Project Canterbury

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.


Bishop Potter once made the remark that Doctor Tucker's influence in Troy was absolutely unique. The Bishop of New York knew whereof he spoke: he was a long-time friend and former companion of the Rector of the Holy Cross.

But there was a wider influence. A multitude of others--outside the limits of his chosen city--have proved the quiet force and charm proceeding from the same source.

A new generation, however, is coming on, which knows the name only as designating a musical priest who was the editor of a far-famed Hymnal. It seems a pity that these should not make acquaintance with the features of an existence which was wholesome, good-humored, a believer in fun and yet not earthy; which was childlike and sincere, led by straightforward and lofty aims, and so lifted up to an unworldly level. It is not often that this sort of living is met with among the sons of men. When a favored few do find the rare example, it is the part of kindness that they shall tell their discovery to others.

His memory must be kept green. So it is determined in every case where nature has its unhindered working. In a family, the children take care that the one gone before shall not be forgotten. They inscribe one name after another upon their household diptychs. These people in Troy who loved their pastor with increasing affection all through his life, and now love him better than ever, they are his children--he had no others--and they are the ones whose privilege it is to rise up and call him blessed, and to recount the list of virtues which had their dwelling in the earthly tabernacle of their saint.

Again, we Christians believe in the Communion of Saints, in a one life-fibre, a touch of soul with soul. So strong is the hold of this article of faith, that men and women parallel it by fond and harmless fancies of their own. Hence the present thought about spirits gone before as inhabitants of the planet Mars, and the effort looking toward an exchange of signals with them. Hence another speculation--that as long as any one is remembered, if only by a single heart, that one still retains capacity for knowledge concerning human affairs. However that may be, at any rate we feel, we are sure of a relationship, not limited by earthly sphere, established in and through the Lord and Head. Many are they that remember, and that so believe, gathered together in guilds at Troy.

As to the musical side of the question, there is an ever-growing attention to the lovely art in all its departments and manifestations. An enlarging band of devotees now ask, where shall we find the early traces of this creation, this fair muse that we love so well?

The whole art grows out from Church music as its primordial germ, and the ecclesiastical world of tone commences with simple psalmody. So it is that the hymn-tune becomes a prominent factor in history. As we follow the rise of religious melody, we note a struggling effort after purer art. On this side of the Atlantic, Doctor Tucker was a pioneer in the fight against bad music, against the admission of a debased sort within the sacred confines. In this cause he started out alone, a knight valiant and full of faith, and always a patriot laboring for the common weal. The story of his life affords a valued contribution to the new study--coming into vogue--which craves information about the increase and development of musical art in America.

Project Canterbury