Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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298               Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
A few words of explanation are needed as to the " chorus " (" anthems " they called it) sung by the choir of Shermanbury instead of " the old and simple tunes." The old and simple tunes, introduced chiefly from Germany in the days of the Reformation, and of which " the Old Hundredth " (that was its numerical place in the Psalm Book) is almost the sole remnant, were superseded in the Stuarts' days by a more florid and pretentious kind of hymn, " with," as Dr. Burton says, " strophe and antistrophe and stanzas," and these were often " bleated out," to use his language, with more vigour than taste or discretion. They have, in their turn, been superseded by a simpler and higher class of hymn in our own days.
In few things, indeed, affecting social life and manners, has there been such a change in England, and for the better, as in instrumental music. Vocal music, in some form, must always have held its ground, and we know that in Elizabeth's and the ist James's days it was widely cultivated, and hence the rich inheritance of madrigals, glees, rounds, catches and other part-songs that we boast of, and which used to be sung, and still occasionally are sung, without accompaniment. But in instrumental music there was almost a blank up to the invention of the piano. Even Handel's scores were only written for violin, alto, bass, and hautbois, with an occasional flute accompaniment—that was, the English flute—and now and then a bit for the French horn. The more recent intro­duction of the German flute gave an impetus to the study of music by men, and, 50 years ago, there was scarcely a house of the middle classes without a German flute. But it was the improvement of the harpsichord into the pianoforte that, by giving an instrument suited for women, caused music to be introduced into the homes of the English people, and has done more to soften, refine, and polish their manners than, perhaps, anything else. If it has not made us a musical people, like the Germans, the Bohemians, the Hungarians, and other Sclavonic races—and only Nature could have done that—it has made us fond of music, which is next door to it.
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