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Lining Out the WordDr. Watts Hymn Singing in the Music of Black Americans$
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William Dargan

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520234482

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520234482.001.0001

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“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”

“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”

The Tradition of Dr. Watts in English Historical Perspective

Chapter:
(p.90) Chapter 3 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”
Source:
Lining Out the Word
Author(s):

William T. Dargan

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520234482.003.0004

While Isaac Watts (1674–1748) is called the father of English hymnody, the form he brought to prominence, with its innate orality and biblical symbolism, has proved itself the foundation for a complex of sacred and secular African American genres. Although the hymn texts belong to the larger tradition of English-language hymnod for black Baptists, both the sound and the verse forms of Dr. Watts hymn singing have become style repositories out of which a larger range of congregational singing traditions continues. Almost without exception, wherever the old-time hymns are still heard, the vitality of the larger congregational singing tradition continues. It was written texts of evangelical hymns that black Baptists appropriated into oral tradition. An emphasis upon the written word and a concomitant deemphasis of other artistic expressions, including music, marked the long-term development of English Puritan worship from its roots in Calvinist practice. While neither lining out nor psalmody in general were restricted to the Puritans, both are associated with that heritage, which has been a nebulous and long-standing dimension of English spirituality.

Keywords:   Isaac Watts, Dr. Watts, hymn singing, hymns, congregational singing, hymnody, psalmody, worship, Puritans, lining out

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