Here's a review of a new book about church music...just in time for the Christmas.
When Samuel Sebastian Wesley was appointed organist of Hereford cathedral in 1832, he found that the eight adult members of the choir were all clergymen aged between 49 and 78. Five were in poor health, two were deemed to be sub-standard and the 78‑year-old was exempt from attending services.
This was the crisis in which cathedral music found itself, at a time of clamour to take away revenues from the Established Church. That music survived at all in the Church of England at the Reformation had been touch and go.
Cathedrals had precentors, responsible for choral services. But at St Paul's in the 1830s, the Precentor (a canon, on a fat £2,000 a year) appeared so infrequently that when he did once turn up for a service, the dean's verger did not recognise him, and refused him entry to his stall. The wit Sydney Smith, a fellow canon, referred to this precentor as the "Absenter".
How this sorry state of affairs was transformed by the end of the 19th century, when cathedrals enjoyed a weekly round of well-attended choral services, is a theme of "In Tuneful Accord," (Canterbury Press, £19.99), a study of church musicians of the past two centuries by Trevor Beeson.
You can read the entire review here...