December 30, 2014
THE PILGRIM HYMNAL
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.
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)www.Hymnary.org, 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)www.Archive.org 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.
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
SINGING SOCIETIES AT SOUTH PARISH CHURCH:
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.
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.......
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 all....in 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.
June 28, 2014
June 21st, 2014
South Church Music Project
41 Central St
Andover, MA 01810
Phone: 978 475-0321
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