Oxford (UK)


Oxford Psalmody
previously Oxford Occasionals 2000-2012)


Twixt Cherwell and Isis



Saturday 6th September 2014


This year’s Church Visitation is a walking tour within the City of Oxford



Please meet at the Baptist Church in Bonn Square, Queen Street, to hand out music books, etc. For those arriving from the Pear Tree and Water Eaton Park and Rides, you may find it convenient to go straight to St Mary Magdalen Church. In either case, when booking, please confirm which books (P&G and/or SH) you will be bringing.  See Notes below.

Please note although there are loos at the Baptist Church, there are none at St Mary Mag Church. The nearest facilities are on the top floor of the Debenhams store opposite the west side of the church.


10.15 – 11.00

The Church of St Mary Magdalen


The church is at the southern end of St Giles, just to the south of the Martyrs Memorial.


11.30– 12.15

The Church of St Michael at the Northgate


The church, in Cornmarket Street, will be open for an early lunchtime concert.


12.30 – 1.30

Lunch will be taken at

The Mitre, High St, Oxford.


The link to the menu can be found on the front page of the Immanuel’s Ground website

 2.00 – 2.45

The Chapel at St Edmund Hall, High Street


On leaving the Mitre, turn left.

3.15 – 4.00

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin


Retrace your steps towards the Mitre.

4.15 – 5.00

Tea at the Baptist Church, Bonn Square, Queen’s Road


Tea will be as last year, ie on a DIY basis, for payment details see notes. Turn right on leaving the Church up the High Street, across Carfax and down Queen Street.


5.15 – 6.00

Informal open concert at the Baptist Church.




         Action NOW, please. We do need names and payment beforehand for numbers of additional music booklets and afternoon tea.  If you would like to lunch at the Mitre, orders + cheques (made payable to S&E Macadam) should arrive no later than a.m. Wednesday 3 September, adding 5 per head for tea and music; this includes a donation to St Edmund Hall Chapel.   If you are making other arrangements for lunch, just send 5 per head for tea and music and St Edmund’s donation. Please do not give us cash on the day!!!


         On the day:

         Please will you also be prepared to make a donation of at least 1 per person to the various churches involved.

         Singing from Praise & Glory (P&G) and The Sacred Harp (SH).

         Additional music booklets will be provided

         Please dress as ‘smart casual’.

         Please note that there is absolutely no parking available at the Baptist Church.

         You are seriously recommended to use the Oxford Park and Ride buses, rather than attempt to park in Oxford. To do so is very expensive. The nearest open air car park is at Worcester Street, the only entrance to which is from Park End Street, the road leading from the Station and St Frideswide’s Square, to the right of the Oxford Hotel.  This is about 10 mins. walk from the Baptist Church. There is a multi-storey car park at Westgate which almost adjoins Bonn Square but, again, this is expensive; it may however be better for those carrying instruments. The Park & Ride 300 buses from Pear Tree (north) stop beside St Mary Magdalen Church, at the south end of St Giles. Park & Ride 500 buses from Water Eaton (north-east) stop at the same place.  Park & Ride 400 buses from Thornhill (east) stop near the end of the High Street opposite the Mitre. The Baptist Church is about 10 mins. walk away. Park & Ride 400 buses from Seacourt (west) stop at the south end of Queen Street, about 3 mins. walk from the Baptist Church.

       See: www.oxfordbus.co.uk/main.php?page_id=22    

You are seriously recommended NOT to use the Park and Ride at Redbridge on the Southern Ring Road. There are MAJOR road works taking place on this route until the end of November.


See below for contact address, etc, for Oxford Psalmody.
Listen to the following mp3 files, recorded by Gary Sherman:



Africa - Sacred Harp music from St Michael's, Northgate, Oxford


Babylon Streams - Trinity College Chapel


Cookes Canon - University College Chapel


Psalm 69 in a setting by Jarvis - St Michael's, Northgate 


The 'Worms' Anthem by William Knapp - Trinity College Chapel


Shropshire Funeral Hymn - University Church of St Mary the Virgin



Visit http://www.archive.org/details/WestGalleryMusic-OxfordOccasionals for further recordings of the
2008 tour of Oxford churches and college chapels, and from where you can download a number of free media files. You also have the chance to comment on them!!

