- Sally Drage
A late 19th-century term for the sacred music performed in rural English churches and chapels during the 18th and early 19th centuries. It is so called because the singers and instrumentalists often occupied the gallery, usually at the west end. The unsatisfactory state of congregational singing by the late 17th century, particularly in provincial parish churches, resulted in the formation of amateur, initially male, choirs. Unfortunately, their increasing skill and desire for more elaborate music silenced the very congregations they were supposed to encourage.
Country churches usually lacked organs, but singers needed support in order to maintain pitch in complex music. From the mid-18th century singers began to be accompanied, at first by a bass instrument and later by a small band. The most common instruments used were bassoons, cellos, clarinets, flutes and violins, but the size and instrumentation of bands varied according to availability. At first the instruments merely doubled the voices, often playing the upper parts an octave higher. Later, short symphonies were added, sometimes with designated instrumentation, especially in more sophisticated music such as that by Joseph Key....