When we arrive at the meetinghouse the horses are tied up in the nooning house, which is behind the meetinghouse.   The four of us then separate so that Father enters the meetinghouse through a door that is specified for the men.  Mother, my sister, and I enter through a door specified for us.  Once inside, we find our assigned seats.  A committee "seats" the meetinghouse every year, assigning each seat according to our wealth, our position in the town, or our age.  Some of the elderly folks who have a difficult time hearing are allowed to sit in the front.  The Deacons also sit in the front, in special pews that are turned around to face all of us   The pulpit is in the front center.  It is higher than the rest of the seats.  There is a narrow, enclosed stairway that leads upward to it.

Our pews are just narrow pieces of wood, with no back to them.  We can't sit back and rest.  Some of the wealthier people were allowed to build their own pews.  These are enclosed, just like little rooms, and have separate entrances from the outside. 

Father sits in his seat, on the side of the meetinghouse which is reserved for the men.  Mother, Sister, and I sit on the opposite side, in seats reserved for women and children.

I'm not sure how Reverend Phillips knows when it is time to start the service. All I can tell you is that after all of us are seated and ready for him, he leaves the Parsonage, across the street, and walks with his family, in a procession, to the meetinghouse. His servant, a very nice black man, walks on his left.  His wife walks on his right, with her servant.  Their chldren walk behind them.  Once they enter the meetinghouse all of us stand up out of silent respect.  Reverend Phillips climbs the steps to the pulpit, while his family takes their seats in a special pew assigned to them, beside the pulpit. When Reverend Philips takes his seat, we all sit down again.

The service itself is long, and that's the way we like it.  Father sometimes gets angry if the sermon or prayers are too short.  He can always tell, because there is a big hourglass in the pulpit, which measures one hour.  We boys often count the number of times it has been flipped and restarted during a service.

The service always begins with a prayer.  We stand up while the minister delivers this prayer, which lasts about one hour.  Next we sit down and listen to some Bible readings, followed by our minister's discussion of what they mean for us.  Then comes the sermon. Reverend Phillips always starts his sermon by turning the hourglass.  And I don't think I've ever seen him finish before the sand runs out.   When the sand does run out he just flips it over and keeps on preaching. 

One thing that can actually be very funny for we children is to see one of the grown-ups fall asleep during the sermon.  A tithingman will see that and will walk toward the sleeping victim.  He carries a long pole with a knob on the end. Hanging from it are a squirrel's tail, fox's tail, or a rabbit's foot.  If a man is sleeping the tithingman conks him on the head to wake him up, or raps the pole on the floor, making a loud enough noise to startle the sleeper into consciousness.  If a  woman or child is sleeping, the tithingman tickles their face with the fox or squirrel's tail, or rabbit's foot.  Either way, it's fun to see the sleeper jump in surprise when awakened.  Reverend Phillips gets very angry when the worshippers fall asleep during his sermon. He warns all of us that God will punish us for sleeping at such an important time.

After the sermon comes my favorite part of the morning.  We sing Psalms.  We stand up first, then the minister reads one line of a Psalm.  One of the Deacons then sets that line to music and sings it aloud.  Finally, the worshippers sing the line, copying the words and notes sung by the Deacon.  This goes on until the entire Psalm is sung.  This part of the service can also take a very long time.  I remember one Psalm that took a full hour of the hourglass to sing.

After the Psalms there are more prayers, and the service ends with a benediction from Reverend Phillips. He and his family exit the meetinghouse and stand outside to greet all of us as we leave.  We don't go home, however.  There is a second service in the afternoon.  Between the services we go into the nooning house.  Father checks the horses, and feeds them. Mother takes food for our lunch out of a bag that she carries. Sometimes we can warm the food on the coals of a fire that burns in a fireplace at the end of the nooning house.  Mother and Father enjoy talking to the other people, and learning about what is happening in other parts of Andover. Eventually we make our way back into the meetinghouse for the afternoon worship. This consists mostly of  Psalm singing. We do it the same way.  The Deacon sings a line, then we echo it back to him.

Eventually worship ends and we make our way home.  We feel refreshed by God's presence and love.  All during the week we pray at home, and read our Bibles.  Sometimes we also sing the Psalms.  In the evenings Father and Mother teach us about God.  But I know that as long as I live a Godly life, the highlight of my week will always be the Sabbath."        Amos Rasmith,   Andover.

