Charles Don Keyes
and new life
The present crisis
and Charles Don Keyes
Communion is a part of the mainstream of Christian faith. Its
understanding of the value and purpose of music is not uniquely
its own. Anglicanism merely calls attention to the fact that the
Christian doctrines of creation, incarnation, and sanctification
constitute the essence of sacred music. The noblest and most sublime
part of something is its essence.
Who is the
God is the
audience. We are the "performers"whether it is
the entire congregation united in song or a professional choir
involved in a complex musical composition. Thus, the function
of music is not to assuage the emotions of the hearers. In other
words, its purpose is not to entertain the congregation, but to
be a part of what the congregation offers to God in its liturgy
(Greek for "public obligation or service"). Because
sacred music is directed towards God rather than human beings,
it does not to try to anesthetize or arouse its hearers, but to
be "an outward and visible sign" of the worth which
the congregation gives to God in its public worship (Anglo-Saxon
for "giving value to whom it is due"). Anglican music
true to its essence exercises restraint and distinguishes itself
from secular expression because sacred music is analogous to the
Divine Order, as In Tune with
Heaven, the Report of the Archbishops Commission on Church
Music (London: Church House,
worship, including music, is God-directed. Music can be plain
or elaborate, but right tunes and words always signify God and
His mighty acts. This is why creation, incarnation, and sanctification
constitute the essence of sacred music.
His Word to create the cosmos, and all that He makes is good:
"And God saw that everything that He had made and, behold,
it was very good" (Genesis 1:31a). Physical realitybe
it the beauty of a natural landscape or the pigments of a Rembrandt
paintingis good because God made it. God also created the
mathematical structures which music makes audibletime, tone,
timbre. Although sin marred creation, the created order is still
inherently good, and we can perceive Gods presence in it
through visual and auditory symbols of His grace.
Not only is
creation good because God made it, but He spoke the Word to create.
That Word is the person of His Son, Jesus Christ: "And the
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14a). Christ's
incarnation, the fact that He bears the very stamp of Gods
nature (Colossians 1:17), clearly reveals to humankind the essential
nature of Godwhich His Word seeks to communicate with His
creation. Communication is thus an attribute of God made manifest
in the incarnate Word. This desire to communicate is also an essential
aspect of all the arts, and especially music, the sovereign auditory
art. Those who sing pray twice, as St. Augustine of Hippo says.
grace is sanctification. Music also has a sacramental quality
that can aid us in this process of our sanctification. The Catechism
of the Episcopal Church defines a sacrament as "an outward
and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ
as a sure and certain means by which we receive that grace"
(Book of Common Prayer,
1979, p. 857). Besides the sacraments as such, the Catechism adds
on p. 861: "God does not limit himself to these rites; they
are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things
to reach out to us." Music can be a means of grace when,
as John Milton says, it enables us to "keep in tune with
Heaven" and/or bring us into Gods presence. Furthermore,
music is an essential component of our votive offering to God
in worship. Sanctification is not simply what Gods grace
does to us; it is what God does to that which we offer Him of
our own free will.
is not the target of sacred music. But music directed to God has,
as a byproduct, the power to elevate the emotions of those who
offer it or hear it.
Harold Chaney and Arnold
The very name
"Anglican" refers to Latin for the Church of England,
Anglican music began when
Christianity began in the British Isles. No documents tell us
with certainty what music and instruments accompanied Christian
worship during Roman and Celtic times.
Bede remains the primary source of information about the history
and liturgy of the English church before the Norman Conquest in
1066. He notes several important liturgical and musical characteristics
that would remain constant in the life of Anglicanism.
is Benedictine Monasticism's emphasis on daily singing of the
Divine Office. One of the distinctive worship forms of Anglicanism
is the daily round of services called Matins and Evensong. Both
sung offices develop from the Benedictine tradition of the sevenfold
Divine Office and continue the tradition in Morning Prayer and
Evening Prayer. From the first vernacular Book of Common Prayer
in 1549 and continuing today, cathedrals and greater churches
of the Anglican Communion have commissioned the best composers
of their respective eras to provide unique settings of the opening
sentences, Psalms, canticles, and prayers for these services.
