Early American Hymnody to 1835

See Index to American Hymnody.

American hymnody before about 1835 looks like this:

The Bay Psalm Book (1640, music version 1698) was the first book of any kind printed in what is now the continental United States. See The Bay Psalm Book.

Metrical Psalmody was the main kind of congregational song used by most English-speaking American Protestant groups up to about the time of the American Revolution (1776). The Psalms were sung using a method called lining out. See American Psalmody.

The hymns and paraphrased psalms of Isaac Watts were gradually introduced by English-speaking immigrants and eventually became the most widely used collections of hymns in North America up to about 1850. The "hymnbook" of choice was the complete Watts (see American Editions of Watts).

The Singing School Movement began in New England about 1720 as an attempt by well-educated church leaders (ministers, pastors) to improve the standards of congregational singing. The movement gradually spread throughout the colonies, particularly into the South where it remained popular well into the 20th century. Important outgrowths of the Singing Schools were:

- Opportunities for the first American composera (see William Billings)
- Collections of hymns and songs were compiled into "tunebooks"
- These tunebooks were important collections of FOLK SONGS which were brought to America by Scottish/Irish/English immigrants.
- The development of Shaped-note Hymnody.

American folk hymnody developed from the oral traditions of various groups who immigrated to the United States before about 1835.

The hymnody of Germanic and Scandinavian immigrants is a specialized tradition and has to be studied separately (Lutheran hymnody, Scandinavian hymnody, Anabaptist hymnody, Moravian hymnody).

The hymnody of American Minority Sects is a specialized tradition and has to be studied separately (Shakers, Mormons, Adventists, etc).

American hymnody can be studied in several different ways. For example:

1. Protestant hymnody/Roman Catholic hymnody
2. Protestant denominational hymnody (Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, etc.)
3. Evangelical/Liturgical hymnody
4. Language groups (Anglo-American, German-American, Scandinavian-American, etc.)
5. Racial groups (European-American, African-American)
6. The "cultivated" tradition vs. the "folk" tradition.
7. Others ?

See Lectures on American Music, North Texas State University

See American Music on the World Wide Web (Sonneck Society)

See History of Church Music in America from the Colonial Period to the 21st Century (Ronald Calhoun -- The Calhoun Conservatory of Music, Savannah, GA. Note... I'm not familiar with this school but it's a great article. -- WDL)


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Site last updated: March 1, 2014