You can catch hints of this turn of events in the introductory remarks. The committee preparing the hymnal expressed a desire to continue in the chanting tradition of our churches. For example, there are some startling possibilities given including chanting of the Confession and Absolution and the Creeds. Proper Prefaces first heard by most with the their inclusion in Lutheran Worship were given in this little book. Pastors and congregations using Divine Service Setting Three from Lutheran Service Book should consider the remarks of those who prepared the service originally for inclusion in the Lutheran Hymnal (1941).
THE singing, or rather the chanting, of parts of the liturgy in Lutheran churches is by no means a modern innovation. Chanting was part of the public and private forms of worship even in the Old Testament, and the chants of the early Church of the New Testament are undoubtedly adaptations of traditional Old Testament forms. In the fourth century of the Christian era Ambrose fixed, by episcopal authority, certain tunes (tones) of melodies for the liturgy; his work was much expanded and amplified by Pope Gregory in the second half of the sixth century. Indeed, Gregory’s arrangement of the liturgy is up to the present day essentially the form of the Roman Catholic services and the foundation from which the Lutheran as well as the Episcopalian liturgy have been developed.
Luther, when he emancipated himself and the Church from the thraldom of the Papacy, had no intention of abandoning the dignified and beautiful church services. On the contrary, he borrowed not only the general motifs of the services, but practically the whole services, omitting and modifying only what in the course of centuries had come to assume an unscriptural character. He also took keen personal interest in the musical settings for these services.
In the course of years the early service forms of the Reformation underwent many changes, some of which were caused by local influences, while others were due to the personal taste of individuals sufficiently prominent to impress upon the Church their preference for a time, often for a long time.
The adaptation to English texts of the old Lutheran liturgical forms that were written for a German text has produced not a few instances of incongruity between the spoken accent and the musical accent. Whenever the monotone of the minister’s chant at the end of a phrase changes to a musical figure in diatonic or chromatic intervals, a musical stress, or accent, results. Now, unless this musical accent coincides with the spoken accent, the disagreement between the music and the text is undignified, to say the least; in some cases the contradiction between the words sung and the manner in which they are sung tends to destroy the entire solemnity of the chant.
The Music for the Common Service, published in 1907 by the American Lutheran Publication Board under authority of the then English Missouri Synod, and the Ev. Luth. Hymn-Book, begun by the same publishers and the same Synod but completed by the present publishers, are the two books upon which this music is based. The Ev. Luth. Hymn-Book, being more modern (first published in 1912) and much more widely in use, was given preference, in all cases of disagreement between the two.
A few suggestions as to the use of the book may not be amiss.
The minister should take the chanting of the liturgy quite seriously. Chanting, as the old liturgists defined it, is choraliter legere, i. e., reading in a singing tone. It is neither drawling, on the one hand, nor, on. the other, jumbling a string of monotone syllables in great haste to reach the next figure. The text is more important than the chant, the legere more important than the choraliter. But just as a faithful preacher will not only prepare his sermon with due regard to literary form, but also aim to deliver it in the best manner at his command, so the liturgist will be mindful not only of the words but also of the music of his chants. The minister’s work, all of it, is too consequential to permit carelessness in any detail. For instance, it is quite important that the minister rehearse any chant with which he is not familiar before attempting it in public service. This applies particularly to the collects, the musical setting of all of which could not be printed without unduly increasing the cost of the book, but any collect can be chanted according to the settings given.
It should also be noted that the music for the chanting of the Confession of Sins is given for the convenience of those who desire to chant those parts; but this practice is not to be considered as being recommended by our Committee.
We would also state that the accompaniment for the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creed is intended for use only when these creeds are chanted by the congregation. When the creeds are spoken, there should be no accompaniment.
The congregation’s or choir’s part in the liturgical services is largely under the control of the organist, who should fully realize the responsibility resting on his shoulders. If the chanting is too slow, the congregation will lose interest, and participation will soon diminish. On the other hand, if the chants are sung entirely too rapidly, especially without a breathing space between phrases or sentences, the solemnity of the service is materially impaired. The organist should also bear in mind that he is to accompany the chants, not chant them on the organ; he must not beat out the single syllables, neither in full chords nor in staccato notes in treble or pedal. The accompaniment is a strict sostenuto of the proper chord until the time for the next chord comes. This applies with double force when the organist accompanies the minister in his solo portions of the service, for instance, in the Communion service. When accompanying the pastor, the organist should remember that he is not expected to lead the singing, as he must to some extent when accompanying the choir or the congregation, but that the minister is in every sense of the word the soloist and is entitled to all the courtesy regularly shown soloists by accompanists
There are good reasons for accompanying the pastor’s chanting without pedal. It gives a lighter and more flowing background to the chanting. Besides, not all organs, especially the small ones, have a sufficiently soft pedal stop, and unless the organist is a skilled pedal player, his accompaniment with the pedal may become very burdensome to the chanter. The registration to the accompaniment of the pastor’s chanting should consist of only soft stops, so that the words chanted by the pastor can be understood by all present.
The organist can, by a judicious use of his instrument, do much to enhance the liturgical part of the service, and he should therefore take his part of the divine service with the full degree of seriousness it merits, by no means forgetting that he is not a soloist during the service, but an accompanist.
THE INTERSYNODICAL COMMITTEE ON HYMNOLOGY
AND LITURGICS FOR THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN
SYNODICAL CONFERENCE OF NORTH AMERICA