Origins of Hymn Singing in America

When hymn-writer Isaac Watts published his “Hymns and Spiritual Songs” in 1707, there were no organs installed in churches in the New England Colonies. Issues surrounding instruments and music used in worship were controversial among the Congregational churches of New England.

New England ministers, instead, insisted that metrical “psalters” be used for congregational singing—primarily using the Bay Psalm Book. The preface to the Bay Psalm Book said, “the psalms are to be translated into our English tongue; and in it our English tongue we are to sing them, then as all our English songs . . . do run in metre, so ought David’s psalms to be translated into metre, that so we may sing the Lord’s songs.”

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