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Abstract

Histories of American sacred music frequently begin with the pilgrims’ arrival in Plymouth, bringing with them their Ainsworth’s psalter, published in Amsterdam. In subsequent decades other English-speaking colonists brought with them copies of the Sternhold and Hopkins psalter published in London. But both these psalters were increasingly deemed unsatisfactory for English-speaking colonial life, so the attempt was made to create a new American psalter, the so-called Bay Psalm Book published in Cambridge, Mass., in 1640, which in later editions morphed into what was called the New England Psalm Book. Thus English colonialism and its distinctive New England psalmody is frequently the focus of attention. But Central and North America had other colonies, some of which had been settled in the century before the English colonists arrived, colonies in which sacred music was more diverse and more developed and associated with different European languages: New Spain, New France (in the north and Huguenots in Florida), New Netherland, and New Sweden. The sacred music of these colonists is explored in this article, showing that singing the substance of religion and life was a common experience in all the these pioneer colonies, whether it was expressed in Latin, Spanish, French, Dutch, Swedish, as well as English. Music was the vehicle of faith, personal and public, that was far more diverse and rich than the simple English psalm-singing that is often portrayed as the essence and substance of early American colonial religious music.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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