From psalmody to hymnody : the establishment of printed hymnbooks within hymn singing communities
The aim of this study is to discuss developments in the presentation and singing of hymns from the minimal involvement of late eighteenth century congregations to the full participation expected in the late twentieth century. One source of important musical, social and cultural details illustrating developments in hymnody is found in a range of representative novels. This information is corroborated by other written accounts such as diaries, census material and church records. Early on in the research three handwritten part-books were discovered, dating from 1837 to 1911. This primary source material is vital in the discussion concerning changes in hymn and psalm tunes, and provides substantive evidence that such part-books are forerunners of published hymnbooks. Furthermore a direct link is established between local manuscripts and fictional writing as the provenance of the earliest part-book is traced to the family of novelist Flora Thompson. Further developments in hymnody are seen in the examination of children's hymns. A case study is presented of the flourishing tradition of hymn singing at Bicester Methodist Sunday School. One innovation was the formation of a harmonica band, and detailed notebooks and concert plans reveal the range of the band's sacred and secular programme. A fieldwork survey was conducted to investigate the hymn singing preferences of regular worshippers from five Christian denominations in Bicester. Whilst the responses reveal few differences between the groups, there is compelling evidence that the popularity of certain published hymnbooks has led to a common ownership of hymns, enabling them to be enjoyed both in and out of worship. This study therefore reveals the clear line of development from psalmody to hymnody, from handwritten manuscripts to published hymnbooks. The social context in which both texts and tunes are considered provides a clear illustration of the importance of hymns to the singing population.