Haack [Haacke, Haak, Haake], Friedrich Wilhelm

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IV. Protestant

Metrical hymns have been an important and distinctive part of Protestant worship since the Reformation. Today the word ‘hymn’ has the general meaning ‘sacred lyric for use in worship’. In this section, however, the definition adopted is an older and narrower one: ‘sacred lyric of original content for use in worship’, as distinct from a metrical translation or paraphrase of a psalm or of some other portion of scripture or liturgy.

1. Origins of the Protestant hymn.

2. The English hymn before the Wesleyan revival.

3. The modern English hymn.

4. The American hymn.


Hymn, §IV: Protestant

1. Origins of the Protestant hymn.

From its very beginnings the Protestant hymn differed from the Catholic in being sung by the laity. Metrical religious lyrics in the vernacular were well developed in the Middle Ages, especially in Germany: carols are the most familiar example. But the vernacular hymn as an integral part of Christian worship began only with the Reformation. ‘With the gathering of the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia into congregations, popular song becomes definitely Congregational Song’ (Benson, 1909, p.21). The earliest recorded hymnbook of the Bohemian Brethren dates from 1505 (see Cantional, §1). The advent of printing had made it possible for all the worshippers to share in the singing of a large repertory of hymns. Luther himself was steeped in the German folksong in which hymns played so large a part, and he used his freedom to compose hymn texts as a method of popularizing the new doctrines of his reformation. The hymn has been a constant part of worship throughout the history of the Lutheran churches (see Chorale; Luther, martin; and Lutheran church music).

In the other principal branch of Protestantism a different tradition was formed. Calvin determined to found his reformed worship on the practice of the Early Church. While not absolutely denying the value of human compositions, he argued that no better songs could be found than the inspired songs of Scripture. He therefore established at Geneva the tradition of singing metrical psalms, which until recent times was closely followed in the Reformed Churches of France, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and Scotland (see Psalms, metrical, §§II and IV; Calvin, Jean; and Reformed and Presbyterian church music). When these Churches did eventually admit hymn singing, they usually borrowed their hymns from Lutheran or other external sources. As a result their own contribution to the common stock of hymns has been slight, though many tunes originally composed for metrical psalms are now more often sung with hymns.

Hymn, §IV: Protestant

2. The English hymn before the Wesleyan revival.

The English Reformation was at first Lutheran in impulse. Coverdale's Goostly Psalmes and Spirituall Songs (c1535) were based on the Wittenberg hymnbooks, but they had little popular appeal and were banned by Henry VIII in 1546. Translations of Latin hymns from the Sarum Breviary and elsewhere were issued in primers for private use at this period; and Cranmer, in an early draft for the Book of Common Prayer, included 26 Latin hymns in the daily Offices. When he translated the services into English for the Prayer Book of 1549, however, all hymns were omitted, presumably because of the shift towards Calvinism under Edward VI. Only the Veni creator spiritus survived, in the Ordination Service (published separately in 1550): it remains there to this day, with the later translation of Bishop Cosin added in 1662.

During the Marian exile rival parties sprang up in the English Protestant communities. Many of those who most disliked the Book of Common Prayer went to Geneva, where in 1556 they compiled their own Forme of Prayers. They attached to it a group of metrical psalms which was to become the nucleus of the English metrical psalter (see Psalms, metrical, §III). This and the later Genevan editions drew solely on psalms and other scriptural passages for their verse. But when the metrical psalter was introduced in England after Elizabeth I's accession (1558), some compromise was found necessary between the strictly Calvinist Genevan party and other groups who favoured the Prayer Book and who had spent the years of exile in Lutheran centres such as Strasbourg. Consequently the 1561 edition contained a much enlarged appendix to the metrical psalms, which included the Veni creator spiritus, versions of most of the Prayer Book canticles, the Athanasian Creed, Lord’s Prayer and Commandments and six original hymns. In the 1562 edition of Sternhold and Hopkins, the first complete edition of the psalm book, three more hymns were added (the complete list is shown in Table 2). These may rightly be regarded as the first hymns of the English Protestant Church. Two of the hymns were of German origin and were provided with German tunes; four others had their own tunes, of which one (Frost 186) is striking in its emotional intensity by comparison with the almost uniform dullness of the average English psalm tune of the time. It may well have been composed by Tallis, who harmonized it for John Day's four-part psalter of the following year. The other three hymns had cross-references to psalm tunes.

TABLE 2: Original hymns in Sternhold and Hopkins’s psalm book


First line





A Thanksgeving after the receving of

‘The Lord be thanked’

W. Samuel


the Lordes Supper

A Prayer after the Commandments

‘The spirit of grace grant us, O Lord’



A Prayer

‘Preserve us, Lord’

R. Wisdom, after Luther

Frost 184 (L.M.)


