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TOWARDS AN UNDERSTANDING OF TRACTARIAN HYMNODY: A Critical Appraisal of the Interaction between Theology, Poetry and Music in Anglican Hymnody between 1840 and 1900.

HARPER, JOSEPH,FRANK (2010) TOWARDS AN UNDERSTANDING OF TRACTARIAN HYMNODY: A Critical Appraisal of the Interaction between Theology, Poetry and Music in Anglican Hymnody between 1840 and 1900. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.




In October 1900 Henry Hadow delivered a damning appraisal of Stainer’s Hymn Tunes, and in so doing, castigated an earlier generation of Victorian poets and composers who had been inspired by the Tractarian revival. Hadow’s aesthetic judgment was formed by a new generation intent on the promulgation of ‘good taste’ which regarded the hymn repertoire of earlier Victorians as insincere, cloying and sentimental, with little regard for craftsmanship, artifice or spiritual expression.
The objective of this thesis is to examine in detail the genre of the ‘Tractarian hymn’ in terms of its theological origins and content and its musical manifestations. The first half is essentially a discussion of Tractarianism as a revival movement (and precursor to the Oxford Movement) and how it found its roots in the political reaction to state interference in ecclesiastical affairs (the ‘Erastian Sacrilege’). The Tracts for the Times, which were widely disseminated, are used as a basis for a more thorough investigation of Anglicanism’s revival in the 1830s and renewal of commitment to liturgical order, the authority of the church (through the agency of the Book of Common Prayer) and personal holiness of life, as well as to the appropriateness of music to divine service. Tractarianism rapidly spawned an artistic creativity which, through its natural affinity with Romanticism, excited a major movement in religious poetry, much in evidence in Keble’s compendium The Christian Year but also in a generation of Tractarian poets such as Caswall, Faber, Lyte, Elliott, Chandler, Thring, Neale, Ellerton, Chatterton Dix, Plumptre and Baker, and in the benchmark publication of Hymns Ancient & Modern in 1861.
The second half of the thesis is devoted exclusively to a detailed musical analysis of hymns from this period in order to assess the appropriateness of the musical response to the poetry. Initially a discussion is devoted to the evolution of the hymn from its origins in metrical psalmody (in Redhead, Gauntlett, Elvey and Ouseley), to increasingly more sophisticated organic examples by Monk, E. J. Hopkins, A. H. Brown and Oakeley where the influence of song and the expressive capacity of chromaticism are in evidence. Moreover, in conjunction with this artistic development, the concurrent evolution of the choir, organ and the imperative of harmony are discussed as a major factor in the expansion of the genre. Central, however, to the model of the Tractarian hymn was John Bacchus Dykes. His settings of Tractarian poetry brought the hymn more readily within the confines of Romantic art music with their reference not only to broader mainland European influences (especially in terms of harmony) but to other genres as partsong, oratorio chorus, lieder and chant. Using the model of Dykes, a later generation of ‘professional’ composers – Barnby, Stainer and Sullivan – were ready to continue the transformation of the Tractarian hymn still further, with more marked reference to secular influences. In Stainer’s case, the hymn became more of a cerebral vehicle in which musical artifice and contrivance played a major role. In this regard, Stainer’s promotion of the genre confirmed it as a serious form of composition, worthy of Ruskinian artistic ethics of the time. In summary, the hymns of Dykes, Stainer, Barnby and Sullivan, with their earnest attention to harmony, form and genre, serve both to accentuate the sophistication of Tractarian hymnody and refute Hadow’s accusation of superficiality.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:03 Jun 2010 16:41

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