Bringing the Text to Life
One hundred or even just 50 years ago, congregational singing sounded much different than it does today. While we would recognize many of the tunes and titles of the favorite hymns being sung, the sound of these songs was quite different. Every congregation -- no matter how large or how small -- sang in four-part harmony. Soprano, alto, tenor and bass lines blended together to create a rich, layered sound in each hymn.
Male and female voices took off on different tangents, echoed each other or even sang entirely different tunes. Today almost every piece of congregational music is belted out according to a single melody line. A few brave souls with a good ear and some musical training may sing a lonely harmonic line, but they are the largely drowned-out exceptions. Only in a few traditions (Church of the Brethren, for example) has this tradition of parts-singing prevailed into the present.
What happened? No one knows for sure, but there are some speculations. I suspect that when the ...