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Learning to Sing: Presbyterian Hymnals and Psalters

Early American churches lacked musical education not only for the congregation but for church leaders as well. To correct this problem, singing schools sprang up across America. With increased musical education, the desire for additional tunes grew and by 1800, over 130 different collections of tune books were in print. Initially, singers held two books, one with the words and one with the tune. By the mid-1800s, many tune books adopted a split format. In these books, tunes and words were printed on the same page but with the pages cut so that the two could be mixed and matched. After the Civil War, most hymnals conformed to what we have today, the text printed with the tune.

One example of an American singing school was the Uranian Academy organized by Andrew Adgate (d. 1793) and founded in Philadelphia as an institution to promote the knowledge of psalmody. Andrew Adgate. Philadelphia Harmony, or a Collection of Psalm Tunes, Hymns, and Anthems … Together with the Rudiments of Music on a New and Improved Plan. Philadelphia: Printed by A. Adgate, 1791.

Andrew Adgate. Philadelphia Harmony, or a Collection of Psalm Tunes, Hymns, and Anthems … Together with the Rudiments of Music on a New and Improved Plan. Philadelphia: Printed by A. Adgate, 1791.

Andrew Adgate. Philadelphia Harmony, or a Collection of Psalm Tunes, Hymns, and Anthems … Together with the Rudiments of Music on a New and Improved Plan. Philadelphia: Printed by A. Adgate, 1791.