In addition, from 1549 onwards, a rubric has remained in both
the order for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, which states,
"here, in those places in which a quire is to sing, be the
anthem." The express function of the anthem is to be purely
a votive offering to God consistent with the Anglican understanding
of all public worship as God-directed.
The second is the importance of plainsong. Bede narrates that
Benedict Biscop brought Peter the Chanter from Rome to teach his
monks at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth how to sing their offices properly.
is an avoidance of revolution in politics and liturgy; rather
than radical change, slow assimilation and gradual change remain
characteristic from the Synod of Whitby onwards. This suggests
that continuity has priority over novelty.
Conquest destroyed many buildings, liturgical books, and works
of art. But it is remarkable how the characteristics of the pre-Conquest
Church reemerged about ten years later. In spite of the replacement
of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastics with Norman ones, the unique Anglo-Saxon
preference for monastic cathedrals continued unabated until the
Reformation. Eight of the fifteen medieval cathedrals were under
Benedictine rule, including the primatial see of Canterbury. Even
the so-called "secular" cathedrals were similar to the
monastic foundations in their separation from the urban populace
and their parallel foundation of choral schools to provide trained
choirboys and educated adult singers, known as "vicars choral."
Surviving liturgical manuscripts as well as archaeological evidence,
both monastic and secular show that cathedrals not only offered
the sung daily offices and high mass, but also sang a second mass
in honor of the Virgin Mary in a chapel separate from the choir
stalls. Plainsong continued to be the dominant form in masses
for convents, monastic communities, and religious establishments,
whilst the sung masses in the Lady Chapel were often polyphonic
and sung by ensembles separate from the monks or vicars choral.
The Rites of Durham, for example, mention the daily sung mass
and vespers in its Lady Chapel with its own organ and singers.
The epoch of plainsong was the first golden age of Anglican music.
dissolved monasticism, but the tradition of the sung daily offices
continued, and plainsong in the monastic tradition was not only
retained, but also encouraged. The eight monastic cathedrals were
re-founded with secular canons, and six former monastic houses
were elevated to cathedral status. By royal charter the majority
of choir schools became Kings Schools, and a portion of
the students continued as choral scholars. Canterbury Cathedral,
for example, continues the choral tradition begun with St. Augustine,
and its Kings School makes claim of a 1,500-year history!
Twelve canons, twelve vicars choral, and a number of choirboys
who were scholars at the Kings School replaced the monks
of Canterbury. Sung Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer and Vespers
replaced the sung monastic offices. The daily High and Lady Masses
were eliminated. Daily Eucharists were said. Sundays and festivals
continued the tradition of the choral Eucharist.
Thomas Cranmer prepared a vernacular liturgy, which was published
on Whitsun 1549. He gave this work the title The
Book of Common Prayer because
it contained two daily offices as well as the Holy Communion and
other sacraments and rites. This new English language book was
a conservative evolution from the pre-Reformation past, continuing
the traditional ordering of sacraments and offices. The importance
of music was not forgotten. Cranmer commissioned John Merbecke
to provide a simplified chant for the vernacular liturgy. In 1550
Merbecke published The Booke
of Common Prayer Noted. Thus
the church music of post-Reformation England shared the aesthetic
and liturgical underpinnings of the medieval tradition.
Within a short
span of time uniquely English characteristics began to appear.
These in many ways mirrored what was happening on the continent.
English replaced Latin texts, and the creation of simplified musical
settings fostered congregational involvement. These new settings
mainly used one note for each syllable, a simple harmonic vocabulary,
and restricted to melodic range and tunes that were easily committed
to memory. The church calendar and services were likewise simplified.
The Act of Uniformity of 1549 decreed that The
Book of Common Prayer and
that none other was to be used henceforth. This abruptly swept
away centuries of Latin musical tradition. Musicians scrambled
to fill the void and at the same time comply with the sweeping
demands of the English Reformation.
Anglican music following the Reformation coincided, happily, with
what has to be regarded as the golden age of the English language,
the so-called Tudor period. The "second golden age"
of Anglican music extended through the 18th century. The greatest
composers of the earlier part were Thomas Tallis and William Byrd.
But there were a host of others as well. The rubrics of The
Book of Common Prayer not
only specify the use of music, they also encourage the singing
of anthems at Holy Communion, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer.