A Prayer unto the Holy Ghoste, to be

‘Come Holy Sprite, the God of myght’



Song before the Sermen

Da pacem Domine

‘Give peace in these our daies’

E. Grindal, after W. Capito

Frost 183 (8787D)


The Lamentation of a Sinner

‘O Lord, turn not away thy face’


Frost 10 (D.C.M.)


A Lamentation

‘O Lord in thee is all my trust’


Frost 186 (D.L.M.)


The Complaint of a Sinner

‘Where righteousness doth say’


Frost 185 (6666D)


The Humble Sute of a Sinner

‘O Lord of whom I do depend’

J. Marckant

Frost 8 (D.C.M.)


The tunes are identified by reference to M. Frost: English and Scottish Psalm and Hymn Tunes c1543–1677 (London, 1953), with the metres in brackets

These nine hymns formed an almost unvarying part of the text of the metrical psalter throughout the rest of the 16th and 17th centuries, and tended to retain their tunes even when the tunes of many of the psalms were altered – for example in East's and Ravenscroft's harmonized psalters (1592; 1621) and in Playford’s musical revision of the standard psalm book (1661). But this fact reflects the supposed royal authority of the collection, recited on the title-page, rather than the practical utility of the hymns. There is no evidence that they were ever widely used, and they certainly did not form the nucleus of an English hymnody. For two centuries the music of the English parish church was essentially the metrical psalm. It was not until the 18th century that the English hymn developed into a form worthy to be compared with the German chorale.

This evolution, when it came, grew out of increasing dissatisfaction with the metrical psalm as a vehicle for congregational religious feeling. The purpose of the metrical psalms had been the utilitarian one of converting Old Testament verse into a form in which it could be sung by the people, while adhering as closely as possible to the original text. They were not literal enough for some extreme Puritan sects, and they were not literary enough for cultured Anglicans. As the zeal of the original reformers diminished, and particularly after the Presbyterians left the Church of England in 1662, there was mounting criticism of the crudity and inadequacy of the texts of the metrical psalms. This was coupled with the feeling that many of the psalms were unsuited to current conditions, and that none contained direct acknowledgment of Christian revelation, however much they might be interpreted as Christian prophecy. As an intermediate step a number of freer translations of the psalms were issued: some, such as Matthew Parker's (c1565), George Wither's (1632), George Sandys's (1638) and Tate and Brady's New Version (1696), remained faithful to the original but sought to improve the literary standard of the verse. Other translations, beginning with John Patrick's (1679) and culminating in Isaac Watts's The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), consciously reinterpreted the psalms in evangelical terms. Richard Baxter, in Six Centuries of Select Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1688), freely selected passages from Old and New Testaments and wove them into hymn-like verse. In such compromises it is difficult to say where paraphrase ends and free composition begins: the distinction between hymns and psalms became blurred. Although much devotional poetry was written during the century after Elizabeth's accession, some of which has found its way into present-day hymnbooks, none was intended for liturgical use, with the sole exception of George Wither's The Hymnes and Songs of the Church (1623). This was planned to complement the Prayer Book services and included hymns for festivals and holy days. Although Wither obtained from James I a unique patent requiring that the book be bound up with every copy of the metrical psalms, its circulation was defeated by the action of the Stationers' Company and it was soon a dead letter. Its chief interest today lies in the tunes composed for it by Orlando Gibbons, several of which are now in common use.

After the Restoration in 1660 a number of writers of differing denominations began to compose hymns with some intention of liturgical use. The Roman Catholic John Austin's Devotions, in the Ancient Way of Offices (Paris, 1668) was an influential book, and was heavily drawn on by John Playford for his Psalms and Hymns in Solemn Music (1671), in which hymns were interspersed among metrical psalms in the evident hope that they might be tried out in church as well as at home. Thomas Ken wrote his famous Morning and Evening Hymns (and his Midnight Hymn) for the use of the scholars of Winchester College in a direct and simple style suggested by the models of the Roman Breviary; they were published in 1694. On the Puritan side the most important writer was John Mason, whose Spiritual Songs (1683) had great influence among Dissenters.

The liturgical use of hymns at this period, however, was inhibited by various theological and political circumstances. In the Church of England a period of reaction had set in: Sternhold and Hopkins's psalms were associated, like the Book of Common Prayer with which they were frequently bound, with the restored establishment of Church and State, and it was long before any innovation could make headway. Even the New Version of the psalms encountered great opposition from bishops, clergy and people. However, the Supplement to the New Version of the Psalms, issued by Tate and Brady (1700), eventually proved a popular and permanent addition to the psalms. Although few new hymns were included (six in 1700, nine in the sixth edition of 1708) they had the important advantage of authorization by the queen in council on 30 July 1703. One of them, While shepherds watched, is the earliest strictly Anglican hymn that has remained popular. The tunes printed in the early editions of the Supplement were entirely those of the Old Version, but in 1708 a large group of new tunes appeared, including some excellent ones attributed to Croft (‘Hanover’ and ‘St Anne’ among them). Meanwhile Henry Playford's Divine Companion (1701) had provided many new hymns and tunes by Blow, Clarke, Croft and others, explicitly designed for parish churches in which volunteer choirs were beginning to be formed. Opposition to hymn singing in the established Church remained strong, however, throughout the 18th century. In the hundreds of collections issued for parish church use there are very few new hymn texts. There was, on the other hand, a considerable development in hymn and psalm tunes (see Psalms, metrical, §III, 4(iii)).