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Since September 2000, a group of singers and instrumentalists from many different parts of England have spent a day each year, touring churches and chapels in different parts of the County and Diocese of Oxford, to recreate the psalmody and hymnody of more than 150 years ago.

Oxford Psalmody is a gathering of members of the West Gallery  Music Association, formed in 1990 to revive the music of the rural parish churches, so much beloved of Thomas Hardy and exemplified in his novels and poetry. 

Hardy wrote of times past, the days when his father and grandfather were members of the local church ‘band’, playing to accompany the quire in the specially constructed ‘west gallery’ in Stinsford Church.  The psalm tunes used during, before and after services in country churches, were often by   local, untutored composers, frequently bearing the names of local streets, villages or landmarks.  This raw and exciting music was much beloved, and jealously guarded, by its custodians in the west gallery; records exist of quires refusing the vicar’s instruction to sing a particular tune to the psalm of the day, preferring to use another more to their liking.  With the passing of the years, all too frequently what was initially a tussle for control of the conduct of services became an issue of conflict with the clergy and the squire as patron. 

The emergence of Tractarianism and the Oxford Movement, together with the introduction of Hymns Ancient & Modern in 1861, saw the wresting back of control by the church establishment, with the introduction of surpliced choirs, often with small boys taking the tune, previously the sinecure of adult, male, tenors.  The installation of keyboard instruments, such as harmoniums, barrel or finger organs spelt the end of the accompanying band of cellos, clarinets, violins, flutes, bassoons and the (more than) occasional  serpent.  These instrumentalists, and their singing companions, first found their way to the Independent chapels, where they continued to sing and play the old tunes they loved, but by the beginning of the twentieth century, in all but a few outposts, the old way of church psalmody was lost and virtually forgotten in England.

Such a fate did not attend the descendants of those settlers who took English country psalmody to America.  In New England, from as early as the middle of the eighteenth century, English psalm tune books were being sold in Boston within months of their publication in England.  This music inspired native-born composers, just as untutored as their compatriots on the other side of the Atlantic, and by 1770 a leather tanner, William Billings of Boston, had produced the first compilation of psalm tunes by a colonist.  There was a flowering of ethnic composition immediately before and after the War of Independence, and the fervour for native psalmody spread throughout the Eastern United States, finding its firmest and what has become a permanent foothold to this day, in the southern states, particularly Alabama and Georgia.  Here the music notation has evolved with shaped note heads as a singing aid, rather than the ordinary round note heads and thus the term ‘shapenote music’ is often used to describe American psalmody.

Oxford Psalmody sing  from both the English and the American tradition.  Our native tunes are usually accompanied, as they were intended to be, but the psalm tunes of our American cousins are sung a capella. These tunes are vibrant and exciting, and are a great joy to sing and play.  The group have as their watchword the instruction of a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford - John Wesley -  to “sing lustily and with good courage”. 

Pictures are taken from the West Gallery Music Association publication Good Singing Still by
Rollo G Woods, Totton, Hants 1995  ISBN: 1 899947 00 0. 
Some of them have previously appeared in an edition of a novel by Washington Irvine.

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Oxford Psalmody and Oxford Sacred Harp Singers

have been meeting regularly to sing Sacred Harp music on the "Teenth" Thursday in every month since 1999. We also sing from different sources on the 'Fifth Tuesday' of any month in which there are five of them.  This is usually about four times per year!

All are welcome to join us from 7.45 pm onwards in our sitting room at

30 Eynsham Road, Botley, Oxford. OX2 9BP 

Tel:  +44 (0)1865 865773               
Email: shelwin8 - at - tiscali.co.uk  (replace - at - with @)

Google Map to get there.

See our separate website for the Oxford Sacred Harp Singers.

See also Immanuel's Ground, the west gallery quire based in Warwick which we run, and which supports Oxford Psalmody.