Evangelical hymnody was the most significant form of popular sacred song in eighteenth-century Anglo-America. John and Charles Wesley built their Methodist movement on it, but little is known about the music of their great collaborator and eventual rival, George Whitefield (1714-1770). The essential sources of Whitefield's music are the development of ritual song at his Moorfields Tabernacle in London, his Collection of Hymns for Social Worship (1753) prepared for that congregation, and a little-known tunebook called The Divine Musical Miscellany (1754) that contains the first and definitive repertory of music known to be sung at Moorfields. This essay recovers Whitefield's music by presenting an account of Moorfields and Hymns for Social Worship, a detailed analysis of the Miscellany's tunes and texts, and a narrative of their reception history during Whitefield's lifetime and the subsequent half-century. It argues that Whitefieldian tunes had significant and permanent influence on all branches of Evangelical hymnody, but that for reasons of literary competition, theological conflict, and institutional development, Whitefield's lyrics were almost entirely replaced, quickly among the Methodists by Charles Wesley's verse and more slowly among Dissenters and Evangelical Calvinists by Isaac Watts's hymns and psalm imitations.

Author Biography

Stephen A. Marini is Elisabeth Luce Moore Professor of Christian Studies, Professor of Religion in America and Ethics, and Chair of the Department of Religion at Wellesley College. His books include Radical Sects of Revolutionary New England (Harvard, 1982) and Sacred Song in America: Religion, Music, and Public Culture (Illinois, 2003), and he has recently served as Contributing Editor for Sacred Music for The Grove Dictionary of American Music, Second Edition (Oxford, 2013).

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