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davidh

17th century opinions about organs.

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In about 1632 Thomas Davis of Taunton said that he would happily give £5 towards getting the organs at St Mary Magdalene church working again. Hugh Willis did not agree: ‘For what purpose shall they be set up, they are good but nothing for pigs to dance by upon the Cornhill.'

 

William Chinnock of West Lidford complained in 1632 ‘that there was nothing done at prayer time in the said church of West Lidford but tooting upon the organs, and that it delighteth him as much to hear his horse fart as to hear the said organs go, and further said that music in church was damnable.’

 

John Bisse of Cheddar said in 1637 ‘that he would rather hear his horse bray than to hear the organs go’.

 

John Tillie of Wrington denounced the organ as ‘music for dogs and a May game.’

 

Quoted in ‘The Plain Man’s Pathways to Heaven’ by Christopher Haigh, OUP, 2007

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How would the voicing of 17th century English organs compare with the instruments that we play today, I wonder? We know there have been big changes over the past 100 years, so perhaps these 17th century comentators knew more than we give them credit for.

 

There have been some interesting comments about the organ in our own church, for example. It is reported that a new Swell division was added in about 1883, to great acclaim, but by 1900 it was said to "sound so awful" that it was removed. :unsure:

 

PD

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If you read the rave reviews that a certain Mr Hope Jones got following his stunningly successful new organ at Worcester Cathedral, you'd wonder why it wasn't preserved as a monument of national importance instead of being summarily excised just a few years later.

 

One hopes that the equally rave reviews of the new Tickell still ring true for a little longer than its illustrious predecessor and that the current organ won't be replaced by anything along Hope Jones' tonal lines any time soon.

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In about 1632 Thomas Davis of Taunton said that he would happily give £5 towards getting the organs at St Mary Magdalene church working again. Hugh Willis did not agree: ‘For what purpose shall they be set up, they are good but nothing for pigs to dance by upon the Cornhill.'

 

William Chinnock of West Lidford complained in 1632 ‘that there was nothing done at prayer time in the said church of West Lidford but tooting upon the organs, and that it delighteth him as much to hear his horse fart as to hear the said organs go, and further said that music in church was damnable.’

 

John Bisse of Cheddar said in 1637 ‘that he would rather hear his horse bray than to hear the organs go’.

 

John Tillie of Wrington denounced the organ as ‘music for dogs and a May game.’

 

Quoted in ‘The Plain Man’s Pathways to Heaven’ by Christopher Haigh, OUP, 2007

 

==================================

 

 

You don’t need to look far to understand that these comments were not musical ones at all. They were more likely to have been political statements; encouraging people to adopt the ways of the English Puritans.

 

Where to-day do you find music being derided? Where do you find people fighting for purity in religion? Where to-day do you find the oppression of women, harsh penalties for those who offend the faith or play music for entertainment? Where is music banished from religious observation? Where do you find factional, politicised religion?

 

Well, we all know the answer. It is anywhere that the Taliban have the upper-hand in the Muslim world.

This exactly the same as what occurred in England after the dissolution of the monarchy. The new era of The Protectorate, when Oliver Cromwell set himself up as the supreme overseer of the protestant, Puritan high-command, was a reign of pure terror.

 

How many dissenting catholic clergy were dragged from their priest-holes and imprisoned or executed?

 

How many simple village women were hanged or burned as witches?

 

The witch-trials reached a peak around 1645, and while the official figures show just a few hundred executions for witchcraft, the real unrecorded figure was many times more; possibly thousands.

 

What good did witch-hunts ever do?

 

It was no different to sticking pikes into organ-pipes, firing canon-balls at churches, smashing stained-glass and burning Latin Bibles. The object of the exercise was to alarm, cause distress, assert authority, terrorise and oppress.

In reality, the overthrow of the monarchy left a power vacuum, which to-day is possibly similar to what happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussain. If left to their own devices, it would have been a complete blood-bath.

English history is nothing if not complex, but fortunately, the Act of Union (1662), which followed the Restoration of the Monarchy (1660), brought a new and enlightened political system of tri-partite rule: literally, God, King & Country. (The church, the monarch and parliament).

 

Following this, many of the Puritans fled abroad; notably to the Netherlands, and then to places such as New England in America. When the re-grouped in England, they set up the various non-conformist chapels and churches, and as we discussed not long ago, the organ had an almost satanical status in many non-conformist places well into the 19th century.....almost 200 years after the Act of Union.

 

Only the good people of the Netherlands had the perfect sense to banish organs from worship as Puritans, but to then enjoy them as secular instruments inside churches which, even to-day, have no sanctified status. They are merely buildings, and it is very probable that they were used for a multiplicity of social and political purposes, including the enjoyment of organ concerts.

 

MM

 

PS: I recall, as boy, staying in a hotel on Skye, run by a family who were members of the "Wee Frees." When I put the radio on after Sunday lunch, I was told to switch it off, with the comment, "We don't permit music on the Lord's Sabbath." (300 years after the Act of Union!!!!)

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You don't need to look far to understand that these comments were not musical ones at all. They were more likely to have been political statements; encouraging people to adopt the ways of the English Puritans.

I'm quite sure that the comments are indeed musical, but I'm also sure that you are right to point to the political undertone. The comments David quotes sound to me very much like resistance to the growing high church (pro art-music) movement that reached its fruition with the appointment of William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633.

 

Ever since its inception, the Protestant English Church always had a strong puritan faction and they rather had the upper hand. That was why the 1549 prayer book was replaced so soon by the more decidedly Protestant one of 1552. Despite Elizabeth's support for music, few other institutions cared, or were able, to ape her chapel royal and in most parish churches throughout the land the music hardly went beyond the tunes of metrical psalms. Expenditure on music rather tailed off during the later sixteenth century, even in cathedrals, and it was only with the rise of the high church movement that it began to pick up again - with inevitable resistance from some quarters.

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I'm quite sure that the comments are indeed musical, but I'm also sure that you are right to point to the political undertone. The comments David quotes sound to me very much like resistance to the growing high church (pro art-music) movement that reached its fruition with the appointment of William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633.

 

Ever since its inception, the Protestant English Church always had a strong puritan faction and they rather had the upper hand. That was why the 1549 prayer book was replaced so soon by the more decidedly Protestant one of 1552. Despite Elizabeth's support for music, few other institutions cared, or were able, to ape her chapel royal and in most parish churches throughout the land the music hardly went beyond the tunes of metrical psalms. Expenditure on music rather tailed off during the later sixteenth century, even in cathedrals, and it was only with the rise of the high church movement that it began to pick up again - with inevitable resistance from some quarters.

 

==========================

 

 

I'm sure Vox is right about the reaction against the high church pro-art movement, but that was only a small part of a country on the edge of complete civil war. However, symbolism often assumes a far greater significance in troubled times, and I can well imagine that having removed the head of the monarch and fought bloody battles, the last thing anyone of a puritan disposition would want, would be anything remotely catholic.

 

Looking at the specific comments again, I don't see much evidence of musical criticism: correct me if I am mistaken by all means.

 

They sound to me like sort of political statnements people make when they want to assert their authority and diminish that of anyone who expresses the alternative view.

 

Speaking personally, I would rather hear a horse fart than play some of the organs I've encountered, but I don't think I would express myself quite so colourfully unless I had an axe top grind.

 

Anyway, I'm sure we enjoyed the snippets of historical utterance, which if nothing else, remind us that there are people wo genuinely hate the organ for a variety of reasons.

 

MM

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It's possible that the comments were not primarily political, religious or even musical. There were far more complaints about the quality of the preaching (or lack of it) and the insistence of the clergy on the minute details of observance.

 

At this time church attendance was compulsory and the church tried to regulate almost every aspect of life. The book that I quoted from contains an extremely long list of complaints against the church, usually recorded when people were brought before the church courts and explained why they had rejected its authority, in details at least. The records also recorded the testimony of neighbours.

 

It was partly this that brought these resentments to the boil after the Civil Wars and exploded into the many varieties of non-conformism.

