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Notes 63.2 (2006) 437-440

Reviewed by
Robert M. Copeland
Geneva College
Daniel Read. Musica Ecclesiae, or Devotional Harmony. Edited by Karl and Marie Kroeger. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, Inc., c2004. (Recent Researches in American Music, 48–50.) [Part 1: Acknowledgments, p. ix; [End Page 437] introd., p. xi–xxi; 4 plates, 2 p.; Read's preliminary sections, p. 1–32; score (tunes 1–124), p. 33–196; crit. report, p. 197–211. ISBN 0-89579-560-1. $98. Part 2: Acknowledgments, p. ix; score (tunes 125–276), 197 p.; crit. report, p. 199–215. ISBN 0-89579-561-8. $98. Part 3: Acknowledgments, p. ix; score (tunes 277–405), 210 p.; crit. report, p. 211–27; indexes, p. 229–56. ISBN 0-89579-562-0. $98.]

Daniel Read (1757–1836) is familiar to students of early American psalmody as second in importance only to William Billings (1746–1800), and during his lifetime, was in fact more popular than the one-eyed Boston tanner. More of his tunes (nine) found their way among the 101 tunes constituting The Core Repertory of Early American Psalmody (ed. Richard Crawford, Recent Researches in American Music, 11–12 [Madison, WI: A-R Editions, 1984])—the most commonly published pieces in American sacred tunebooks between 1698 and 1810—than those by any other composer. Following Read's own claims, scholars have frequently asserted that, while Read was a master of the vigorous eighteenth-century New England style, he changed his approach to musical composition dramatically in later years in favor of one deemed more European, or "scientific." In 1995, A-R Editions jointly published Karl Kroeger's edition of Read's earlier music (entitled Collected Works), as volume 24 of Recent Researches in American Music and as the fourth volume of Music in the United States of America (reviewed by Edward C. Wolf in Notes 53, no. 4 [June 1997]: 1328–30). It now follows with a three-volume edition of Read's hitherto unpublished Musica Ecclesiae, or Devotional Harmony: Being a Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes Suitable for Christian Worship, again edited by Kroeger, now joined by his wife, Marie. For the first time we have ready access to Read's later style in a critical edition that enables us to assess its revolutionary nature firsthand.

Read was born in Attleborough, Massachusetts, and as a boy received little formal schooling but considerable experience in farm work. After serving with Connecticut units during the American Revolution, he settled in New Haven in 1782, where he established himself as a merchant of dry goods and groceries, and as a manufacturer of ivory and horn combs. He also continued to work as a singing-school teacher, a trade he had taken up as early as 1775–76. By the age of twenty-eight, he had crafted ninety-four hymntunes, anthems, and set pieces, and published The American Singing Book (New Haven: Daniel Read, 1785; five editions by 1796). This was followed by The Columbian Harmonist (New Haven: Read, 1793–95; four editions by 1810). During 1786–87, he cooperated with Amos Doolittle to publish The American Musical Magazine (New Haven), America's first music periodical. For several years he devoted his attention to his successful business interests and to rethinking the style appropriate to sacred music. In 1818, he published The New Haven Collection of Sacred Music (Dedham, MA: Daniel Mann), which focused almost exclusively on European psalm and hymntunes, and revealed Read's conclusions about stylistic reform.

Read's first interest in the current European style seems to have been aroused in the early 1790s by his encounter with the music of George Frideric Handel, and through the next twenty years or so he developed both his views on the superiority of the "new" style and his skills in writing it. The New England style of Billings and his generation featured informal "successive counterpoint" (i.e., composed one voice at a time), rather instinctive harmonic progressions, and a fondness for open fifths. The new "scientific" style of music, on the other...


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