14. English West Gallery Music

"West Gallery music" or "Gallery music" (or, less commonly, "Georgian psalmody") is music performed by English parish church and chapel bands (singers often with instrumentalists) in the 1700s and early 1800s. As pointed out by Sally Drage, it was sung in both Anglican and non-conformist churches, and was not limited to rural areas or necessarily sung in "galleries". Most but not all of the composers were amateurs. This large and until recently neglected body of music is the antecedent and model for the musical idiom employed by New England tunesmiths of the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Compiler's Note: The West Gallery Music Association (WGMA) Web site has in recent years been vastly improved and kept up-to-date by webmaster and musician Tony Singleton. It is now the foremost place to go for information about West Gallery music resources, many of which are described in detail. The compiler of the present chapter, which has been oriented toward musicians in the United States, has decided to delete most resource descriptions found on the WGMA site. However, the present chapter still retains some items and details (in some cases probably outdated) not presented in the WGMA guide, and includes for some British books and records information on ordering from the U.S. However this retained information may not be up-to-date.

Note on international purchases: The easiest way to order something from abroad is to use a major international credit card. If that is not possible, one can purchase an international bank draft or foreign denominated draft in Sterling or other hard currency from a number of firms specializing in currency exchange. The reader is advised to consult telephone yellow pages or search the World Wide Web for a convenient and reasonably priced dealer.


West Gallery Music Association and its Web site

The West Gallery Music Association's Home Page states: "The West Gallery Music Association is an informal group of singers, instrumentalists and scholars. We share an interest in the sacred music, psalmody and hymnody, and the secular music and dance of the men and women who performed from the west galleries of parish churches, in chapels, and around the towns and villages of England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although our interests mainly centre on this period and form of music in the United Kingdom, we are also interested in many aspects of the history and popular culture of the English-speaking world which have influenced or been influenced by our musical and singing traditions. Abroad, we have active members in Australia and the United States. The Association, which was formed in 1990, has staged many highly successful workshop, study and performance events, and members have appeared on national and local television and radio. Many offshoot performing groups have been formed around the country and there are presently over 400 members. The researches of several members of the group are gaining increasing respect in academic circles." The URL of the Association's Web site is http://www.wgma.org.uk/. The Web site contains the following sections:


Tunebooks, Psalters, and Music Books

NOTE: The reader is referred to the West Gallery Music Association Web site for current information. A few resources not on this Web site are listed below:

A Festival of Village Carols, compiled, transcribed, and arranged by Ian Russell. Check the Web site for availability, pricing, and an order form.

Northern Harmony: Plain Tunes, Fuging Tunes, and Anthems from the Early and Contemporary New England Singing School Traditions, Fourth Edition (1999) edited by Larry Gordon, Anthony G. Barrand, and Carole Moody Crompton. This tunebook, described in more detail in the Tunebook chapter of this resource guide, includes several English works from the West Gallery tradition, including three tunes by William Knapp and one by Joseph Stephenson. The book is currently out of print. More information can be obtained at the Village Harmony/Northern Harmony Web site or by e-mail at nharmony@pair.com.

An American Christmas Harp, Third Edition 2009, compiled by Karen Willard. This tunebook, described in more detail in the Tunebook chapter of this resource guide, includes approximatelytt six tunes of English origin, including three apparently not published in America previously.

The New Oxford Book of Carols and The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols, compiled by Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott. The NOBC (1992) is a landmark compilation of Christmas carols, mainly from the U.K. and America, but also some from the Continent. It contains 744 pages and 201 Christmas carol texts in over 300 musical settings. Carols of West Gallery and American shape-note origin are well represented. The editors favor historically informed performance practices, and as a result shape-note and West Gallery selections are presented with the melody in the tenor part. There are extensive and valuable editorial notes, including an appendix on the English "Gallery" and American "Primitive" traditions. These books are out of print at the publisher but may be ordered through Amazon.com.

Additional sources of traditional English Christmas carols: The liner notes by Ian Russell of the CD "English Village Carols: Traditional Christmas Carolling from the Southern Pennines." has an extensive bibliography listing numerous books of carols and their publishers. This list will not be reiterated here because its scope extends beyond West Gallery music. The recording is described in the Recordings section below.


Books About English Gallery Music

NOTE: The reader is referred to the West Gallery Music Association Web site for current information.


Internet Resources

NOTE: The reader is referred to the West Gallery Music Association Web site for current information. A few additional Web sites of interest are listed below:

Gallery Music Web Page, edited by Sue A. Glover. This site contains original scores and transcriptions that can be printed out and sung from, samples of West Gallery music to listen to (MIDI files), articles on gallery music, particularly an outstanding one by David Ward entitled "Bright Believing Bands," information on West Gallery quires and the West Gallery Music Association, biographies of individuals from the gallery music period, resources, etc.

