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Doctor Tucker, Priest-Musician:
A Sketch which Concerns the Doings and Thinkings of
the Rev. John Ireland Tucker, S.T.D.
Including a Brief Converse about the Rise and Progress of Church Music in America.

By Christopher W. Knauff, M.A.

New York: A.D.F. Randolph, 1897.

Chapter XVI. The Last Hymnal

The editor of the "First Tucker," which in its day wrought a musical revolution, was not likely to intermit his labors in the one department. From time to time he put forth manuals having connection with the service of song either in school or Church. Among these there is a compilation entitled "Selections and Proper Psalms Set to Gregorian Tones," which has been approved by use in many congregations where the Psalter is sung in such wise that it is possible for the people to take part.

After great labor, incommensurate with the result, the General Convention of 1892 put forth a new book of words authorized for use; it was followed by the musical "Hymnal Revised and Enlarged." This was published in January, 1894, near the close of the beneficent career. Naturally, the chief editor did not bestow personal work upon the compilation to the same extent as in the case of the "Parish Hymnal" or its brilliant successor. Much was left to the coworker, who had known for years the wishes and opinions of his primus.

That Doctor Tucker was personally concerned,, however, in the preparation of the last Musical Hymnal will appear from an examination of his correspondence. For example:

Feb'y. 23d, 1893.


I am greatly obliged for your letter of Feb'y. 7th. It is always a great pleasure to find that anything one has written has been acceptable in choirs. I now send you two settings of the hymn you enclosed. If you prefer a plain, diatonic version, you will probably prefer No. I. In No. 2 I have allowed myself considerably more freedom in harmonies and sentiment. ... I receive 3 guineas for a tune. My contributions to the completed "Hymns Ancient and Modern," the "Quiver "and other collections have been paid for at this rate. Believe me

Yours very truly

The result of the above correspondence will be noted in No. 256 of the Musical Hymnal.

Dr. John Stainer returns the words of a hymn, because he deems it "unfitted for music owing to the irregular grouping of the lines." Later he writes again:

May 22, 1893.

DEAR SIR: I am much obliged to you for sending me some more words of hymns. As soon as I get a little leisure I will try my hand at them, but I cannot, I fear, hope to do better than those tunes of mine already much used; e, g.:

The Saints of God.
I need Thee, precious Jesu.
The roseate hues.
Author of Life Divine.
There is a heavenly home.
There's a friend for little children.
Christ who once.

As these were published before the present law of copyright, they are, of course, at your disposal.

In the latest revision of "Hymns Ancient and Modern "two of my tunes seem to be much liked and used.

"The God of Abraham praise (and tune)"; this makes a useful Processional; only if you adopt it, please make the last line as I wrote it. ...

"The Voice that once in Eden" is also in this Appendix. As the copyrights belong to me, I will gladly give you leave to use them.

Of course, I am not so vain as to assume that you wish to include any of them, but I shall esteem it a great favor if you will let me know which, if any, of my tunes you are intending to insert. I am

Yours faithfully

Sir Robert Stewart addresses the coeditor, referring to the demand for melodious writing:

Friday, 14th April 1893.


I have to acknowledge with thanks your draft on Dublin, and your very courteous letter accompanying it. I shall hope my American cousins will like the tune. I am one of those who believe music, devoid of melody, is but "a body without a soul," and I also believe that this object--melody--can be attained without falling into a vulgar or a meretricious style.

I don't suppose my wife and I shall have the pleasure to see your Chicago marvels; I dread the sea voyage too much. And I only hope your shrewd, sharp-witted countrymen and women, will not too hastily judge of the Irish art of music, by specimens of it from those who are ill-fitted to represent it. I hear of some who will visit your shores very soon, in similar capacity, but who go solely "on their own hook "(forgive the vulgarism) and are not sent out by any respectable or respected organization, to represent this singular, curious, but generally gifted nation.

Always yours

Many tunes written by Arthur Henry Brown have become established favorites. His setting of "The day is past and over "is often on the lips of them that sing. A message from him will be of interest:

April 8, 1893.


I hereby desire to thank you for your draft, duly received, and am pleased to find that both tunes are quite to your satisfaction. By this post I am sending a copy of my new book of the Festal Harmonies, for your acceptance, together with an Easter Carol that has recently appeared in one of our English Church periodicals. I will not forget to send you a copy of the Festival Book [probably of the extensive Gregorian Festival in London] which will doubtless be issued in a week or so. The first two Processionals will, I think, be quite to your liking. The Anthem is not my choice, and I wanted to have something by one of the old Cathedralists, or in the old Church style, at least. For all the other part of the book I am entirely responsible.

I am not at all likely to cross the Atlantic, and much prefer terra firma. The English Channel or the German Ocean have sufficient terrors for me, and these I have frequently braved.

Yours very truly

The new book is now making its way. It was adopted at once in places distinguished by the setting up of a standard of pure music. Others are finding out what a storehouse of good is here.

Some have been dismayed, their attention distracted, by the apparent overplus--and consequent over-weighting--of new compositions, and in particular of the elaborated sort called "choir tunes." There may be a larger supply of the latter variety than that required by the average congregation; but there was an evident desire on the part of the editors to meet the peculiar demand which exists in places where they give especial attention to musical culture--as at the Holy Cross, or at St. Paul's School, Concord.

Nevertheless, simple tunes are not wanting. If sought, they will be found. Neither do the standard favorites fail us. An examination will show that each distinctive attribute of the first Musical Hymnal is retained in the second. Those who have learned to like tunes in the former, will find them in the latter.

As to the introduction of new melodies. People fancy that they have an exclusive partiality for the "old tunes"; but at the same time they do not care to sing "York tune" all the while. Their repertory must be enlarged at times; fresh blood is needed now and then. Besides, all the favorites were new once, some of them at a recent date. It has been less than half a century since Lowell Mason's tunes were first learned as novelties. Many of us can remember when "Sun of my soul" and "Our blest Redeemer" were unknown in America. Dr. Hodges' "Bread of the world" was not in existence then. Ward's tune to "O Mother, dear Jerusalem," started de novo, printed on a choir festival programme, only a few years since. It gained ground so rapidly that it was heard in many diverse localities before it was printed in a book.

New tunes are in demand; people ask for variety. The novelties, however, have to be tried before they are approved. The time of trial for the latest lot has not yet passed away.

It is not at all unknown that one familiar with the second Musical Hymnal will every now and then make a fresh discovery of beauties before unnoticed. Recently a clergyman, who uses the book in his parish, spoke with enthusiasm of H. W. Parker's simple but charming setting of "All my heart this night rejoices." He had just heard it sung, had found it a gem of pure water; hitherto he had passed it by, as the words happen to be classed under the heading of "Hymns for Children." The like experience may be met with having reference to Doctor Tucker's noble tune composed for "Thou art the way, to Thee alone," and to many other compositions.

The last Hymnal is more cosmopolitan than the first. The ideal standard set up in the "Parish Hymnal" could not be maintained in its entirety; for example, the General Convention had seen fit to incorporate into their book some of the Moody and Sankey words, and perforce the ditties must follow them.

Nevertheless, this latest "Tucker Hymnal" is a credit to the land of its birth and to the national communion. It is the last effort in the domain of that art much loved by him with which Doctor Tucker had connection; and it is still, in the main, an embodiment of the principle with which he started out--that the music sung in Church must be Church music, and that it must be good.

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