Изображения страниц

Latrobe, has excited little attention: the clamorous pulpiteers and conflicting partisans in the Church have no sympathy with such a writer, and we never remember to have seen the 'Apology' mentioned or quoted, except by Mr. Jebb and the author of the Choral Service.'

The most recent, the largest and the best work, as a collection of facts, is that of the Rev. John Jebb. It is written in a bold uncompromising spirit, with a competent knowledge of the subject, musically and historically. This is its tone at the very outset :

"In this inquiry no indulgence whatever can be shown to the corrupt administrations, the grovelling notions, the irreverent innovations, which mere modern custom and the tyranny of private caprice have established in too many of our Collegiate foundations. The standard now appealed to is the authority of the Church, clearly expressed by authoritative documents and by the consistent practice of ancient times. In accordance with these innovations, the maxim is virtually laid down, that in proportion as the nation becomes more populous and prosperous, in the same proportion those sacred bands, intended to minister a more solemn worship in the chief temples of God, are to be diminished; and that, instead of compelling a more full and frequent attendance of his ministering servants, for which the very stones of Canterbury, York and Lincoln are calling out, there is hereafter to be established a more scanty and niggardly Service than in the most impoverished part of Christendom since the foundation of the Church. Instead of reverting to the noble theory of divine worship laid down by the Church of England [and, it may be added, its former practice], advantage is taken of the degraded standard to which the notions of her Cathedral Service had been reduced during an age of the Church above all others the most grovelling and unspiritual. Hence the cold-hearted calculations at how little expense God could be served; hence the worse than Procrustean measure which reduced the foundation of her greatest Minsters to the level of her smallest and least conspicuous Colleges; hence the arithmetical canons, which, superseding time-honoured Statutes, suppressing holy and honourable offices, adopt the sordid notions of the counting-house, and that doctrine of more or less, which is treason against property.""

Mr. Jebb's book must command attention. The attacks of a newspaper, however just, are transient: they are read once, and never more; but a record of facts cannot be smothered or passed over. One of these is capable of daily verification in the metropolis, where the melancholy illustration of "a scanty and niggardly service" may be supplied to any passer

by in the choir of St. Paul's. What Cathedral music is, may be easily ascertained:—what it was, and what it ought to be, must be known by a different process.


The work which stands last at the head of this article is the production of a Temple Bencher, and is written with a commendable zeal for the preservation of the Cathedral Service, though not always "according to knowledge." It is, in fact, little more than a compilation from Mr. Jebb's larger work, interspersed with frequent passages, therein previously quoted, from Bedford's 'Temple Musick' and the Apology for the Cathedral Service;' and it is only when quoting from these books that its facts or opinions can be safely adopted. The writer is treating of a subject on which his information is very limited, and venturing to walk alone he stumbles thus he classes Blow, Purcell and Clark among the composers of the time before the Restoration: Dr. Christopher Tye is called "Charles Tye," and "Non nobis, Domine," is said to be "universally admitted to be Bird's [Byrd's] composition." Errors like these, occurring in consecutive pages, evince a superficial acquaintance with the subject under discussion. The imperfection of the Service as now performed is feelingly deplored, but the cause is left unnoticed, or but obscurely hinted at.

Vain regrets and vague lamentations will avail nothing towards a cure of the existing evil: the abuse must be laid bare, the public must know why and how it comes to pass that "the daily service is calculated to excite painful reflection," and must learn the reason why the richest ecclesiastical establishments in Christendom are the worst served by that divine art, which was intended, and is peculiarly adapted, to minister to devotion in our national temples. To this duty we shall now address ourselves.

Nine of the English Cathedrals retain their original constitution, as it existed before the Reformation; thirteen were remodelled in the time of Henry VIII. With their other officers we have, in connexion with our present subject, only an incidental concern; it is merely as far as their conduct has influenced the state of Cathedral choirs that it will claim our notice. The officers on whom the musical duties of the

Church devolve are the Minor-canons or Priest-vicars, the Layclerks or Lay-vicars, and the (boy) Choristers. The office of Organist in many Cathedrals is not recognized as a separate and distinct appointment, it being assumed that all the clerical members of the choir are competent to fill it, and that they will do so in turn. The proportions as well as the numbers of the choirs are prescribed by the statutes of each Cathedral, and were regulated by the original or later endowments or bequests for their maintenance. The several duties of these officers, as well as their qualifications, are also defined with clearness and precision. In many Cathedrals the number of Minor-canons was twelve, of Lay-clerks twelve, and of Singing-boys ten, forming a choir of thirty-four voices. In some the number was larger, in others smaller.

The Statutes of the Cathedrals, remodelled by Henry VIII., are nearly the same in all the particulars to which our inquiry now extends. The following extract from "the Statutes and "Orders for the better rule and government of the Cathedral "Church of Gloucester, prescribed by command of King "Henry VIII., in the thirty-sixth year of his reign" will explain the duties of the several members of its choir. We preface the extract with a part of the Dean's oath :

"I swear upon the Holy Evangelists that I will well and truly govern this Church according to the Statutes and Ordinances of the same."

"We ordain and appoint that those six priests, whom we call Minor Canons, as also the six Laick Clerks, and also the Deacon and Sub-Deacon, all of whom we have constituted daily to celebrate the praise of God in our Church, be, as much as may be, learned, of a good name and honest conversation, and lastly that they be men of judgement in singing, which shall be approved of those who well understand the art of music in the same Church."

"We will and ordain that the residence of the Minor Canons and all other clerks doing service in our Church, be perpetual: for it shall be lawful to no one to be absent from our Church a whole day, without especial leave from the Dean."

The above extract is from the translated copy of the Statutes in Sir Robert Atkyns's Glostershire.' The corresponding

statute is from those of Rochester Cathedral.

"Cap. XIX. Ordinamus ut tam illi sex Sacerdotes, quos MINORES CANONICOS Vocamus, quam totidem clerici laici, ad hoc Diaconus et Sub

diaconus qui Evangelium et Epistolam legent (quos omnes ad Dei laudes in ecclesiæ nostro templo, assidue decantandas constituimus) sint, quantum fieri potest, eruditi, famæ bonæ, conversationis et honesta: denique cantandi perili, id constare volumus judicio eorum qui in eadem ecclesia artem musicam probe callent."

Extracts similar in import, if not in words, might be supplied from the Statutes of other Cathedrals, but these will suffice to establish the fact that the number of Minor-canons (as of the other officers of the Cathedral) was fixed and prescribed; that one of the qualifications for this office was skill in singing, and that their attendance on this duty was to be daily. It is also clear that the Dean of every Cathedral swears to govern it according to its Statutes." In all Cathedrals the Precentor held an important office, which is thus defined in the Gloucester Statutes :


"We decree and ordain that out of the Minor Canons, one elder and more eminent than the rest be chosen Precentor, whose office it shall be skilfully to direct the singing-men in the Church, and as a guide to lead them by previous teaching, that their singing be not discordant. Him the rest shall obey."

Mr. Jebb says:—

"To the Precentor the superintendence of the principal part of the Church Service belonged. He examined and superintended the chanters, fixed the services and anthems for the week, and was responsible for the appointment of the choir-boys. On the greater feasts he intoned or commenced the Church hymns. Thus that most important and religious office of regulating the Church music was regarded, as it ought to be, worthy the personal superintendence of one of the chief dignitaries, who himself took part in its performance."-Page 39.

The Prebendaries of our Cathedrals (who have long constituted themselves mere lookers-on) were also liable to be called upon, not only to officiate at the altar, but to chant the prayers, when required by the Precentor, or to read the lessons, by the Chancellor *. In short a certain, and not a very low degree of musical proficiency was either expressly

"Omnes Canonici ad Missarum munera obligentur..... Inscriptus aliquis Canonicus admonitusve, vel ad lectionem a Cancellario, vel ad cantum à Precentore, prompte se exhibeat. . . . quod quidem fit semper in Festis majoribus, ut majores canonici, etiam ex non residentibus, chorum regant, primas, antiphonas, psalmos, hymnos incipiant, et ministranti ad summum altare assistant.”—Appendix to Dugdale's St. Paul's.

demanded of, or understood to be possessed by, every member of a Cathedral.

The offices thus created, renewed or perpetuated, were also distinctly and specially endowed. The members of the Choir had houses and lands of their own, set apart for their especial and perpetual use and enjoyment: " In all the Cathedrals "of the old foundation, the inferior clergy and sometimes the lay members form corporate bodies, distinct from the ChapIter, as far as their corporate property is concerned, but in "subjection to them, as regards the service of the Church*."

This property, being houses and lands, which sufficed for the maintenance of the choirs at the time when their numbers were fixed, has since increased tenfold in value, and a corresponding increase both in the stipends and the numbers of the choirs might have been anticipated as a matter of course. We shall see how far either has been accomplished.

The regulations respecting the choir-boys, which are substantially the same in every Cathedral, we extract from the Durham Statutes :

"We decree and ordain that in the said church there be ten choristers, boys of tender age, with good voices and musical capacity, who shall serve, minister and sing in the choir. For the instruction of these boys, and to guide them in their moral conduct, no less than to teach them the art of singing (exclusive of the ten clerks before mentioned), one shall be chosen, of good life and fame, skilled in singing and organ-playing, who shall carefully occupy himself in teaching the boys, chanting the service and playing on the organ."

As it was evidently the design of those who framed these Statutes, as well as of the founders and benefactors of our Cathedrals, to train up within their own precincts a succession of officers of various degrees to minister therein, a school was connected with each such church, in which the classical instruction of the choir-boys was the subject of especial care. In some of these endowments provision was made for carrying on the education of the most deserving and promising boys, after the age at which, as boys, their official connection with the church had necessarily terminated. Thus in the Statutes of Durham (cap. xxviii.) this enactment occurs:

"We require that the boys of this our school be maintained at the ex

* Jebb, p. 96.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »