Module B7: Trends in church music since 1950

The liturgical changes of the second half of the twentieth century have had a greater impact on music than at any time since the Reformation. This module considers the relationship of liturgical change to church music in general, and then in relation to parish, 'cathedral', and monastic situations. You will have opportunity to adapt this study to emphasise the liturgical and musical practices of your own denomination and country.

You are encouraged to take this module with module A2: Modern Christian liturgy, worship and pastoral liturgy (since c.1950), unless you are already well-acquainted with the issues addressed there.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module you will have gained understanding and knowledge of the relationship of liturgy and music in the late twentieth century, and of the issues facing contemporary musicians and composers. You will have considered a range of liturgical contexts and the musical repertories related to them.

Mode of study

As with any study of contemporary issues the topic is fluid and unevenly (if copiously) documented. This is particularly true given the fragmentation of musical resources because of the diversity of language, style and resources now used in Christian celebration across the world. Your approach will most usefully be related to your own denomination and local experience, though you must be careful not to be too narrow in your approach. Where you lack a suitable resource for study in your own worshipping environment you could consider identifying a small group of nearby Christian communities (e.g. parish church, cathedral, religious community, place of education) where you can observe, participate in worship, and discuss their approach. Serious thinking about the issues based on targeted reading may prove more beneficial than extensive reading.

The bibliography tries to name suitable texts which should be obtainable either in print or through libraries (if necessary by inter-library loan), but much has been published in liturgical and church music periodicals. Follow up references from the books suggested or from your own reading.

Study areas

1 Liturgical re-formation and music

1.1 The documentation of liturgical change in relation to music
1.2 Redefining the place and nature of the Mass/Eucharist, and its impact on music
1.3 The participation of the people
1.4 Changes in language and text, and their implications for musicians
1.5 Trends across denominations
1.6 Revisions to the Office and implications for music
1.7 Education and training of liturgical musicians

Suggested reading

The literature for this study area is extensive. You may be advised to undertake some of the starting point and introductory reading in the bibliography, sections 1 and 2 (or revisiting it if you have already taken Module A2). It may then be useful to follow this through with further reading which emphasises your own denomination, and relate that to other denominations. Inevitably the documentation for formal liturgy is stronger than that for informal worship.

Essay questions related to study area 1:

B7.1.1 How have changes in liturgical and theological thinking affected the place of music in the liturgy. You may answer this on a broad base of reference, or you may restrict your answer to a single denomination and/or to the Mass and/or the Office.
B7.1.2 What are the implications of liturgical changes since c.1950 for the education and training of liturgical musicians? How might such education and training be improved and/or developed further?

2 Parish music and the people

2.1 Congregational music, especially for the Mass/Eucharist
2.2 Responsorial music
2.3 Refrains and mantra: the influence of Taizé
2.4 Hymnody and songs since 1950: themes, language and style
2.5 Choral music for parish choirs
2.6 From choir to music group: the use of instruments with voices


New genres and new styles have accompanied liturgical renewal. These have coincided with a period when major publishers have reduced their lists and there has been a proliferation of small presses producing a variety of music. Taking some of the 'pillars' of the new liturgical music - the psalms and writings of Joseph Gelineau, the chants of Taizé, the major new collections of hymns and songs, and some of the resource books which have appeared more recently - consider the way in which musical style and repertory has responded to and been shaped by the new liturgies and their pastoral theology. Consider also the ongoing provision of new music for 'traditional' forces (i.e. parish choir) and the interaction between the two, searching out appropriate repertory for consideration (RSCM publications are a suitable starting point). Then examine the phenomenon of instruments in church, its relationship to the trends in instrumental teaching in schools, and the opportunities it offers. Your reading will follow from the direction of your exploration. Andrew Wilson-Dickson's In addition to seminal texts like those of Gelineau (including the essay in The Study of Liturgy) and Erik Routley you may find the books by Stephen Dean (essay on liturgical music), Robin Sheldon and Lionel Dakers useful as starting points. In Tune with Heaven and the more sceptical Weary and Ill-at-ease provide statistical information.

Essay questions related to study area 2:

In answering either of these questions you may wish to set specific limits to the range of your discussion which you should make clear at the start of your essay.

B7.2.1 What have been the most significant changes, innovations and achievements in parish music since 1950? Are there shortcomings still to be addressed?
B7.2.2 What is the place of music in parish worship?