 

Muso commented that "Only the good people of the Netherlands had the perfect sense to banish organs from worship as Puritans, but to then enjoy them as secular instruments inside churches which, even to-day, have no sanctified status. They are merely buildings, and it is very probable that they were used for a multiplicity of social and political purposes, including the enjoyment of organ concerts."

 

In England people responded to the extravagance of organs and statues bought with their money by destroying them; the Dutch felt that they owned the organs because it was their money which had paid for them.

 

David

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It's possible that the comments were not primarily political, religious or even musical. There were far more complaints about the quality of the preaching (or lack of it) and the insistence of the clergy on the minute details of observance.

 

At this time church attendance was compulsory and the church tried to regulate almost every aspect of life. The book that I quoted from contains an extremely long list of complaints against the church, usually recorded when people were brought before the church courts and explained why they had rejected its authority, in details at least. The records also recorded the testimony of neighbours.

 

It was partly this that brought these resentments to the boil after the Civil Wars and exploded into the many varieties of non-conformism.

 

Muso commented that "Only the good people of the Netherlands had the perfect sense to banish organs from worship as Puritans, but to then enjoy them as secular instruments inside churches which, even to-day, have no sanctified status. They are merely buildings, and it is very probable that they were used for a multiplicity of social and political purposes, including the enjoyment of organ concerts."

 

In England people responded to the extravagance of organs and statues bought with their money by destroying them; the Dutch felt that they owned the organs because it was their money which had paid for them.

 

David

 

------------------------------------

 

 

I don't want to get into a discussion about church history, but could David possibly offer a view on something about which I am probably ignorant.

 

Who made church attendance compulsory?

 

Also, am I right in thinking that the "Act of Union" effectively drove the ultra-protestants out, and caused them to re-group and form the non-conformist sects?

 

MM

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------------------------------------

 

I don't want to get into a discussion about church history, but could David possibly offer a view on something about which I am probably ignorant.

 

Who made church attendance compulsory?

 

Also, am I right in thinking that the "Act of Union" effectively drove the ultra-protestants out, and caused them to re-group and form the non-conformist sects?

 

MM

The Act of Uniformity of 1559 empowered churchwardens to impose a twelve-penny fine for absence from church, but when this didn't work the requirement to enforce this was moved to bishops and deacons, but the church itself still was unable to enforce this without the help of the civil powers, which was provided by the 'Recusancy Act' of 1581, and this increased the fine to £20 a month.

 

I suspect that MM meant Act of Uniformity rather than Act of Union. There were Acts of Uniformity, but the one of 1662 is the critical one. It was part of the Clarendon Code, which included the Corporation Act (1661), the Act of Uniformity (1662), the Conventicle Act (1664) and the Five Mile Act (1665).

 

There is plenty of scope for argument about what exactly caused the formation of the non-conformist sects (and churches!). The Civil Wars (1642 to 1651) threw people of very different classes together, far from their parish churches, and needing to find ad hoc ways of worshipping. Freedom of thought really became established at that time. In 1640 there were only 22 books published and no newspapers. Five years later there were a thousand books published and more than 700 newspapers.

 

Of the dozens of sects which came into being in the 1640's to 1660's, only the Quakers and the Baptists now survive, but many movements founded a little later proved to be long-lasting, many surviving today.

 

The 1662 Act certainly resulted in the ejection of 2,000 clergy, but I don't know how many of these played any substantial role in the creation of the dissenting churches.

 

And here endeth the sermon for tonight ...

 

David

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Of the dozens of sects which came into being in the 1640's to 1660's, only the Quakers and the Baptists now survive, but many movements founded a little later proved to be long-lasting, many surviving today.

 

 

David

 

Hi

 

Not so. At least the denomination (NOT Sect,please, Baptists are NOT a sect in the modern meaning of the word). The group known at the time as "independants" - more recently Congregational churches - date back to the 1600's, and the current Congregational Federation has churches dating from the period and still in existence, as do the Fellowship of Evangelical Congregational churches and the URC, which was formed in ?1972? by a union of the Presbyterians and a significant number of Congregational Churches.

 

I suspect that there might be other, more minor denominations, that also date back to that era.

