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1. As this work is designed for families, for social meetings, and for the lecture-room, as well as for the great congregation, so the music has been selected with reference to all these wants. But the tunes are chiefly for Congregational Singing. We have gathered up whatever we could find of merit, in old or new music, that seemed fitted for this end. Not the least excellent are the popular revival melodies, which, though often excluded from classic collections of music, have never been driven out from among the people. These have been gathered up, fitly arranged, and having already performed most excellent service, they are now sent forth with the best of all testimonials-the affection and admiration of thousands who have experienced their inspiration. Because they are homebred and popular, rather than foreign and stately, we like them none the less. And we can not doubt that many of them will carry up to heaven the devout fervor of God's people until the millennial day!
2. Congregational singing will never become general and permanent, until the churches employ tunes which have melodies that cling to the memory and touch the feelings or the imagination.
Music is not simply a vehicle for carrying a hymn. It is something in itself. No tune is fit to be sung to a hymn which would not be pleasant, in itself, without any words. Any other view of the function of music, if it shall prevail, will in the end bring music to such a tame and tasteless state that a reaction will be inevitable, and the public mind will go to the opposite extreme. Thus, those who are conscientiously anxious to make music a means of religious feeling, will, by an injudicious method, produce by and by the very mischief which they sought to cure.
A corruption of hymns will not be more fatal to public worship than will be a corruption of music. And any theory that denies to church. music a power upon the imagination and the feelings, as music, and makes it a mere servile attendant upon words, will carry certain mischief upon its path, and put back indefinitely the cause of church music.
The tunes which burden our modern books, in hundreds and thousands, utterly devoid of character, without meaning or substance, may be sung a hundred times, and not a person in the congregation will remember them. There is nothing to remember. They are the very emptiness of fluent noise. But let a true tune be sung, and every person of sensibility, every person of feeling, every child even, is aroused and touched. The melody clings to them. On the way home snatches of it will be heard on this side and on that; and when, the next Sabbath, the
same song is heard, one and another of the people fall in, and the volume grows with each verse, until at length the song, breaking forth as a manyrilled stream from the hills, grows deeper and flows on, broad as a mighty river! Such tunes are never forgotten. They cling to us through our whole life. We carry them with us upon our journey. We sing them in the forest. The workman follows the plow with sacred songs. Children catch them, and singing only for the joy it gives them now, are yet laying up for all their life food of the sweetest joy. Such tunes give new harmony and sweetness even to the hymns which float upon their current. And when some celestial hymn of Wesley, or of the scarcely less than inspired Watts, is wafted upon such music, the soul is lifted up above all its ailments, and rises into the very presence of God, with joys no longer unspeakable, though full of glory!
In selecting music, we should not allow any fastidiousness of taste to set aside the lessons of experience. A tune which has always interested a congregation, which inspires the young, and lends to enthusiasm a fit expression, ought not to be set aside because it does not follow the reigning fashion, or conform to the whims of technical science. There is such a thing as Pharasaism in music. Tunes may be very faulty in structure, and yet convey a full-hearted current that will sweep out of the way the worthless, heartless' trash which has no merit except a literal correctness. And when, upon trial, a tune is found to do good work, it should be used for what it does, and can do.
3. We do not think that Congregational Singing will ever prevail with power, until Pastors of Churches appreciate its importance, and universally labor to secure it. If ministers regard singing as but a decorous kind of amusement, pleasantly relieving or separating the more solemn acts of worship, it will always be degraded. The pastor, in many cases, in small rural churches may be himself the leader. In larger societies, where a musical director is employed, the pastor should still be the animating center of the music, encouraging the people to take part in it, keeping before them their duty, and their benefit in participating in this most delightful part of public worship.
It is a very general impression that the pastor is to teach and to pray, but another man is to sing. Music is farmed out, and the unity of public services is marred by two systems of exercises conducted by different persons, and oftentimes without concord or sympathy with each other, and sometimes even with such contrariety that the organ and the choir effectually neutralize the pulpit. While it may not be needful that the pastor should perform the part of a musical leader, yet it is certain that there will not be a spirit of song, in the whole congregation, if he is himself indifferent to it,
and the first step toward Congregational Singing must be in the direction of the ministry.
The musical department of this work has been under the joint care of Mr. John Zundel, and Rev. Charles Beecher. But by far the greatest part of the labor has devolved upon the latter gentleman, to whose diligence and enthusiasm the Christian public will be greatly indebted for the adaptation of words, and the arrangements and harmonies of the music.
Our task, which has occupied much time during a period of four years, is now concluded. We shall be disappointed if the judgment of the Christian churches shall set aside this collection, as adding nothing to those which have gone before. But even then we shall not regret our task. It has rewarded us at every step. Should it only prepare the way for another and better work, promotive of Congregational Singing, we shall rejoice to have wrought as a pioneer.
BROOKLYN, N. Y., August 10, 1855.
HENRY WARD BEECHER.