3 Music in cathedrals and collegiate foundations

3.1 The response to liturgical change in patterns of worship, organization, and repertory
3.2 'As it was in the beginning': the case for maintaining the status quo
3.3 Standards, recordings, and the impact of the media
3.4 New liturgical and sacred compositions
3.5 New trends in organ design and construction


You may find it helpful to base your study on the evidence of two or three cathedrals or collegiate foundations with a choral tradition you know and can study at first hand. The documentation on cathedrals is less prolific than that for parishes, but Heritage and Renewal (especially the first five chapters) provides a useful starting point for Anglican cathedrals in England, as well as sections in In Tune with Heaven; in addition there is Christopher Dearnley's essay in Robin Sheldon, In spirit and truth. However, you will also need to relate more general reading to your own observations of cathedral and choral worship. In sections 3.3 to 3.5 you may wish to consider wider issues, but again to focus very specifically on particular case studies (e.g. one or two choirs who record and broadcast, one or two specific composers, and a group of organs or organ builders). In the case of composers concentrate on a composer or composers of standing either from the same or different generations since 1950 (rather than on church musicians of who compose), and do not restrict yourself to liturgical music only. (Possible composers might include Howells, Leighton, Mathias, Harvey, Tavener, but you may have your own candidates, not necessarily from Britain.)

Essay questions related to study area 3:

B7.3.1 Is there a conflict between the underlying concepts of pastoral liturgy and a choral style of worship? How has this relationship been addressed, and how might it be further developed?
B7.3.2 Examine the ways in which one or more cathedrals (or choral foundations) have responded to the challenges and opportunities of liturgical change. Evaluate their success and any issues still to be considered, not ignoring the merits of sustaining older traditions.
B7.3.3 What are the benefits of the engagement of cathedral and collegiate choirs with recording, broadcasting and media? Are there dangers or disadvantages as well?
B7.3.4 Make a study of one or two contemporary composers who write Christian music for able choirs. What is there response to current liturgical and spiritual trends? What creative contribution have they made to liturgy and spirituality? (In your discussion make reference to specific works.)
B7.3.5 Consider the relationship between the liturgical change and trends in the design and use of the organ in church since 1950. (Limit your discussion to a small group of representative case studies.)

4 Music in monasteries and religious communities

4.1 The response to liturgical change and the introduction of the vernacular
4.2 The ethos of 'monastic' music (as opposed to 'parish' music) in the later twentieth century
4.3 The Panel of Monastic Musicians: its work and its publications
4.4 Music for the Office
4.5 Music for the Mass/Eucharist


The significance of monasteries and religious communities in the life of the Church far outweighs their modest numbers. They have been engaged intellectually, spiritually, creatively and musically in liturgical renewal. In Britain the fruits of their work can be observed in the Panel of Monastic Musicians' hymnbooks A Song in Season (London, Collins, 1975) and Hymns for Prayer and Praise (Norwich, The Canterbury Press 1996) and in Sister Hildelith Cuming’s Music for Evening Prayer (London, Collins, 1978). Celebrating Common Prayer is the fruit of Anglican Franciscan work, and George Guiver’s writing is undertaken at the Community of the Resurrection. Outside Britain the ethos and impact of the community at Taizé has also to be considered, among others. The issues facing those shaping a daily communal liturgy in monasteries and religious houses are different from those leading weekly parish worship, and need to be understood. Apart from a general consideration of these matters, you may find it helpful to make a study of the approach to liturgy and music in one or two appropriate religious communities to which you have access or can visit.

Essay questions related to study area 4:

You are advised to relate your answers to a specific monastery or religious community (or a small group of them).

B7.4.1 How have monasteries and/or religious communities responded to liturgical renewal? What has been their particular contribution to liturgical music and its use since 1950?
B7.4.2 In what ways do the liturgical context and spiritual ethos of a monastery or religious community differ from a parish, and how does this affect the nature and the use of the music in monastic worship?


Although you may choose (or be directed by a supervisor in) your own pattern of study it must include those issues listed in the study areas above, and you are advised to take account of the recommended reading.

In undertaking the writing of essays you are advised to consult the guidance for presentation of written work in the general study notes.

Assessment and satisfactory completion

At the end of the module you must submit two essays, each of 3,750-4,000 words, for assessment. The subjects of the essays must be selected from the topics set above. Each essay must relate to a different study area. A bibliography of materials consulted should be appended to the essay.

The assessment of the module will be based on the two essays. You should complete a module log listing materials used for the study, time spent in study, and noting any special factors or difficulties encountered. You may also be required to provide additional evidence of study undertaken in the two areas not covered by the two assessed essays. In each case this may consist either of notes made during study or an essay on a topic related to the area. The examiners will request these materials if they require them.

Two copies of all materials for assessment and establishment of satisfactory completion should be forwarded to the Course Secretary and postmarked not later than 31 January or 30 June in the appropriate study period.

