Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 4, 1968
NUMBER 47, PAGE 4-5a

Gospel Singing Journalism


Joe Ed Furr

F. L. Eiland was a great leader in the field of gospel singing at the turn of the century (1900). He founded the S. D. N. Singing School in Waco, Texas. This school trained many of the well-known song writers and publishers in the brotherhood. Brother Eiland went in partnership with H. W. Elliot and Emmett S. Dean in 1896 and founded the Trio Music Company in Waco. This company produced many of the song books used by brethren in the early 1900's. In the same year that these men founded the publishing company, they also printed the first edition of a journal dedicated to the promotion of gospel singing. This journal was The Musical Trio.

Eight years after the journal was started, brother Eiland's health began to fail him; so he sold his interest in the school and publishing company. In 1909 he decided to return to the work of musical journalism. Instead rejoining the Musical Trio staff he started another journal, The Photo. He published three editions of that paper before he died in that same year.

Some brethren in Tennessee started a journal for the promotion of gospel singing in about 1910. This journal was called the Vaughan's Family Visitor. This paper soon joined hands with the premillennial movement and lost its fellowship with the faithful brethren. Thus, brother Eiland's work is the only known faithful effort in gospel singing journalism in this century.

Almost sixty years have passed and this work has not been resumed. Many brotherhood journals print occasional articles on gospel singing, but this is the extent of any recent efforts. This paper is a sample of what a gospel singing journal can contain. You are invited to examine it, read the articles, and judge your own interest in this kind of journalism.

The editors and writers of this paper have evaluated this field of gospel journalism, and they have faced several important questions. Is such a journal really of value to brethren? Is the field too narrow to warrant the creation of such a journal? Just what areas of thought and knowledge should be included in the scope of such a journal? Will such a journal be received by the brotherhood? Let us discuss these questions with you.

Alert brethren everywhere are becoming aware of the need for a revival of interest in gospel singing. It is very easy for our singing to get into a rut. If a journal on gospel singing would be of any value to brethren, it would be as a tool for helping to generate interest. Good teachers kindle interest in their students by making the students aware of their environment and by helping them to become involved in it. Many brethren who seem indifferent toward gospel singing are simply not fully aware of the spiritual richness in good singing nor or they fully involved in it. Informative and persuasive journalism can help us to become more aware of the virtues of good singing, and it can help us achieve a greater involvement.

Is gospel singing a subject that is too narrow to warrant the formation of a journal dedicated to it? Some have expressed the opinion that it is. Contrary to this point-of-view, music is not a narrow subject. Music is a science; it is subject to the physical laws of sound. From this science comes music theory. Music is also an art. Gospel singing is a learned art. No man is really a "born singer." Singing skills are acquired, not inherited. To help you further understand the depth of this subject, let us discuss some of the contents that can go into such a journal.

First, we begin with God's word. What is the Lord's will for our singing? When we ask this question we are not exclusively asking about the use of instrumental music. Some brethren seem to know every argument in the book on the instrumental music question, but they do not have all the will of God on the subject of gospel singing if this is the limit of their knowledge. Much of the singing that can be heard in many congregations is nothing more than a reflection of the lack of understanding of God's will concerning our singing.

There is a rich and interesting history that underlies the songs we sing and the books we use. You may not realize it, but some of the songs we sing today date back to 1527 and 1626. Less than half of the songs that we sing have been written by our brethren. Many of the songs we sing were composed as the result certain thoughts and events that are reflected in the songs. We can have a greater appreciation of the songs we know if we understand the times, the people, and the events that produced those songs.

Several of the great pioneers in gospel singing are still alive. It would be wonderful if we could all share in their wisdom and experiences. One such brother is Austin Taylor. Brother Taylor wrote his first song in 1903, "Many Mansions." Since that time he has written many songs that we all sing, and he has published many of the song books that many of us have used. Brother Taylor, shares some of his thoughts and experiences win us in this issue. Be sure to read his articles.

Some brethren never pay attention to the meaning of the songs they sing while others are sometimes too critical of songs. Brethren sometimes brand a song as being "unscriptural" when in reality it is only misunderstood. We need more studying and understanding of the meaning of what we sing. One good Christian motto should be to "sing what you mean and mean what you sing." To help you acquire a deeper insight, several gospel songs are presented in this issue with an interpretation by several qualified students of hymnody.

Should our singing be improved? How can our singing be improved? These are questions that more brethren need to study. There are many men in the brotherhood who are highly trained teachers of gospel singing. These men have many good ideas to share with all of us. We need to give these men an avenue of communication to the brotherhood. This issue will contain several articles to inspire your thinking on these questions.

Experience has helped many song leaders to find ways of improving their work. These song leaders should share their discoveries with other men who are involved in the same work and face many of the same problems. In a journal such as this, song leaders can help each other to develop a greater proficiency in their work.

How much do you know about the goods and services that are available to the brotherhood to aid our singing? Many are not aware of the wide variety of song books which are in print within the brotherhood. They are not aware of the singing schools that exist to help train song leaders, song writers, and singing school teachers. They are not acquainted with the men who write songs, publish song books, and teach singing schools. Many brethren would like to know more about gospel singing recordings that are available and recording services. There are many more goods and services that are available. One purpose of a journal of this nature would be to provide information to brethren concerning all these things.

We need to learn new songs, and we need to encourage more brethren to write new songs. Song writing has been a discouraging work for many. Brethren usually encounter new songs only in the large hymnals they purchase for the local church. Since most churches change hymnals only one or two times during a decade, there is a very limited and a very slow market for new songs. A journal of gospel singing could publish new songs with every issue and offer copies for sale to those who would like to share the new songs with their friends or with the congregation. If a large number of brethren would subscribe to such a journal, the market for new songs would rapidly increase. This would be a great inspiration to song writers, and it could inspire more brethren to want to learn to read music. On the cover of this issue is a new song that was written by brother John Blackstone in June of 1967. Brother Blackstone can provide you copies of this song for 5 cents a copy with a minimum order of $I. Write him at his home address: 1602 John Smith, Irving, Texas 75060.

If you are interested in seeing a journal of this nature started, you should express yourself. Only by your writing of a card or letter can we determine whether or not there will be a demand for such a journal. Write your opinions to:

P.O. Box 545, Longview, Texas 75601.