The Hymn Tune Index: A Census of English-Language Hymn Tunes in Printed Sources from 1535 to 1820 by Nicholas Temperley, assisted by Charles G. Manns, and Joseph Herl. The description by the publisher of the print version of The Hymn Tune Index states: "This unique reference is the first systematic guide to the history of the English-language hymn tune, as represented in printed sources from the earliest (Coverdale's Goostly Psalmes) to 1820. Using a simple numerical code to represent the first two lines of each melody, the book allows the reader to look up any of nearly 20,000 British and American hymn tunes without advance knowledge of the composer, name, or text. The online search engine can be used to query the Hymn Tune Index database for specific information, including tune name, incipit (beginning of melody), composer, and attribution, as well as hymn texts (first two lines). For example, one can find all listed tune(s) having a given incipit, all listed tunes by a given composer, or all listed tunes associated with a given text. Information on musical sources in which a given tune appeared can subsequently be obtained. " (The printed version is out of print.) The Web site's main entry URLs is http://hymntune.library.uiuc.edu/.

English West Gallery Music workshops in the Boston (Massachusetts, US) area. Sacred Harp and Gallery music singer and composer Bruce Randall holds monthly workshops on English parish church music. The Web page has some MIDI sound files and a blog by Laura Conrad.


Recordings

NOTE: The reader is referred to the West Gallery Music Association Web site, Recordings page for current information. A few recordings not listed there or else easily purchased in the U.S. are listed below.

"Early American Choral Music, Vol. 2" performed by His Majestie's Clerkes conducted by Paul Hillier. This is a reissue of a recording originally entitled "Goostly Psalmes: Anglo-American Psalmody 1550-1800," This beautiful 1996 CD recording (61 minutes), traces the development of harmonized hymn- and psalm-singing from British sources (Tans'ur, Farmer, Parsons, Dowland, Knapp) and follows its development in the American colonies (Massachusetts Bay Psalm Book, Billings, Morgan, Wood, Swan, Read, etc.). (The word "Goostly" (pronounced by Hillier as "ghostly") means "spiritual" and came from the title of a 1535 London psalm book.) The 23 selections are sung with great beauty, discipline, and perfection, and in some cases (particularly the American songs and fuging tunes), spirit. Accompanying the original "Goostly" CD (which probably can still be found in record stores) is 70-page booklet with an informative essay and song texts in English, French, and German. The reissued CD is budget-priced (around $7.00) and may not have the booklet. Harmonia Mundi HCX 3957128.

Village Carols: Christmas Carols Book/Cassette Sets as Sung in the Pubs of England. Ian Russell has recorded traditional carol singing by British villagers at Christmastime in at least nine pubs and taverns in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. While this is not West Gallery music, perhaps over half of the selections were originally from the West Gallery tradition, and the forthright (and sober) four-part harmony frequently resembles West Gallery singing. According to Berkley Moore, about one-third of the selections on each record are fuging tunes. Each is accompanied by a 40-60 page book of music. The sets include the following, although only the more recent ones (VC007, 009, 010, and 011) may still be available:

Each sale generates income for a local charity in the featured village. For availability, prices, and an order form, check the web site.

"A Festival of Village Carols." This 74-minute CD/cassette (Village Carol Foundation VCF101) presents 18 carols sung at the Village Carol Festival of December 1994. Eight selections are sung a cappella by four different village carol groups and the remaining ten selections are sung by the combined groups accompanied by a full band provided by the West Gallery Association. Order from Village Carols (address, etc. listed in the item above), where the prices are as stated in the item above.

"English Village Carols: Traditional Christmas Carolling from the Southern Pennines." This 71-minute CD contains 16 carols "recorded live in pubs [around Sheffield], filled with spontaneous joys of singers, the clinking of glasses, and murmur of the other patrons." The 28-page booklet has an outstanding detailed essay by the foremost Village Carol authority Ian Russell, with photos, a map, and an extensive bibliography. This album would be an appropriate introduction to the Village Carol genre. Smithsonian Folkways Recording SF 40476.

"Fire and Sleet and Candlelight," Regional and Historical Carols and Songs from Midwinter Traditions performed by Coope Boyes & Simpson with others. This recording issued in 2003 on the NoMasters label (NMCD21) by a trio of English gentlemen with guest singers contains quite a few carols from the West Gallery and Village Carol traditions, according to Berkley Moore.

"Nowell Sing We Clear: A Pageant of Midwinter Carols" performed by John Roberts, Tony Barrand, and Friends. British folk singers John Roberts and Tony Barrand (the latter an editor of the "Northern Harmony" tunebook and currently living in Vermont), along with Fred Breunig, Steven Woodruff, and (in the most recent recording) Andy Davis, have produced since 1977 several Christmas albums containing traditional Anglo-American midwinter carols from both sides of the Atlantic. Every album includes some carols from the British gallery music and village carols traditions and the American shape-note tradition. Some are sung a cappella and some are accompanied by fiddle, accordion, concertinas, etc. These records are available from Golden Hind Music, P.O. Box 1792, Schenectady, NY 12301, phone 518-370-4166, where the prices are $15.00 per CD, $10.00 per cassette, and $2.00 postage for the first item and $1.00 for each additional item. The available titles include the following:


Steven L. Sabol (sabol@his.com)
HTML version by Warren Steel (mudws@olemiss.edu)