O Sing Unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music (Review Feature)

O Sing unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music
by Andrew Gant
University of Chicago Press, 2017
454 pp. $35.00

Reviewed by Dr. Robert Mann, Church Music Institute

“Church music tells us who we are and where we came from.” Gant’s survey is a history of church music used in worship in England, its creators and performers, in all Christian denominations from the Anglo-Saxons to the present. Equal attention is placed on the development of sacred art music composed for trained musicians as well as the less sophisticated species of folk-like music sung in ordinary parishes.

The contributions of English Church Music to American worship are innumerable: Psalmody from the Pilgrims; Shape-note and Sacred Harp singing from the West Gallery tradition; Wesleyan hymns in camp meetings of Methodism; Moody and Sankey gospel hymnody through the Billy Graham Revivals; hymns, tunes, anthems, worship practices from Victorian England and the Oxford Movement in the last half of the 19th Century; English style of worship services duplicated in American churches, even bringing musicians from England to lead the process (T. Tertius Noble, St. Thomas, 5th Avenue, New York City).

This survey is a must-read for professionals in church music, but laity interested in the subject of English/American church music will find the book easy to read. This excellent and comprehensive survey is written in an engaging and entertaining style with obvious enjoyment on the part of the author. Andrew Gant, lecturer at St. Peter’s College at the University of Oxford, is an author, composer, and was organist-choirmaster at Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal from 2000-2013.