Cathedrals, colleges, and larger parish churches patronized an
astounding number of compositions for trained choirs; most notable
is the uniquely Anglican form called the "verse-anthem"
which was a choral meditation on a verse of Scripture or a collect
or sentence from The Book
of Common Prayer.
The vast majority
of English parish churches, however, had neither organs nor professional
singers. From the 1552 revision of The
Book of Common Prayer onwards
congregations sang metrical Psalms, canticles and hymns, first
to unison melodies and soon in four-part harmony. This practice
of singing metrical psalms, along with translated texts and tunes
from the continent (from Luther, for example), was the chief source
of what came to be one of the lasting and all-prevailing elements
not only throughout Anglicanism, but of nonconformist churches
as well--the English hymn.
English church began to exist as an entity separate from Rome,
it cultivated a comparatively simpler and less florid polyphonic
style that permitted more direct settings of the English texts.
These new settings mentioned above placed great value on the intelligibility
of the words being sung. Music of this tradition was an art form
unto itself. Congregations listened eagerly, and it was hoped
that they would listen with their whole being and not just expect
to be entertained.
One of the
traits of Anglicanism, both in terms of its theology, liturgy
and music, throughout most of its history, has been the acceptance
of a necessary diversity. Initially, and for much of its post-Reformation
history, Anglican church music has generally followed two tracks:
(1) the tradition of cathedral and collegiate foundations and
(2) the music in parish churches.
Music of the cathedral tradition was performed by professional
choristers (men and boys), often in residence. The greatest composers
of the day provided the musical material, played the organ, sang
and acted as choirmasters. Music specifically created for the
cathedral-collegiate environment consists of settings of the ordinary
sections of Holy Communion (Kyrie
in excelsis, Sanctus,
and sometimes the Credo
and Agnus Dei)
and of canticles for Mattins and Evensong. Usually composed as
a unified set of pieces, they became known as "Services"
and were an art form peculiar to the English Church.
Music at the
parish church, at the simplest level, was largely confined to
hymn and Psalm singing and perhaps to simple Psalm-tone settings
of the canticles and simple settings of parts of the eucharistic
ordinary. Contrary to the intentions of the cathedral situation,
congregations at parish churches were (and still are) expected
to participate actively in the musical portions of the services.
The dividing line between these two traditions is extremely fluid.
Many parish churches may well approach, if not equal the richness
and high professional quality of music found in the best cathedral
environments. Until the mid-18th century, the church together
with royal establishments were the principal cultural outlets,
the counterpart to today's cultural organizations, i.e., symphony
orchestras and their concert halls, opera houses, art museums,
etc. Church authorities were in a position to command the best
musical talent available.
18th century, hymnody continued to be much more conservative and
measured in Anglican parish churches than it was in the revival
meetings and local chapels in the late 1700s. Anglican worship
eschewed the "enthusiasm" of the street corner evangelists
who used popular tunes and florid lyrics.
In the USA,
the American Revolution changed the name of Church of England
to Episcopal Church (following the custom in Scotland). However,
in all other respects American Anglicanism continued to parallel
the attitudes, observances, and musical practices of the Church
and new life
tended to diverge along lines of theological difference during
the 19th century. Those who gave priority to personal conversion
used hymn tunes with melodic and harmonic idioms that tended to
be overly subjective. Similarly the words of these texts were
intended to assuage the emotions of the hearer. As a result, hymns
like those eschewed during the end of the previous century made
their way into Anglican worship. They left their mark on every
subsequent hymnal. Other Anglicans, however, wanted to restore
the objectivity and transcendence of pre-Reformation English worship.
For example, John Mason Neale scoured cathedral and university
libraries for Latin and Greek texts and translated them into vernacular
hymnody. They tried to avoid operatic effusions from the Continent
as well as the hymnody of emotional assuagement mentioned above.
As a result, they reintroduced plainchant and polyphonic compositions
and incorporated them into the established norms of The
Book of Common Prayer (1662).
Hymns Ancient and Modern
(1860) provided, for the first time in England, a "quasi-official"
hymnal to accompany The Book
of Common Prayer.
the liturgist, and the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, among
others, brought new life into Anglican music. They produced The
English Hymnal (1901) which included folk tunes, modern compositions,
and a distilled collection of texts from the wider church universal.
