The Singing School An American Tradition Essay

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The Singing School- An American Tradition Essay, Research Paper THE SINGING SCHOOL: AN AMERICAN TRADITION The Singing School was an institution that was uniquely American. it was established to serve a dual purpose: the desire to create music and the need for sociability. Generations were taught to read and sing music by itinerant singing masters, who developed characteristic methods and materials of instruction, and distinctive performance practices. Through this institution, many people were given the opportunity to participate in music, either as a singer, a teacher, or as a composer. The Singing School foreshadowed the development of church choirs and musical societies. Early settlers in this country brought with them their native English music, both sacred and secular.

They made use of various Psalters compiled in Europe. It was not until 1640, however, that the Puritan ministers in America made their own translation of the psalms. The Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in British North America and was widely used. The most distinguishing feature of this book was its rhymed and metered English poetry. This allowed a few tunes, having the same rhythms as the poetry, to be used as melodies for many psalms. In addition, the text employed the vernacular, and consequently promoted memorization. The ninth edition of the Bay Psalm Book, published in 1698, was the first edition published with tunes. This edition had printed the letters F-S-L-M, representing the solmization syllables fa, sol, la, and mi, under the notes. This indicates that there

was a familiarity with and an interest in music instruction as applied to psalmody. It was not until the early 18th century, however, that as a direct result of agitation by ministers for a reformation in congregational singing, arguments were advanced promoting regular singing and the eventual establishment of singing schools. The singing school grew out of the employment by the churches in New England of regular singing. Records indicate that the first singing school was probably established in Boston, the most advanced town in New England, around 1720. The singing school gradually spread throughout New England during the next twenty-five years. Throughout the eighteenth century, the scope and span of the singing schools continued to grow. The advent of the 19th century saw

singing schools established from Maine to Pennsylvania. The first singing schools were church-oriented, due to the face that the original purpose of the schools was to improve congregational singing. After selecting a date (usually two to four weeks during the winter or between planting and harvesting of crops), a teacher was secured (in most cases, the local school master or an itinerant singing teacher), and location was established (either in the local school house or some other public building). After the middle of the 18th century, most singing schools were conducted by itinerant singing masters, who operated them for their own profit. Although a few teachers devoted themselves full-time to teaching, the majority of them maintained other occupations such as school teaching,

retail sales, or farming. These schools, taught by itinerant singing masters, were usually not affiliated with a church. Each student was charged a tuition fee, in addition to being required to purchase his own text. A logical outgrowth of the singing schools was the establishment of the church choir. At first it consisted of those who had attended the singing school and rehearsed the psalms, sitting together at church services. This eventually developed into the formal organization of the church choir. The singing school movement also gave rise to several publications designed for use in the schools. These were often published by the singing masters themselves, and served as a supplement to their meager incomes. There were three types of materials: manuscript books, printed