Among Dissenters, including the Presbyterians ejected in 1662, singing of all kinds was hampered until 1689 by the fact that meetings were generally illegal and had to be held in secret. Nevertheless many Presbyterian leaders, led by Richard Baxter, advocated the use of hymns as well as metrical psalms. The Independents also began to add hymns to psalms during the last decade of the 17th century. Among the Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists, a controversy on the validity of singing in worship was set off by the action of Benjamin Keach in introducing hymns at his meeting-house in Bristol – first (c1675) after Communion only, later (c1690) at every Sunday service. At the extreme of nonconformism, the General Baptists joined the Quakers in outlawing singing of any kind in public worship, on the grounds that the singing of other men’s words and tunes could not possibly represent that spontaneous speaking from the heart that they conceived to be the only form of worship valid under the New Covenant.

It was an Independent, Isaac Watts (1674–1748), who took the decisive step towards the foundation of an English hymnody which would ultimately prevail over psalmody. His work was the culmination of the 17th-century movement away from literal psalm versifications. He embarked on a thorough reform of congregational song texts, based on the fundamental principle that church song should express the thoughts and feelings of the singers. (This of course was incompatible with the Calvinistic belief in literal translation of the inspired texts.) The psalms, if used at all, must be made appropriate to modern Christian use: this object was achieved in Watts's The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719). Beyond this, Watts provided in Horae lyricae (1705) and in Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707) as complete and comprehensive a set of hymns as had ever been proposed for English worship. Most of the hymns were written between 1694 and 1696. They were all in the three commonest psalm metres and were evidently designed to be sung with the old psalm tunes. Watts had no wish to reform the tunes, but he strongly advocated a faster pace and a heartier manner of singing them.

The popularity of Watts's hymns and psalms in his own Independent (later Congregationalist) society amounted to domination for more than a century; among Baptists and Presbyterians it was hardly less. Their influence in America was as great and as lasting as in Britain, and when at length they were admitted into the Church of England, a number of them became, and have remained, among the greatest favourites (e.g. O God, our help in ages past).

(See also Congregational church, music of the and Baptist church music.

Hymn, §IV: Protestant

3. The modern English hymn.

The hymns of John Wesley (see Wesley family, (1) and (2)) and his brother Charles began a new era in the history of the English hymn, in which words and tune were alike aimed to arouse the emotions of a religiously awakened congregation. Watts had merely written hymns; but the Wesleys made hymns a central feature of their worship (See Methodist church music. They designed their hymns, and (after its first years) their whole ministry, chiefly for the lower classes. The first Wesleyan hymns were written in the 1730s under the strong influence of Watts and of the Moravians (see Moravians, music of the; in time the brothers produced a body of several thousand covering every aspect of religious and secular life.

Until his death in 1791 John Wesley kept a tight control over the hymn singing of his movement, and laid down the tunes to be used and the manner of singing them as well as the texts. A new type of tune, explicitly associated with these hymns as opposed to the metrical psalms, came into use. Many of the hymns were in unconventional metres, more particularly the trochaic metres (e.g. Jesu, lover of my soul). J.F. Lampe's collection of 24 of Charles Wesley's hymns with his own tunes (1746) was the first distinctively Methodist collection of hymn melodies printed; eventually some of these tunes with others approved by Wesley were gathered in Sacred Melody (1761), the official tune book of the Methodists (102 tunes in all; see fig.2). Wesley disapproved of the older psalm tunes as dull and formal, but he also disliked the florid type of tune that had recently become popular in Anglican use, particularly the fuging-tunes. Many of the early Methodist tunes are in the galant style of the day, reminiscent of concert or theatre music; some were actually adapted from secular tunes. It was this worldly modern flavour that shocked many churchmen of the time, but it conflicted with no principle that Wesley held dear, and it served to bring religious music into the realm of contemporary tastes. The Methodists quickly gained a reputation for the warmth and heartiness of their singing, which was due partly to the choice of tunes but more especially to the attitude towards singing that Wesley himself had taught them. Everyone joined in, all stood up, and an invigorating pace was adopted in place of the slower tempo of the psalm tunes. Often the meetings were in the open air, and there was never any organ or other accompaniment. The spectacle of hundreds of people singing such hymns with unabashed fervour proved irresistible to many, and helped to draw hundreds of thousands away from the established Church.