Bibliography on the liturgical background (This largely duplicates Module A2)

Starting points

John R. K. Fenwick and Bryan D. Spinks, Worship in Transition: The Twentieth Century Liturgical Movement (Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1995)

D. Crichton, Christian Celebration: Understanding the Mass, the Sacraments and the Prayer of the Church, (rev. ed., Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1992-3)

George Guiver, Company of Voices: Daily Prayer and the People of God (London, SPCK, 1988; 2nd ed. Norwich, Canterbury Press, 2001)

Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, Edward Yarnold and Paul Bradshaw (eds.), The Study of Liturgy (London, SPCK, 1978; rev. ed. 1992)

James F. White, A Brief History of Christian Worship (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1993)

Donald A. Withey, Catholic Worship: An Introduction to Liturgy (Bury St. Edmunds, Kevin Mayhew, 1990)

Other books

Stephen Dean (ed.), Celebration: The Liturgy Handbook (London, Geoffrey Chapman, 1993)

C. D. Jasper, The Development of the Anglican Liturgy, 1662-1980 (London, SPCK, 1989)

C. D. Jasper and Paul F. Bradshaw, A Companion to the Alternative Service Book (London, SPCK, 1986)

Language and the Worship of the Church (London, General Synod of the Church of England, 1994)

Kilian McDonnell, Charismatic Renewal and the Churches (New York, Seabury Press, [c.1976])

Michael Perham, Liturgy Pastoral and Parochial (London, SPCK, 1984)

Michael Perham, Lively Sacrifice: The Eucharist in the Church of England Today (London, SPCK, 1992)

Michael Perham (ed.), Towards Liturgy 2000: Preparing for the Revision of the Alternative Service Book (London, SPCK for The Alcuin Club, 1989)

Michael Perham (ed.), Liturgy for a New Century: Further Essays in Preparation for the Revision of the Alternative Service Book (London, SPCK for The Alcuin Club, 1991)

Luther D. Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy (Philadelphia, Muhlenberg Press, 1947; rev. ed. Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1960)

Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Frank C. Senn (ed.), Protestant Spiritual Traditions (New York, Paulist Press, 1986)

James F. White, Protestant Worship: Traditions in Transition (Westminster, John Knox Press, [c.1989])

James F. White, Roman Catholic Worship: Trent to Today (Paulist Press, New York, 1995)

Books on music and liturgy


Andrew Wilson-Dickson, A Brief History of Christian Music (Oxford, Lion Publishing, c.1997; previously published as The Story of Christian Music, 1992) (see especially Part 9)

Other books

Lionel Dakers, Parish Music (London, SPCK, 1982; 3rd edition, Norwich Canterbury Press, 1991; previously published as A Handbook of Parish Music, Mowbray, 1976)

Virgil C. Funk (ed.), Music in Catholic Worship: The NPM Commentary (Washington DC, Pastoral Press, c.1982)

Joseph Gelineau, The Liturgy Today and Tomorrow (London, Darton, Longman & Todd, 1978), transl. Dinah Livingstone

Joseph Gelineau, Learning to Celebrate: the Mass and its Music (Washington DC, Pastoral Press, 1985)

In Tune with Heaven, The Report of the Archbishops' Commission on Church Music (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1992)

Jeffery, Chant, Liturgy and Culture (Washington DC, Pastoral Press, 1992)

Lawrence C. Johnson, The Mystery of Faith: The Ministers of Music (Washington DC, Pastoral Press, 1983)

Andrew Maries, One Heart, One Voice (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1986)

Andrew Maries, Church Music in the Mission of the Church (Mildenhall, Suffolk, 1996)

Erik Routley, Church Music and the Christian Faith (Carol Stream, Illinois, Agape, 1978; rev. ed. London, Collins, 1980)

Robin Sheldon (ed.), In Spirit and in Truth: Exploring Directions in Music in Worship Today (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1989)

Books on music and composers

Stephen Banfield (ed.), The Blackwell History of Music in Britain: The Twentieth Century (Oxford, Blackwell, 1995

Stephen Bicknell, The History of the English Organ (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Malcolm Boyd, William Mathias (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1978)

Peter Evans, The Music of Benjamin Britten (London, Dent, 1979; rev. ed. 1989)

Geoffrey Haydon, John Tavener : glimpses of paradise (London, Gollancz, 1995; new ed. London, Indigo, 1998)

Otto Károlyi, Modern British music: the second British musical renaissance from Elgar to Peter Maxwell Davies (London, Associated University Presses, 1994)

Kenneth Long, The Music of the English Church (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1972; repr. 1991)

Christopher Palmer, Herbert Howells : a study (Sevenoaks, Novello, 1978)

Henry Phillips, The Singing Church (London, Faber, 1944; rev. Arthur Hutchings and Ivor Keys, London, Mowbray, 1980)

Erik Routley, A Short History of English Church Music (London, Mowbray, 1977; rev. ed. by Lionel Dakers, 1997)

Erik Routley, Twentieth-Century Church Music (London, Herbert Jenkins, 1964; rev. ed. Carol Stream, Illinois, Agape, 1984)

Nicholas Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979)


A convenient five-volume survey was published in 1965 (with accompanying LP recordings):

The Treasury of English Church Music, Blandford Press, 1965

Much of the standard repertory is available as sheet music, though major publishers only keep small amounts in print, and much has now been passed on to small presses. The Royal School of Church Music Publications Department is a useful source of information, advice, and purchasing.