Ron Smith


June 28, 2014

We have most recently been trying very hard to complete a chronology of facts for the period 1900 to 2013.   This chronology has been in the works for several months, but only recently has the shift been to the more recent years, like 1970 to 2013.   While it has been wonderful to have lots of data, from Annual Reports to weekly Bulletins, the new challenge has been to sift through it and extract that which is most pertinent to our study.  With that completed,  and the focus now changed to the period from 1711 to 1819, the whole technique of our research has changed.   We go from having too much data to having too little data.
And this lack of data, especially for the 18th century, is not unique to South Church.  Our Puritan ancestors had a lot on their minds, just trying to feed and shelter their families in Colonial Massachusetts.  They didn't take the time to write down much about their music.  And what might have been written may have been lost.  So what are we supposed to do now?   Let's look for any book/thesis/article/or other source of information about music, in general, in 18th century New England.  Off to the Internet.......the name Alan Buechner keeps popping up. Hmmmm. 
Alan Buechner  wrote his PhD thesis at Harvard on his discoveries about the Singing Schools that cropped up in New England, between 1760 and 1800.  His sources were 18th and 19th century "wills, newspapers, diaries, court records, and old letters".   He succeeded in producing  what is currently recognized as possibly the most important source of historical information about the transition from "lining out" to singing by "rule" in communities like Andover.  We are lucky that Buechner has done the ground work.  Over and over again I found reference to his thesis in other publications by very respected historians.   I was sold.....I needed a copy of that thesis!!!
The problem was obtaining a printed copy of his work.   When it was finished in 1960, Harvard's policy was to allow access to thesis documents only on campus.  Many historians made the trip, read the thesis, realized that the information was important and available "nowhere else", and the word spread.   Still, the thesis was not published and was not made available outside of the Harvard community.    Buechner died in 1998.
And, in 2003, Boston University published a copy of his thesis.   I excitedly turned to, found that they had one copy available, for $75 in paperback.
I bought it.   It was worth every cent.  Thank you Alan Buechner!
Again.....the focus changed from too much data to not enough data. Buechner helped. 
I also finished another "book", or essay....not sure how to classify it, A Historian's Introduction to Early American Music"  by Richard Crawford.   Crawford has some interesting dates to report, that I haven't seen listed so explicitly  before:  1) 1698 -  "The ninth edition of 'The Bay Psalm Book' appears with tunes, the first printing of music in the colonies. (Earlier editions had omitted the tunes, referring the user to English tunebooks; from the time of the publication of the ninth edition, the psalm tunes were available from American presses.) "     2) 1720 - The beginning
of the furor over psalm-singing (lining out).   Those who complained said that the psalm-singing was horrible and that better music could be had by "rules",  meaning that the singers needed to pretty much learn how to read and sing music.
That also means that 1720 marked the beginning of the Singing Schools, which completely changed the presentation of Sacred music in Worship.     3)  1729 - "The first known public concert in the colonies is given in Boston."  This is not a primary concern of ours, except that it is an additional demonstration of the progression of music appreciation in  the colonies.  It also signaled the start of a shift of the music sources from England to the Colonies, themselves.
                          *Independence from England took many forms*  
Buechner's book has a lot of good information.  It mentions "Andover" a few times. Otherwise it serves us best not as a specific source of information about South Church, but as an overview of what was going on in cities, towns and meeting houses in Colonial New England.
The treasure hunt for information  has so far started to appear more like an investigation  you would find in the plot to a mystery novel.   We have CLUES......"mentions"  of specific occurrences in South Church, especially in the Parish Meeting Notes, which will have more meaning once we know what was going on throughout the colony, and can plug the "clues" into the whole picture.
So far, here are the conclusions:   Buechner  tells us  that "Regular Singing," meaning singing by rule instead of by lining out, began in Andover in 1723.  And....South Parish Church had a choir as early as 1782.   The latter conclusion is based on a mention in
the Parish Meeting notes which considers a request by the singers, that they be "seated" in the meeting house.   Explanation:  Throughout the colonies the singing schools were teaching the younger Church members how to sing and to read music.  At the end of their instruction...usually three months.....these groups of singers wanted to stay together, and sing together during the Worship service.  To do that, they had to sit together.   In order to sit together, the Parish needed to alter the layout of the seating in the meeting house, which was a major change......there really is no other reason for these singers to want to sit together than that they had formed a choir. 
Progress....while slow, it is still progress.  The overall picture of 18th century music at South Parish is beginning to take shape.  Please be patient.     Adios.......
Ron Smith

June 21st, 2014

I've been wanting to photograph the Gould house on South Main Street, for months.
Why not today?
Abraham Gould built this house and lived in it back in the early 1800s.
What is puzzling to me is that Zillow lists the year of construction as 1850.
I have Gould in the house as early as 1820.  More study needed.....
Abraham Gould was one of the creators of the South Parish Union Singing Society, which appeared on the scene in 1820.  He was also President, which meant he was the choir leader (called the "chorister" in colonial New England), for many years.  Many years!!!
His daughter also played organ at South Church.  Bowen Cooke, who became our first organist while he was a student at Phillips Academy, knew Gould, and spent "social" time at Gould's house.  He probably became our first organist because of this relationship. I have a dreamy mental picture of Bowen playing piano in Gould's parlor.
Before Phillips Academy had dormitories, students lived in nearby homes, of which Abraham Gould's was one.  Census documents show Phillips students as "boarders" living in his house, which is located adjacent to the current campus.  Bowen Cooke lived in a dorm, but in a letter to his sister, talks about spending an "evening" at Mr. Gould's house.
I wanted to see the house.  Why not?  Abraham Gould was a huge figure in South Church Sacred Music history.
So....I had to park at the Phillips Academy Ice Rink, and walk around the corner to the house.
As I expected, it is gorgeous. 
Gould's house is just perfect.   I took a few photos.
Back to standing in front of the house, with my I was absorbed in photo taking, a car drove out of the driveway, stopped, and a grey haired gentleman looked at me, then rolled his window down.   I asked if this was the "Gould House".   Cars were streaming by on South Main Street, making hearing of human speech a challenge.  He nodded yes.   I yelled that I was doing this music research and wanted to see Abraham's house.   I also yelled that I would not "publish" any of my photos.  He nodded again, then drove away.   I intend to send him a note, letting him know what my trip to his home was all about.   I wonder if he knows that Abraham was more than a printer in Andover.  He was also a key figure in Andover's Sacred Music past.  
To be coninued.....I hope.

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Copyright © 2014 South Church Music Project. The information presented on this site is not intended to establish absolute fact with regards to dates, events or parties involved, nor does South Church Music Project claim to be an authority on this or any related matter. Any information on this site is based upon informal findings for recreational purposes only and its existence is without any other intent. Any misuse or falsity of data is unintentional and it is encouraged that any such errors be brought to the attention of the site administrator. All photography on this site is used with the permission of South Church in Andover, the Andover Historical Society and private collectors. Any imitation, use or misuse of this material without the written expressed permission of its individual owner is strictly prohibited.