The Church was slow to take up the challenge. Throughout the 18th century individual clergymen were continually calling for improvements in church music, but the majority were indifferent: many did not even reside in their parishes. Improvement when it came was due to the small band of Evangelical clergy, at first closely linked with the Methodists, who were determined that the worship of God should be conducted with genuine feeling. The lead was first taken in several charitable institutions (the chapels of the Foundling, Lock and Magdalen hospitals) that were not under diocesan control; these were followed by licensed proprietary chapels, such as the Surrey Chapel, where Rowland Hill was minister from 1783 to 1833. Progress in parish churches was more difficult because of the general belief that only metrical psalms had scriptural and legal authority. Even some Evangelicals, of whom William Romaine was the most prominent, felt unable to abandon the Old Version. Others introduced more modern translations (such as those of Watts or Merrick), and by slow degrees the singing of hymns became more common. In 1791 editions of the New Version began to include a number of additional hymns in their appendix. Meanwhile William Cowper, John Newton and Hill, among other Evangelicals, contributed some distinguished hymns to the Anglican repertory. In the matter of tunes there was less reason for caution, and many tunes of the ‘Methodist’ type became popular in the established Church towards the end of the 18th century. The larger parish churches acquired organs, disbanding the singers and instrumentalists in the west gallery; and a few enthusiastic clergymen, such as Munkhouse of St John's, Wakefield, and W.D. Tattersall of Wotton-under-Edge, began to train choirs to lead the congregation instead of attempting elaborate music of their own.

The introduction of hymns proceeded rapidly in several town churches in Yorkshire, where the Evangelicals were strongest, during the early years of the 19th century. The question of their legality came to a head in 1819, when Thomas Cotterill, vicar of St Paul’s, Sheffield, introduced his own Selection of Psalms and Hymns, including a number of hymns by the Moravian James Montgomery that have since become some of the best-known in the language. Some of the congregation rebelled to the point of taking Cotterill to court. The case of Holy and Ward versus Cotterill was heard on 6 July 1820 in the Consistory Court of the province of York. The chancellor (G.V. Vernon) concluded that even the king in council could not, under a strict interpretation of the Acts of Uniformity, alter the liturgy by allowing the use of either metrical psalms or hymns in church; but he declined to implement his judgment since the singing of psalms and hymns was so well established. By consent of the parties the question was referred to the archbishop, who ‘undertook to compile a new Selection of Psalms and Hymns for Mr. Cotterill's Church’. This bizarre action had the important effect of determining that in practice any hymns or psalms could be introduced in a parish church at the discretion of the incumbent. The new position was ably set forth by Jonathan Gray, who had recently compiled his own selection of hymns for use in several York churches.

This development made possible a great flowering of English hymnody in which the established Church took over the lead from the Dissenting bodies. The Romantic movement stimulated concern for the poetic merit of hymns and an interest in the medieval hymns of the Roman Church: both are reflected in Bishop Heber's Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year (1827). Frere called Heber ‘the creator of the modern church hymn-book’. The effort to apportion hymns to specific liturgical functions in the church services and calendar was not new, but it was given new emphasis by the men of the Oxford Movement. The extreme point was reached in the Hymnal Noted (1851, 1854), edited mainly by J.M. Neale, which consisted entirely of versions of Latin hymns, designed for use as Office hymns within the Anglican Church despite the fact that Office hymns had no part in the authorized liturgy. The music was drawn chiefly from plainchant, with a preference for the Sarum melodies; they were provided with a harmonized accompaniment. The best-known hymn of this new type is perhaps O come, O come, Emmanuel. Meanwhile other tastes and other sections of the Church produced their own hymnbooks. The Evangelical tradition was maintained by Edward Bickersteth's Christian Psalmody (1833), later augmented in his son Edward H. Bickersteth's Psalms and Hymns (1858). Charles Kemble's Selection of Psalms and Hymns (1853) was an old-fashioned low-church production, ignoring recent developments; middle ground was occupied by the Hymns of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), expanded in 1871 into Church Hymns with Sullivan as musical editor. Frances E. Cox's Sacred Hymns from the German (1841) initiated a new interest in the old Lutheran chorales and their tunes, which culminated in Catherine Winkworth’s Chorale Book for England (1863) for which Sterndale Bennett edited the music. Other musical editors, led by William Cross (1818) and followed by John Goss (1827) and William Crotch (1836), had begun a movement to restore the early English psalm tunes in pure and unadorned form. With the rise of musical scholarship many other sources from the past were tapped for textual and musical materials. The early and mid-Victorian periods witnessed an unparalleled amount of activity in the composition, rediscovery, arrangement and publication of hymn texts and tunes. Much of it was frankly commercial, and there was an unedifying stampede to commission hymns and tunes from well-known authors and composers, and to get selections adopted by fashionable churches and recommended by bishops. The advertising of hymnbooks reached phenomenal heights at this period. Sales were enormously increased by the growing (and not always disinterested) insistence by the clergy that parishes provide hymnbooks for every member of the congregation. William Mercer took this a stage further in his Church Psalter and Hymn Book (1854) by issuing an edition with the unharmonized tunes as well as the words, so that all could have the tunes before them – for the first time since the last musical edition of the Old Version (1688). At this same period the trend towards the ‘proper’ tune (that is, a tune permanently associated with a particular hymn) became decisive.

The climax of all these tendencies – theological, aesthetic, practical and commercial – was the publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1861. The initial impetus was Anglo-Catholic, but the committee formed under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Baker wisely decided to make the book a comprehensive one, including the most popular hymns of all shades of opinion provided they attained an acceptable standard. They eliminated much possible competition by pooling the resources of several men who were planning to publish their own selections. The success of the book was without parallel. By 1869 the annual sale was about half a million copies. By 1873 over 30% of London parish churches had adopted it; by 1881 the proportion was closer to 70%, with the SPCK Church Hymns the only serious rival. An official inquiry in 1895 showed that about 75% of churches throughout England had adopted Hymns Ancient and Modern, and by 1912 no fewer than 60 million copies had been sold.

Though comprehensive in its selection, the book preserved its Anglo-Catholic tone and probably did more than anything else to spread the ideas of the Oxford Movement so widely that many of them became imperceptibly a part of the tradition of the Church as a whole. At the same time the book rapidly popularized a new and distinctively Victorian type of hymn tune, of which J.B. Dykes produced the largest number as well as the most characteristic examples. Dykes's tunes were simple, often making use of rhetorical devices of repetition and climax borrowed from instrumental music, and supported by richly emotional harmonies. They took full advantage of the new conditions in which parish congregations enjoyed the support of a full choir and organ: they could be sung at a much faster pace than had been common a generation earlier, and could make use of dynamic changes suited to the words, which were actually marked in the texts of the hymns. Dykes's tunes exactly met the need of the time, and they were very popular. Indeed the music was probably the main ingredient in the success of the book. Heber had published his Holy, holy, holy in 1826, Newman his Lead, kindly light in 1833. But it was not until they were matched to Dykes's tunes that they became two of the most popular hymns in the English language (the same was true of Abide with me, set to W.H. Monk's tune ‘Eventide’). Hymns Ancient and Modern became an influence far beyond the boundaries of the Church of England. But it was the tunes that were first adopted by Welsh Methodists, Scottish Presbyterians and American Lutherans; the words followed later.

Within a generation Hymns Ancient and Modern had overcome almost all its rivals, and had caused the abandonment of plans to develop an authorized hymnal for the Church of England. In the last decades of the 19th century there was a consequential drop in the output of both hymns and tunes. A distinctive contribution was made by the many hymnbooks compiled for schools, which naturally emphasized literary and scholarly values. On the other hand, popular evangelistic hymns, brought in from the USA by Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey, were produced in great numbers by the Salvation Army and similar bodies. The nonconformist churches compiled their own official selections, all profoundly influenced by the new catholic spirit proclaimed in Hymns Ancient and Modern.

The Victorian hymn long remained the norm. Most of the developments in art music of the 20th century have been of a kind that cannot successfully be applied to congregational singing. The one important exception is the recognition of popular music in all forms as a legitimate element in serious music, and also in worship. The first step in this direction was taken in The English Hymnal (1906), a book designed on high-church principles and with loftier artistic standards than perhaps any previous general collection, but which nevertheless struck a blow against snobbery by including among its tunes not only a number of popular English carols and folksongs and several Welsh Methodist tunes, but even five hymns whose words and music were taken straight from Philip P. Bliss and Sankey's 1875 collection of Gospel Hymns (see §4 below). The freshness of the musical settings by Vaughan Williams was a particularly strong point of the new hymnal, which might well have superseded Hymns Ancient and Modern if its extreme theological position had not offended many sections of the Church. Percy Dearmer, one of the editors of The English Hymnal, compiled a second excellent collection, Songs of Praise (1925), in a more ecumenical spirit that suited its time. Musically however it was more dogmatic than its predecessors, deliberately omitting Victorian favourites and substituting ‘modal’ tunes by Shaw and Holst that have not replaced them in popular esteem.

The period beginning in the late 1960s has seen an upheaval and renovation of English hymnody. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council authorized congregational hymn singing in the vernacular for the first time, and a distinctive output of English Catholic hymns and tunes has resulted, with some influence of popular music. On the Protestant side, the campaigns of Billy Graham and the charismatic movement, both of which have affected Evangelical Anglicans as well as a number of nonconformist groups, have fostered an informal style of singing, with commonplace, everyday language, playing to the feelings rather than the intellect. The tunes are repetitive and simple enough for everyone to learn them quickly, in popular musical idioms ranging from light classical to hard rock; the organ is replaced by groups of instruments, generally including guitars; clapping and bodily movement are encouraged. The resulting forms have come to be known as ‘worship songs’ rather than ‘hymns’.

