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Choirs

The hearty congregational singing of the Methodist Revival inevitably led to the formation of choirs (referred to in the early days as 'the singers'), which in some cases became quite large by the late nineteenth century. John Wesley approved of anthems, provided they were not of a fugueing type, and included simple ones in some of his hymn-books (e.g. in Sacred Harmony, 1780). But he and his preachers sometimes had problems with their choirs (e.g. at Warrington in 1781), rather like those experienced in the Anglican Church. This became more pronounced after his death and the Large Minutes of 1797 forbade both anthems and organs without Conference permission. But anthems were popular with congregations and that same year a collection of 'Hymns, Odes and Anthems as sung at the Methodist Chapels in the Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Nottingham Circuits' was published. This issue was debated again by Conference in 1805 and 1815. Some writers consider that congregational singing deteriorated with greater dependence on organs and choirs towards the end of the nineteenth century; but the more recent steady decline in choirs and four-part singing did not mean a resurgence in congregational song; rather, the emergence of music groups which often sang in unison.

Sources

  • Methodist Recorder, Winter Number, 1905, pp.86-88
  • 'Methodism and Music' in Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music (1938)
  • Miriam Tuckwell in MCMS Bulletin, July 1978

Entry written by: PLC
Category: Subject

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