[‘English church music is in dire need of reform’: Sir Herbert Oakeley, Professor of Music at Edinburgh University.] Autograph Letter Signed (‘H. S. Oakeley’) to Sir Lovelace Stamer, attacking the ‘degraded’ standard of English hymn tunes.

Sir Herbert Oakeley [Sir Herbert Stanley Oakeley; H. S. Oakeley] (1830-1903), English composer and organist, Professor of Music at University of Edinburgh [Sir Lovelace Tomlinson Stamer (1829-1908)]
Publication details: 
10 June 1875; Bristol Hotel, Brighton.
SKU: 23968

A splendidly-forthright missive on a subject close to Oakeley's heart. See both men’s entries in the Oxford DNB. The two were near-contemporaries at Rugby School, and Stamer, at the time of writing a Prebendary at Lichfield, would go on to become the Bishop of Shrewsbury. 8pp, 12mo. On two bifoliums. In good condition, lightly aged, with the two bifoliums folded twice and unobtrusively attached with tape. From the context it appears that Oakeley has been invited through Stamer to give a paper on church music to the Church Congress. He begins by explaining the delay in replying, before continuing: ‘If I were in England the early part of Octr., I should be happy to comply with the request of the Ch: Congress Committee; but since my accident I have had to take every opportunity of going to German baths, & as our Winter Term at Edinburgh does not commence till the middle of Novr., I fear that it is not likely that I shall be this side the Channel during the Congress.’ He asks if the paper ‘under No.11’ is ‘to be on the words & the other on the music of Hymns? “Hymn singing” is puzzling: does it merely mean the style of rendering Hymn tunes?’ He finds the subject an ‘interesting one, - I refer to the its [sic] musical part, for it seems to me that the standard has been lowered & degraded of late to a terrible extent. The Church Style, & the old English Psalm Tune, founded on the German Chorale, is being displaced by an effeminate, sensuous, (or “sensational[”]) debased form of melody as well as harmony, to which words not sacred would be far more appropriate, - a style with a sort of drawing room prettiness about it.’ He finds it ‘disheartening’ that ‘the names of some our our leading musicians’ are ‘signed to such Hymn Tunes’. He wonders if the development is ‘owing to a craving for something sweet (& silly) after the Gregorian infatuation which has prevailed in England the last twenty years’. He has noted that ‘in Churches where Gregorianism is most rampant, the Hymn music is most secular & frivolous’. He hopes that Stamer will be amused rather than wearied ‘by these assertions of mine’. The subject is one on which he ‘cannot help feeling strongly’, and he does think ‘that our English Church music is in dire need of reform’. He suggests that ‘a paper should be contributed at your congress by some thoroughly ecclesiastical musican’, claiming that ‘Ouseley, Wesley, Otto Goldschmidt, George Elvey Stewart (Dublin)’ are ‘more to be trusted than London musicians’, and ends by suggesting as subject ‘The two strange extremes at present prevalent in Church music in England’.