Colonial Era, Music

Colonial America was alive with the sound of music. The very first book printed in the English-speaking colonies was a book of sacred music. The Bay Psalm book, published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1641, sought to make it easy for congregations to sing psalms, which ministers regarded as a form of prayer.

Calvinists and Quakers had a negative attitude toward music. For example, in 1716, Quakers in Philadelphia advised members of the Society of Friends against going to or being any way concerned in plays, games, lotteries, music and dancing.

Still, music was present in colonial America. There were as many as 7000 songs based on psalms published in America from 1698 to 1810. Musical instruments ranged from dulcimers and flutes to harpsichords, organs, recorders, trumpets, and violins.

There was both vocal and instrumental music. Music was used for entertainment, but also served a range of social functions. There was ceremonial music, dancing music, military music, and theatrical music. In addition to sacred music, there were diverse forms of secular music, including ballads, carols, folk songs, hymns, and ribald songs in taverns.

Diversity— religious, racial, and regional—were hallmarks of music in colonial America. Anglicans welcomed organs and choirs into their churches; Congregationalists and Presbyterians did not. It was not until the Great Awakening in the 1730s and 40s that instrumental music and choirs began to appear in areas where Calvinist faith dominated. In colonial America, interest in balls, concerts, and opera was largely confined to Anglicans, and to a lesser extent among Catholics and Lutherans.

The singing of psalms was an important part of religious practice among the English colonies. The first known concert in the American colonies took place in Boston in 1729,andthe city got its first concert hall in1754. It was not until 1730 that the first known advertisement for music lessons appeared in Philadelphia and not until 1757 that the first public concert took place in that city. The first music store in the colonies opened in Philadelphia in 1759.

Source: Colonial Era, Music
Copyright Digital History 2016

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