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O Sing Unto the Lord

O Sing Unto the Lord

Most of us who grew up in and around churches might find it easy to assume that the music we hear – music we treasure, and some of which we know by heart – has come to us, just as it is, since time immemorial, or at least for as long as we (and our parents and grandparents) can remember. But this is by no means the case: “our” Anglo-American church music has a remarkable history, fraught with political intrigue and ecclesiastical controversies, very much the product of its many times. Wars, economic constraints, and cultural evolution all have contributed in shaping our not-exactly-common practice. This story is wonderfully told in Andrew Gant’s recent book O Sing unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music. Gant, a lecturer at Oxford University, not only traces our musical development, but amplifies it in context of English and American history, and with the lives of the musicians, clerics, and royal figures that helped create it.

This is a book worth reading for at least half a dozen reasons. Lovers of music, of history, of the Church, of England, and –not least- of good writing, will find it a welcome addition to their summer reading. Generously illustrated, it also offers “Further Investigations” of readings and recordings to explore. If you can’t go to England any time soon, or even if you can, or if you will miss the music of Saint Mark’s fine choir this summer, this book may be your perfect consolation. Find it, and many other treasures, at the Book Shop; just come and see…