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Mel R. Wilhoit

(b Edinburg, PA, Aug 28, 1840; d Brooklyn, NY, Aug 13, 1908). American evangelistic singer, composer of gospel hymns, and hymnbook compiler. He rose to fame as music director for the evangelist Dwight L. Moody during a series of revival meetings held in England from 1873 to 1875. He popularized ‘singing the gospel’, in which he accompanied himself on a portable organ, performing the songs of Philip Phillips, Philip Bliss and William Bradbury, and making use of such effects as rubato and parlando delivery. He also directed the congregations in singing. Sankey became as effective a revivalist in song as was Moody in his sermons, elevating music to an equal role with preaching in evangelism.

In response to demands for the music used at their meetings, Sankey issued a 24-page pamphlet, Sacred Songs and Solos (London, 1873); this pamphlet eventually blossomed into a volume containing some 1200...