 

Evey Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

Not so. At least the denomination (NOT Sect,please, Baptists are NOT a sect in the modern meaning of the word). The group known at the time as "independants" - more recently Congregational churches - date back to the 1600's, and the current Congregational Federation has churches dating from the period and still in existence, as do the Fellowship of Evangelical Congregational churches and the URC, which was formed in ?1972? by a union of the Presbyterians and a significant number of Congregational Churches.

 

I suspect that there might be other, more minor denominations, that also date back to that era.

 

Evey Blessing

 

Tony

Yes, I thought about MM's use of the word. This has changed meaning, from a group which separates itself out from another group, and sometimes has pejorative overtones, including the idea of a group (viewed from the outside) which is heretical and also the idea of a group (viewed from the inside) which considers itself to be the sole possessor of the truth or the only way to salvation. I must admit that judging by the belief in exclusiveness, my denomination started as a sect.

 

Sorry, this is getting a long way from historical opinions of organs.

 

David

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The Act of Uniformity of 1559 empowered churchwardens to impose a twelve-penny fine for absence from church, but when this didn't work the requirement to enforce this was moved to bishops and deacons, but the church itself still was unable to enforce this without the help of the civil powers, which was provided by the 'Recusancy Act' of 1581, and this increased the fine to £20 a month.

 

I suspect that MM meant Act of Uniformity rather than Act of Union. There were Acts of Uniformity, but the one of 1662 is the critical one. It was part of the Clarendon Code, which included the Corporation Act (1661), the Act of Uniformity (1662), the Conventicle Act (1664) and the Five Mile Act (1665).

 

There is plenty of scope for argument about what exactly caused the formation of the non-conformist sects (and churches!). The Civil Wars (1642 to 1651) threw people of very different classes together, far from their parish churches, and needing to find ad hoc ways of worshipping. Freedom of thought really became established at that time. In 1640 there were only 22 books published and no newspapers. Five years later there were a thousand books published and more than 700 newspapers.

 

Of the dozens of sects which came into being in the 1640's to 1660's, only the Quakers and the Baptists now survive, but many movements founded a little later proved to be long-lasting, many surviving today.

 

The 1662 Act certainly resulted in the ejection of 2,000 clergy, but I don't know how many of these played any substantial role in the creation of the dissenting churches.

 

And here endeth the sermon for tonight ...

 

David

 

 

=====================

 

 

Thank you for the information David, (and also to Tony). I am only marginally clued up about church history going back that far, and most of what I know is restricted to the 19th century.

 

I expect it is one of those subjects I will eventually get around to, or not, as the case may be.

 

I suspoect that the "Wee Frees" I mentioned go back a long time.....ultra protestant and far removed from the contmporary world.

 

MM

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=====================

 

 

Thank you for the information David, (and also to Tony). I am only marginally clued up about church history going back that far, and most of what I know is restricted to the 19th century.

 

I expect it is one of those subjects I will eventually get around to, or not, as the case may be.

 

I suspoect that the "Wee Frees" I mentioned go back a long time.....ultra protestant and far removed from the contmporary world.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

Likewise, my main knowledge of church history is the "Victorian" period - my knowledge of earlier eras is limited - but I suspect the older Scottish denominations date from around the same period (mid-1600's).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

Likewise, my main knowledge of church history is the "Victorian" period - my knowledge of earlier eras is limited - but I suspect the older Scottish denominations date from around the same period (mid-1600's).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

==================

 

 

Thanks to Wikipedia, I have a little more information.

 

It seems that the sect I had in mind were not the "Wee Frees," but the "Wee Wee Frees;" a strictly Calvanist sect who broke away from the Church of Scotland in the 19th century.

 

They use the King James version of the Bible and sing only psalms, (presumably metrical psalms); hymns being forbidden from worship. The women wear head-scalves and everyone dresses in black on Sunday.

 

They recently held a protest at an island airport,, where the first Sunday flight took off to the mainland. In addition, they remain true to the spirit of Calvin and remain vehemently anti-catholic in all respects.

 

They claim to be the only faction to uphold the spirit and letter of the first Scottish Reformation; or was it an uprising?

No matter; they're a fairly miserable lot.

 

MM

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