There has been a strong reaction to these popularizing trends. The ‘mainline’ liberal Protestant Churches, led by middle-of-the-road Anglicans, Congregationalists and Methodists, have wished to counter the steep decline in attendance by the younger generation. They have sought a renewal of the traditional hymn in forms that speak to the present age without loss of quality. A group of hymn writers, led by Fred Prat Green, Brian Wren and Timothy Dudley-Smith, have developed a style that is determinedly modern in its language, but which, unlike the ‘worship song’, addresses serious theological and social issues and maintains a high standard of prosody and poetic diction. The new hymns appeared first in two supplements to standard books, both appearing in 1969: 100 Hymns for Today supplementing Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised (1950), and Hymns and Songs supplementing The Methodist Hymn Book (1933). Later, these were consolidated with their parent books. The Baptists, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland also brought out revised editions of their denominational hymnals.

This movement, although it met with much criticism, was an outstanding success, so much so that it has been called the ‘Hymn Explosion’. It has been widely influential throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. Hustad (1982) conceded that the ‘Explosion’ was British in origin, and in a 1991 survey of ten leading American hymnals, Hawn found that 13 of the 16 new hymns most widely reprinted were by British authors; Green has been called the greatest Methodist hymn writer since Charles Wesley. The revolution amounts to the discovery of a way of using language that is modern but also suited to worship, so that the familiar ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ of traditional hymnody can be abandoned.

For new hymns, the modernizing principle offends none but the diehard conservative. But some hymnals, beginning with Hymns for Today's Church (1982), have applied it retroactively, by ruthlessly rewriting old hymns until all traces of archaism are removed. This has met with stout opposition. More recently, under American influence, ‘inclusive language’ has been attempted, removing all gender connotations from references to humanity, or even to God. Few traditional hymns are entirely free of the words ‘Lord’, ‘Father’, ‘brother’, ‘mankind’ and similar expressions, and some editors have attempted to expunge all such words. But it has been pointed out with justice that when these words are replaced (and the consequential adjustments to the verse are made) the poetry becomes so mutilated that little is left of the author's conception and style. In some quarters there have also been efforts to banish metaphors of race, class and militarism, which were common in Victorian hymns. From Greenland's icy mountains, All things bright and beautiful and Onward, Christian soldiers are either thrown out or distinctly altered. But congregations will not easily give up what they have always known. The modernizers risk depriving the Church of its most faithful followers, the traditionalists.

Music has naturally played a less critical part in these very difficult issues. But composers have faced an analogous challenge. They have had to find a style for hymn tunes that is not commercial or cheaply popular, is readily singable by everyone, and yet sounds modern and stimulating. Some have succeeded, but a school of modern hymn tune composition, if it exists, cannot yet be clearly discerned. Old tunes (say, pre-1939) remain the preferred choice for most ‘mainline’ congregations. But in revising and re-harmonizing them, in the hope of making them sound more modern, editors run the same risk as text revisers: that they may produce a useless hybrid, lacking both the authority of age and the thrill of novelty. Erik Routley and John Wilson are two leading hymn tune editors who have generally succeeded in avoiding this trap.

Hymn, §IV: Protestant

4. The American hymn.

European settlers, motivated by wealth, adventure and freedom, took with them to the North American continent their culture, including their heritage of church song. The British brought metrical psalms while the Germans imported chorales. As a result of the Great Awakening in the colonies from the 1730s, many congregations began singing Isaac Watts's psalms and hymns. Although John Wesley's first hymnal, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns, was published in Charleston, South Carolina, as early as 1737, his more influential later collections were reprinted in America and introduced by the English evangelist George Whitefield during his visits to the colonies. Other significant English evangelical collections reprinted in America include those of Whitefield (1753, reprinted 1765), John Newton and William Cowper (1779, 1787), and John Rippon (1787, 1792). American congregations sang mainly psalms and hymns from Europe for about two centuries before they began to develop a significant repertory of their own hymn texts.

The first American contributions to hymnody were musical, coming through the singing-school movement, which by the late 18th century produced the first native composers. From this movement came the earliest American hymn tune in common use, Oliver Holden's ‘Coronation’ (All hail the power of Jesus' name), published in his Union Harmony (Boston, 1793). By the second decade of the 19th century the centre of the singing-school movement had moved from the North-east to the South and Mid-west. The development of shape notes about 1800 fostered a simplified approach to music reading, and singing-school tune books in shape-note notation added to the New England repertory (psalm and hymn tunes, fuging-tunes and anthems) folk hymns with texts and/or tunes derived from oral tradition, such as the melody to Newton's Amazing Grace, called ‘New Britain’. Shape-note tune books appearing in multiple editions include Ananias Davisson's Kentucky Harmony (Harrisonburg, VA, 1816), Allen D. Carden's Missouri Harmony (Cincinnati and St Louis, 1820), William Walker's Southern Harmony (Spartanburg, SC, 1835) and Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha J. King's The Sacred Harp (Hamilton, GA, 1844). Folk hymnody in simplified form with refrains and other repetitions developed during the Second Great Awakening from about 1800 in frontier areas. These folk hymn texts, widely known as camp-meeting spirituals, were published first in pocket-size songsters and later with harmonized tunes in shape-note tune books of the singing school. Spirituals were developed by both Euro-Americans and African Americans during that period, but the first collection of Negro spirituals did not appear in print until shortly after the Civil War. Both of these traditions of folk hymnody found a firm place in 20th-century congregational song in the USA.

While folk hymnody was flourishing in the South during the decades before the Civil War, Lowell Mason, Thomas Hastings and others in the Northeast were leading a reform movement advocating music based on European models, as in Mason's tune ‘Antioch’ (Joy to the World), based on themes from Handel's Messiah. On the opposite side was Joshua Leavitt, whose Christian Lyre (New York, 1831) included hymn texts set to tunes with secular associations. Mason's influence on the music of American hymnody remains probably the greatest of any single composer.

During the 19th century denominational hymnals were increasingly published, and a number of writers of hymn texts and tunes emerged. Representative texts and tunes include the Congregationalist Ray Palmer's My faith looks up to thee (to Mason's ‘Olivet’), the Episcopalian Phillips Brooks's O little town of Bethlehem (to Lewis Redner's ‘St Louis’), and the Presbyterian George Duffield jr's Stand up, stand up for Jesus (to George J. Webb's ‘Webb’). New denominations developed their own hymnody as well. The Mormons, for example, issued their first hymnal, by Emma Smith, the wife of their founder, as early as 1836 (see Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, music of the).

From about the mid-century numerous collections were published for the rapidly growing Sunday schools, containing hymns in popular idioms designed for immediate appeal to children. A representative leading publisher-composer of Sunday school hymnody is William B. Bradbury, composer of the tune ‘China’ to Anna Warner's children's hymn Jesus loves me, this I know. The prolific author of popular texts, Fanny Jane Crosby, is one of several of the most prominent contributors to Sunday school hymnody who also contributed to the hymns of the urban revival movement from the 1870s.

The leading evangelist of the urban revival movement, Dwight L. Moody, employed several musicians who were gifted in composing words and/or tunes to hymns in popular styles that from the mid-1870s came to be known as gospel hymns or gospel songs. These included Philip P. Bliss, Ira D. Sankey, James McGranahan, and George C. Stebbins, whose publications culminated in Gospel Hymns Nos. 1–6 Complete (New York and Cincinnati, 1894). This tradition continued in the early 20th century in the musical evangelism of Charles McC. Alexander, Homer A. Rodeheaver and others. A leading gospel hymnodist whose work spans both eras was Charles H. Gabriel, author-composer of I stand amazed in the presence (1905).

Further developments of the gospel hymn tradition include the shape-note gospel song of the South related to the singing school and singing conventions, such as Anthony J. Showalter's setting of Leaning on the everlasting arms (1887). The African-American tradition of gospel hymnody developed from the early decades of the 20th century, led by such author-composers as Charles A. Tindley (We'll understand it better by and by, 1905) and Thomas A. Dorsey (Precious Lord, take my hand, 1932).

Alongside these gospel traditions has developed an American ‘churchly’ tradition of hymnody published in major denominational hymnals. 20th-century hymns of ecumenical acceptance include Henry Van Dyke's Joyful, joyful, we adore thee (1907, set to a melody from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony) and Harry Emerson Fosdick's God of grace and God of glory (1930, set to the Welsh tune ‘Cwm Rhondda’). A hymn known as the ‘black national anthem’ that has more recently gained a place in major American hymnals is Lift every voice and sing (1901) by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by J. Rosamond Johnson. America had even more writers of music than of words in the 20th century. Unlike the hymn texts, however, the tunes did not gain ecumenical acceptance. American hymn tunes of wide acceptance in the latter half of the century include Carl Schalk's ‘Now’ (1968, to Jaroslav Vajda's Now the silence), Richard Dirkson's ‘Vineyard Haven’ (1972, to Edward Plumptree's Rejoice, ye pure in heart) and Carlton R. Young's ‘Beginnings’ (1987, to Brian Wren's This is the day of new beginnings).

After the Second Vatican Council (1962–5) the Roman Catholic change to the vernacular and emphasis on active participation in worship resulted in a period of experimentation in congregational singing. The new hymns ranged from formal hymnody to folklike songs designed to be sung to guitar accompaniment. Both Catholic and Protestant denominations were affected from about 1970 by charismatic renewal movements whose focus was on miniature hymns marked by brevity and simplicity. Charismatic movements favoured scriptural songs and choruses, such as Karen Lafferty's popular setting of Seek ye first (1972). Another trend in American congregational song found in major hymnals from the closing decades of the century is the increased inclusion of hymnody from non-European cultures, including African, Latin American, Asian and Amerindian song. A significant influence in encouraging hymn singing and the writing of new hymns is the organization founded in 1922 as the Hymn Society of America, known from 1989 as the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. Hymn writing in Canada flourished especially in the latter half of the 20th century. The work of a large number of Canadian hymnodists was first published in The Hymn Book (Toronto, 1971) of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada. One ecumenically accepted hymn of Canadian authorship is O day of God draw nigh (1939) by Robert B.Y. Scott.

Hymn, §IV: Protestant


R. Palmer: ‘Hymn’, Encyclopaedia britannica (Cambridge, 9/1875–89); pubd separately as Hymns, their History and Development in the Greek and Latin Churches, Germany and Great Britain (London, 1892)

J. Julian: A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892, 2/1907/R)

W. Frere: Introduction to Hymns Ancient and Modern for Use in the Services of the Church, with Accompanying Tunes [historical edn] (London, 1909, rev. 2/1962 by M. Frost as Historical Companion to Hymns Ancient and Modern)

L.F. Benson: The English Hymn: its Development and Use in Worship (London, 1915/R)

G.P. Jackson: White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands (Chapel Hill, NC, 1933/R)

W.T. Whitley: Congregational Hymn-Singing (London, 1933)

J.T. Lightwood: The Music of the Methodist Hymn-Book (London, 1935, rev. 2/1955 by F.B. Westbrook)

H.W. Foote: Three Centuries of American Hymnody (Cambridge, MA, 1940/R)

B.L. Manning: The Hymns of Wesley and Watts (London, 1942/R)

G. Chase: America's Music (New York, 1955, 3/1987)

R. Messenger and H. Pfatteicher: A Short Bibliography for the Study of Hymns (New York, 1964)

E.D. Parks: The Hymns and Hymn Tunes Found in the English Metrical Psalters (New York, 1966)

R. Stevenson: Protestant Church Music in America (New York, 1966)

E. Parks: Early English Hymns: an Index (Metuchen, NJ, 1972)

M. Rössler: Bibliographie der deutschen Liedpredigt (Nieuwkoop, 1976)

D.J. Epstein: Sinful Tunes and Spirituals (Urbana, IL, 1977)

N. Temperley: ‘The Anglican Communion Hymn’, The Hymn, xxx (1979), 7–15, 93–101, 178–85, 243–51

N. Temperley: The Music of the English Parish Church (Cambridge, 1979/R)

E.J. Lorenz: Glory Hallelujah! The Story of the Campmeeting Spiritual (Nashville, TN, 1980)

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D.P. Hustad: ‘The Explosion of Popular Hymnody’, The Hymn, xxxiii (1982), 159–67

M.F. Marshall and J.Todd: English Congregational Hymns in the Eighteenth Century (Lexington, KY, 1982)

L. Ellinwood and E.Lockwood, eds.: Bibliography of American Hymnals (New York, 1983) [microfiche]

L. Ellinwood, ed.: Dictionary of American Hymnology: First-Line Index (New York, 1984) [microfilm]

L. Adey: Class and Idol in the English Hymn (Vancouver, 1988)

M. Hicks: Mormonism and Music (Urbana, IL, 1989)

R.F. Glover, ed.: The Hymnal 1982 Companion, i (New York, 1990)

E. Sharpe: ‘Developments in English Hymnody in the Eighties’, The Hymn, xlii/2 (1991), 7–11

C.M. Hawn: ‘A Survey of Trends in Recent Protestant Hymnals: Mainstream American, British, and Canadian Hymnody since 1960’, The Hymn, xlii/3 (1991), 17–25

D. Davie: The Eighteenth-Century Hymn in England (Cambridge, 1993)

R.F. Glover, ed.: The Hymnal 1982 Companion (New York, 1994)

H. Eskew and H.T.McElrath: Sing with Understanding: an Introduction to Christian Hymnology (Nashville, TN, 2/1995)

A. Luff: ‘The Hymn Explosion after 25 Years’, The Hymn, xlvi/2 (1995), 6–15

I. Bradley: Abide with me: the World of Victorian Hymns (London, 1997)

J.R. Watson: The English Hymn: a Critical and Historical Study (Oxford, 1997)

N. Temperley: ‘Historical Introduction’, The Hymn Tune Index (Oxford, 1998)
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