This hymnal emphasized the corporate nature of worship and the
integration of music into the church year rather than focusing
on the subjectivity of the hearer.
spirit of Anglican music began to be restored in the 19th century
and continued well into the mid-20th century. This "third
golden age," as some call it, flourished when great British
composers provided compositions for the Church. These included
Britten, Stanford, Howells, Parry, Walton, and other modern artists
who took the traditional words of the 1662 Book
of Common Prayer and made
them come alive. The fact that the official liturgy of the Church
of England remained constant from the mid-17th century until the
late 20th century also encouraged these artists to provide works,
which were universal rather than ephemeral in their style and
were well aware of these new developments in the Church of England
and sought to provide an "official" hymn collection
that would be approved by the General Conventions of the Church
in 1892, 1916, and again in 1940 and 1982.
The 1940 Hymnal
was a paradoxical mix. On the one hand, it contained hymn tunes
with melodic and harmonic idioms that tended to be overly subjective.
On the other hand, it reintroduced pre-19th century hymn tunes
and introduced the work of some of the best composers of the 20th
century; these contributions made it a landmark in the progress
of musical sophistication and textual catholicity in the Episcopal
Church. This hymnal also became the standard by which all denominational
hymnals were judged. It passed the paradoxical mix on to other
American Christian traditions.
In the USA the revised 1928 Book
of Common Prayer had kept
the beauty of the traditional language and the characteristic
elegance of the measured cadences of earlier post-Reformation
liturgical books. It encouraged a number of American composers
to emulate their British confreres. The expansion of the Episcopal
Church bothmembership and influence during the 1920s saw
the initiation of a number of cathedral foundations intended to
follow English models in both architectural style and liturgical
practice. Men and boys choirs, in the English tradition, sang
not only the compositions of British composers, but also those
of North Americans such as Leo Sowerby and Healey Willan. Winfred
Douglas and David McKay Williams, among others, enriched the service
music intended for the Prayerbook by adapting plainchant to the
English texts and providing both text and music for the Propers
(such as Introit, Gradual and Sequence, etc.) of the liturgy.
present situation of Anglican music today is difficult to describe.
Ecumenical concerns of modern liturgists have led to the ICET
(International Commission on English Texts) text common to the
majority of Christians with liturgical rites. With the American
Book of Common Prayer (1979) and its related Hymnal (1982), for
example, composers from Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and even Orthodox
traditions can be found in performance at Episcopal liturgies.
Furthermore, the concern to include a variety of ethnic traditions
into the "mainstream" of ecclesiastical practice has
provided a somewhat uneven and inconsistent smorgasbord from which
to choose individual compositions. As a result, music from diverse
sources and disparate historical periods are often found co-mingled
together. The customary "seamless robe" of parallel
musical for public services of the church is no longer the common
experience for the Episcopalian worshipper in most American parishes.
Nevertheless, The Hymnal 1982
makes it possible to reconstruct significant parts of the traditonal
music for the Holy
Eucharist and for Morning
and Evening Prayer.
priorities of today's social scene have brought about the demise
of the traditional men and boys choir in most Anglican churches,
including Episcopal parishes in the USA. Choral Mattins and Evensong
have fallen into disuse, and some impatient pastors and people
have often preferred shortened liturgies that rule out elaborate
music. As About
Sacred Music America explains, the demands of a "religious
market" economy have also eroded high standards of musical
competence. The fusion of music and text, which was the distinguishing
quality of all Anglican choral music, is all too often replaced
by univalent music that conveys simplistic and childish lyrics.
In spite of
this, Anglican musical practice, over the years, has been enriched
by the resources of the wider Church. In many Episcopal churches
today musicians and their congregations still strive to offer
up music intended as a sacramental act of worship performed, not
for the entertainment of the congregation. True to the essence
of their tradition, they faithfully attempt to offer back to God
the best product of the musical gifts with which they have been
Charles Don Keyes
Langmead Casserley (1909-1978), Professor at the General Theological
Seminary (1952-1952) and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary
(1960-1975), predicted in the 1960's that
by the year 2050 the world in
which we have grown up and with which we are familiar, our type
of civilization, culture and society, will have been entirely
swept away. But perhaps the most familiar landmark that will
still be surviving in undiminished vigor will be the Christian
Church. It has sometimes been observed that in a world of total
change nothing whatever has come to stay but the gospel. But
the Church and the gospel will survive, if they do survive,
not because they have refused to change but because they will
have been humble enough to accept inevitable change and wise
enough to confine themselves to the modes of change that conduce
to survival. (Julian Victor Langmead Casserley, Evil
and Evolutionary Eschatology: Two Essays.
Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990)
11, 2001 magnifies the urgency of Casserley's message because
the tragic events of that day show us how vulnerable civilization
is. This ought to awaken our sense of responsibility to the future.
Christians must resist letting civilization be "entirely
swept away" because civilization, even with its defects,
is more godly than savagery. The gospel of Christ's Incarnation
civilizes. Preserving and proclaiming it rightly require radical
have to break out of captivity to the mistaken belief that survival
of their institutions depends on selling a "product"
to the momentary individual. Instead of capitalizing on the decline
of the culture, churches ought to safeguard "the momentum
and identity of the specifically Western culture, including humane,
naturalistic, scientific, aesthetic and theological elements of
the profoundest significance" (Julian Victor Langmead Casserley,
In the Service of Man. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1967).
and our affirmation of western culture does not deny the validity
of other cultures. True inclusiveness respects the integrity of
each of them, including our own. Inverse chauvinism pretends to
affirm multicultural diversity by selectively denying the validity
of western culture. It denies the fact that one of the highest
products of western civilization is its tolerance of difference.
The Christian revelation transcends all cultures. It must also
simultaneously criticize and elevate every culture it touches.
Each civilization, western or otherwise, preserves its validity
by constantly renewing dialogue with its own classical cultural
heritage and handing it over to those not yet born. Tradition
isn't something locked up in the past. It witnesses primarily
to the future.
traditions have different ways of witnessing to the future of
civilization. True ecumenism does not compromise doctrinal differences.
Instead it focuses on how the peculiar excellences of the different
traditions can mutually benefit one another and, in doing so,
contribute to the survival and well being of humankind.
for instance, must safeguard their ethos of traditionalism and
social tolerance. People in our unhappy time need this as much
as they misunderstand it. Sometimes they even ridicule it. In
spite of this, Episcopalians must not denigrate their heritage,
but steadfastly reaffirm the unity of cultural conservatism and
true liberality, which is the practical fruit of their theological
focus on the Incarnation of Christ. To do this they must hand
the musical rhythms and harmonies that produce this vital unity
over to the future. The spirit of the Council of Whitby that gives
continuity priority over novelty might continue to inspire grass
roots Episcopalians. They immediately grasp, but are not usually
allowed to articulate, that liturgy ought to be an aesthetic spectacle.
This is equally true whether the liturgy is said, sung, simple,
or elaborate. Even when said, the peculiar cadences of post-Reformation
Anglican liturgy are a type of music. The
Book of Common Prayer unites
Anglicans in their diversity through a certain way its ethos orchestrates
the symbols of faith. Music in the broad sense is integral to
the authority of liturgy for interpreting the Bible and bringing
the gospel into daily life. Civilized secular life and sacred
ritual both need such an aesthetically based
nonauthoritarian model of authority.
God is the
audience of sacred music, and we are the "performers."
That is the essence of sacred music. Human subjectivity is not
its target. But, as stated above, music directed to God has, as
a byproduct, the power to elevate the emotions of those who offer
it or hear it. The essence of sacred music and its byproduct are
not tied to any historical period. They belong as much to the
future as to the past. But this depends partly on what we do.
Acting as if there were no future is the surest way not to have
one. When the arts are degraded, Christians ought not to capitulate,
since that would further the decline. They must do the opposite
and allow themselves to be instruments of God's grace in bringing
new life into the aesthetic wasteland. Ralph Vaughan Williams
and others mentioned above who restored the historic spirit of
Anglican music at the end of the 1800's inspire us by their examples.
of sacred music in the western tradition, Anglican or otherwise,
does not just depend upon musical professionals and urban parishes.
It is mainly in the hands of grass root believers who hold fast
to the indestructible model of the beauty of holiness in the mainstream
of western Christian music. The five
centuries of congregational hymns familiar to everyone exemplify
this, as do all of the sound files of Sacred Music America.
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