We do not know how hymns were performed in early Christian times. The first clear sign of instrumental accompaniment was the introduction of organs to the liturgy in the 10th century. At first they probably duplicated the chant in unison. Their evident purpose was to hold the singers together and in tune, and to provide continuity, since (when properly blown or powered) the organ does not tire or pause for breath, and can maintain an unchanging dynamic level. These functions are still the fundamental reason for the instrumental accompaniment of hymns, but organists and other musicians have often been tempted in the direction of musical elaboration. From time to time church authorities and...

If you have a valid subscription to Dictionary of Hymnology, please log in to view this content. If you require a subscription, please click here.

Cite this article