Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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Social Changes in Sussex.                  297
So, in the diaries of the Gales, and the Stapleys, and the Marchants, we find no mention of music; it did not enter as it now does into domestic life, or form a common source of public entertainment. Even in churches it was of a very rude kind. Organs are of modern date in Sussex country churches, and there was either no instrumental music at all—only a pitch-pipe to give the key-note to the choir or congregation —or it was a rude kind of orchestra, made up of the before-mentioned treble, tenor, and bass viol, with, perhaps, a hautbois or flute. This served our forefathers well up to the end of the last century, and, indeed, to a much more recent period in many places. We ourselves have listened to the dulcet tones of a village band in a West Sussex Church within the last thirty years. We believe they are all now extinct. One of the last to hold its ground was in Sidlesham, near Chichester, where the village band and choir (with their "Anthem," as it was called) flourished up to about 30 years ago; and when the then Vicar, the late Rev. E. Goddard, proposed the introduction of simply psalmody, the whole of the performers, with their instruments and books, rose and indignantly left the church!
The only reference we have found to the vocal perform­ances of our Sussex forefathers in the Archaeological records of the last century is in the journal of Dr. Burton (1750), who, a propos of the church-psalmody at Shermanbury, writes:— "The more shrill-toned they (the Sussex people) may be the more valued they are, and in church they sing psalms, by pre­ference, not set to the old and simple tune, but as if in a tragic chorus, changing about with strophe and antistrophe, and stanzas, with good measure; but yet there is something offensive to my ear when they bellow to excess and bleat out some goatish noise with all their might" (!)
One might suppose the learned Doctor was talking of a set of savages in some newly-discovered land and not of his fellow-subjects in an almost adjoining county. But, in fact, to the polished clergyman of Oxford these Sussex boors were savages.
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