Carmina Sacra

Lowell Mason, 1842

Anthology of the American Hymn-Tune Repertory


            If the question be asked, “Why add another to the many books of Church Music now before the public?” the reply must be similar to what would be appropriate, were the same inquiry to be made respecting a new book on any branch of science, art, morals, or literature.  Books on all subjects, except there be some unnatural restraint to prevent, will be multiplied in proportion to the number and acquisitions of those who read them; and this very multiplicity, taken in connection with the very great variety of character and style necessarily involved, tends directly to increase both the number and attainments of their readers.
            So it is in music.  In proportion as the art is extended, an increasing number and variety of books become necessary; while, on the other hand, an enlargement of the catalogue of books will directly facilitate the progress of music itself.  What friend of musical cultivation, therefore, and may we not add, what true philanthropist, will fail to rejoice in the publication of any new book of Church Music, which being founded on correct principles of science and taste, helps to enlarge the boundaries and to extend the knowledge of the art?
            Every well organized choir, if kept up with interest, must have a constant succession of new music; without this there will be no advancement.  The same principle applies in every other case.  The progress of things is ever onward, and why should it be expected that a choir of singers must remain satisfied with singing over for any considerable length of time, the same tunes, any more than that a literary community should be satisfied with reading over and over the same books.  Nor is this constant desire for new music any disparagement to the old tunes of standard merit.  Many of these are unrivalled.  So is Milton.  But is this latter fact any reason why no one should write poetry at the present period?  How many poets would have written since Milton if none had been encouraged but those who were as good as himself?  The old tunes may be the best, -much the best, if you please, and still the modern tunes may possess some value, and some that is not found in their predecessors, and some that is worth having.  To say the least, they increase the variety, and that is, as Cowper says,

                                                            -- “The very spice of life,
                                                            That gives it all its savor.”

            The Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music, by the Editor of this work, was first published in 1822.  The Choir, or Union Collection, in 1832.  The Boston Academy’s Collection in 1835, and the Modern Psalmist in 1839.  In this last named work the four parts are printed upon two staves, after the manner of publishing similar works in Germany; but notwithstanding the advantages of this arrangement of the parts, there are many who prefer the common mode of printing.  This consideration, together with the fact that the Editor had on hand much valuable music recently received from distinguished European composers, which he could hardly feel justified in withholding from the public, has led to the publication of Carmina Sacra at the present time.

The Metrical part of the work will be found to contain not only a choice selection of the old standard tunes, which, though often republished, are always in demand, and which are as necessary to every singing book, designed for general use, as ballast is to a ship, -but also many new tunes, embracing specimens from distinguished composers of the present day in Europe, together affording such a diversity of style, in melody, harmony and rhythmical structure, as cannot fail to be highly interesting to the lovers of sacred song.  In the department of Motetts, Anthems, &c., will be found many new and interesting pieces never before published, and also others now first adapted to English words.  The variety of Chants is also greater than is usual in similar works.
            In the Introductory department, containing the elements of vocal music, the general arrangement of the Modern Psalmist has been followed, with this important exception however, that the different departments, (Rhythm, Melody and Dynamics,) are intermingled in the same order as it is usual to teach them in singing schools.  The teacher, therefore, will not have to skip about from place to place, but merely to follow the regular succession of chapters as they occur.  Unlike the “Manual of Instruction of the Boston Academy of Music,”* which professes to teach how to teach, and with the contents of which every teacher, therefore, should be familiar, this work merely contains in a didactic form those doctrines or principles which are necessary to be taught, leaving the teacher to pursue his own method of explanation and illustration.
            The Codas added to many of the tunes form quite a new feature in a book of this kind, and it is hoped they may add interest to the performance of psalmody.  Although they are called codas, yet they are not designed for the close, merely, but may be introduced before the first stanza, or between the stanzas of a hymn, as may be appropriate.  In the singing school and choir meetings, they may always be sung, but in public worship the propriety of singing them must depend upon the circumstances of the occasion, hymn, &c.  The hymns in which these Hallelujahs may with propriety be introduced, are more numerous than may be at first supposed; for under what circumstances does not the devout heart say, “Praise the Lord?” “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”


*The Editor having seen several recent notices of this work, in which it seemed to be taken for granted that he was the author of the mode of teaching which is explained in the Manual, and which is commonly called the Pestalozzian method –a method now so generally adopted, -takes this opportunity to correct this error; and for this purpose refers to the Manual itself, p.14, //3.  In addition to which he would also state, that the work of Kubler there mentioned, was mostly followed, so much so indeed that to a great extent the Manual may be called a translation of that work.

Anthology of the American Hymn-Tune Repertory