Monthly Archives: August 2014

Encouraging Excellence in Eighteenth-Century American Church Music

The importance of the use of music of quality in the service of worship was a topic of discussion and writing in late eighteenth-century America. Two men, Andrew Adgate and Francis Hopkinson, both of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania worked tirelessly to encourage excellence in church music.  Hopkinson

In 1784, Andrew Adgate helped organize the “Institution for the Encouragement of Church Music.” In the following year, he also founded a “Free School for Spreading the Knowledge of Vocal Music.” Through his work, the organists, choral directors and singers of Philadelphia had the opportunity to enhance their skills and provide more excellent music for their worshipping congregations.

Francis Hopkinson also weighed in on the subject of excellence in church music and in particular the use of the organ in worship. Hopkinson was known in the Philadelphia music world as an organist and harpsichordist and as one of America’s first native-born composers. Outside the world of music, Hopkinson was a jurist, the first Secretary of the US Navy and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Om 1786, Hopkinson sent a letter to the Rev. Doctor White, Rector of Christ Church and St. Peter’s in Philadelphia on the conduct of a church organ. Hopkinson’s letter provides a contemporary viewpoint of church music from 1750 to 1800. The letter begins, “I am one of those who take great delight in sacred music, and think, with royal David, that heart, voice, and instrument should unite in adoration of the great Supreme.” He continues, “To give wings, as it were to this holy zeal, and heighten the harmony of the soul, organs have been introduced into the churches.” Hopkinson then suggests “a few rules for the conduct of an organ in a place of worship” according to his own “ideas of propriety.”

Summarizing Hopkinson’s thoughts:

1. The excellence of an organist consists in making the instrument subservient and conducive to the purposes of devotion. None but a master can do this.

2. The voluntary was probably designed to fill a solemn pause in the service. The organ hath its part alone, and the organist an opportunity of showing his power over the instrument.

3. The chants form a pleasing and animating part of the service. Melody may be frivolous; harmony never.

4. The prelude which the organ plays immediately after the psalm was intended to advertise the congregation of the psalm tune which is going to be sung. The tune should be distinctly given out by the organ, with only a few chaste and expressive decorations, such as none but a master can give.

5. The interludes between the verses of the psalm were designed to give the singers a little pause in which the organ ought to assist in their reflections.S2SS logo

6. The voluntary after the service was never intended to eradicate every serious idea which he sermon may have indicated. It should rather be expressive of that cheerful satisfaction which a good heart feels under the sense of a duty performed.

In general, the purpose of Adgate’s schools and Hopkinson’s writing is to ensure that church music should ever preserve its dignity led by the conscientious efforts of singers and organists.

Jeannine received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Oregon specializing in Classical Organ performance.  Her dissertation delved into the lives and times of early American organists.  Dr. Jordan with media artist, David Jordan have created an organ and multimedia concert experience showcasing the music of early America in From Sea to Shining Sea.

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The Rich History of the Organ in Early Charleston, South Carolina

The fifty years between 1750 and 1800 in the history of organists, organs, and organ music in Charleston were eventful: organists of this time were arriving in the colonies from countries other than England and Germany; women were becoming organists; and entire families were making organ playing their occupation. Church music took on greater importance and was improved.S2SS logo

Coming to Charleston between 1750 and 1800 were several important Englishmen and Germans. Succeeding Charles Theodore Pachelbel at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church was Benjamin Yarnold, the first of many Englishmen in Charleson. He served St. Philip’s from 1753-1764.

In 1768 St. Michael’s Church of Charleston received its first organ. The organ was built by John Snetzler of England. At this time Benjamin Yarnold was organist of St. Michael’s. Following Yarnold in this position was another Englishman, John Stevens. Upon his death, John Stevens’ son, Jarvis Henry, was defeated in his bid for the organist position by the first woman organist in Charleston, Mrs. Ann Windsor. Mrs. Windsor served as organist only from June to December 1772, but made her mark in history by being the first woman organist in Charleston.

Benjamin Yarnold returned to St. Michael’s in 1784 and was succeeded by his son William, the second father-son organist pair of St. Michael’s of Charleston. Another Englishman to serve both St. Philip’s Episcopal and St. Michael’s Episcopal congregations of Charleston was Peter Valton.

In 1786, the German emigrant, Jacob Eckhard was summoned from his home in Richmond, Virginia to come to Charleston, South Carolina to assume the office of clerk, organist, and schoolmaster for St. John’s Lutheran Church. With his arrival, a long line of Charleston organists of German descent was established. Jacob Eckhard, Sr. and his two sons, Jacob, Jr. and George filled the St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church organist positions until the 1830’s.

Probably the most infamous organist in Charleston history, though, is known not for his organ playing but his dueling. On December 4, 1809 a young organist named Charles Gilfert was hired by St. John’s Lutheran Church. The next curt notes in the minutes indicate that the young organist was involved in the fighting of a duel of May 16, 1811. On May 17, 1811, Charles Gilfert’s position as organist was declared vacant. There is no other record of Gilfert in Charleston after this entry.

From Charles Theodore Pachelbel, the son of the famous German composer Johannes Pachelbel to the dueling Charles Gilfert, the stories found in Charleston, South Carolina create a colorful story of the organ.

Jeannine PublicityDr. Jeannine Jordan has made music her life. She is a performer and teacher and loves sharing her music and helping others realize their goals of becoming organists and pianists. http://www.promotionmusic.org

Jeannine received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Oregon specializing in Classical Organ performance with additional studies in Class Piano Pedagogy.

She also actively performs throughout the world and is known for her unique programming which strives to bring music alive for her audiences. Find out more about Jeannine’s work in early American music at http://www.fromseatoshiningsea.net

Celebrate the 200th Anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner With Us

You are invited!  On Sunday, November 9, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. my husband David Jordan, media artist, and I will present a performance of our organ and multi-media event, From Sea to Shining Sea at Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon.S2SS logo

This audience-engaging concert experience not only traces the incredible history of the organ coming to America, but is also slated as a celebration of the 200th anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner, our National Anthem.  The concert opens with a thrilling 21st century organ composition by Stephen Paulus, includes the charming small pieces of our early heritage as well as resounding programmatic music from the 19th century, and concludes with Dudley Buck’s grand and glorious Concert Variations on The Star Spangled Banner complete with visual fireworks.

Visit www.fromseatoshiningsea.net to discover more of this From Sea to Shining Sea concert experience.  Contact Dr. Jeannine Jordan at jeannine@fromseatoshiningsea.net to bring this exciting event to your community during this 200th anniversary celebration of our Star Spangled Banner.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist