The American Vocalist

D. H. Mansfield published this volume in Maine nearly a century after the peak of the singing school tradition in New England.  The introduction ends with these remarks:



1. Singing, as a part of public worship should, if possible, be performed by the whole congregation. But if there are any who cannot, or will not learn to sing, they ought not to mar the devotion by attempting to sing in public.

2. Every singer should have a tune book; but he ought to commit so thoroughly to memory as not to be entirely dependent upon it in a public performance. The singer who is obliged to refer constantly to the music he is performing, will produce but little effect.

3. Musical instruments may be useful where singers are not thoroughly trained, but if they are, no instrument can add to the sweetness or effect of their music. If instruments are used, great care should be taken not to disturb the congregation in tuning them.

4. If there is a select choir, the members of it should receive their places with reference principally to their singing abilities, and not with reference to their wealth, station, or general talent.

5. The tune must be keyed to suit the singers. It is supposed to be written where it can generally be performed with the greatest effect. Some choirs may require it a note higher or lower.

6. If, under a dispensation of grace, sinners may come into the " congregation of the Lord," to hear and receive the benefits of the gospel, no person who is profane or vicious, should be permitted to abuse the worship of God by taking a place in the choir.


It is a painful fact that, many who assume this responsible part of public worship, feel themselves at liberty to disturb the remaining exercises, by turning over their books, reading, whispering, &c. &c., as if every thing of importance was done when they had gone through with their thoughtless and miserable apology for SINGING PRAISE TO GOD, and they were not at all interested in the great truths of the gospel.


Remember then, my young singing friends especially, your duty. Why are you permitted to sing ?—God is merciful. Praise Him! Why are you called together on the holy Sabbath ? JESUS CHRIST HATH DIED!—AND IS RISEN! Praise Him! O praise Him! What influence is that which moves so sweetly upon your hearts while you hear the blessed gospel ? 'Tis the Holy Ghost! He would win you gently back to God! Praise Him! Sing praises! Think what the gospel offers you,—

Salvation on earth, and a Mansion in Heaven

Sing then. There ia cause for joy—

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow
Praise Him, All Creatures Here Below 
Praise Him Above. Ye Heavenly Host 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost


A full scan of The American Vocalist is freely available from Google Books.

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Recordings and scores by Robert Stoddard are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Recordings by others and used with permission may not be distributed without permission from the original copyright holder.