William Byrd's Reasons to Sing

The preface to a book of songs by William Byrd, published in 1588.

Reasons briefly set down by th'auctor, to perswade every one to learne to sing.

First it is a knowledge easely taught, and quickly learned where there is a good Master, and an apt Scoller.

2. The exercise of singing is delightfull to Nature & good to preserve the health of Man.

3. It doth strengthen all the parts of the brest, & doth open the pipes.

4. It is a singular good remedie for a stutting & stammering in the speech.

5. It is the best meanes to procure a perfect pronunciation & to make a good Orator.

6. It is the onely way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voyce: which guift is so rare, as there is not one among a thousand, that hath it: and in many, that excellent guift is lost, because they want Art to expresse Nature.

7. There is not any Musicke of Instruments whatsoever, comparable to that which is made of the voyces of Men, where the voyces are good, and the same well sorted and ordered.

8. The better the voyce is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God there-with: and the voyce of man is chiefely to be imployed to that ende.

omnis spiritus laudet Dominum.

Since singing is so good a thing
I wish all men would learne to sing.

Ten Commandments For Choirs

  1. Thou shalt open thy mouth to sing, and not to bear false witness or complain.

  2. Remember where thou art during Sunday worship and keep it holy. A chattering choir is an abomination to the Lord and an irritation to the pew.

  3. Thou shalt honour practice night and keep it free, for a good choir is made, not born.

  4. Thou shalt not steal the show, for it is God thou honour'st and not thyself.

  5. Thou shalt not kill thy choir by competing with its director.

  6. Thou shalt not put off joining the choir, for it is a service. Neither shalt thou hesitate to leave when thou canst no longer sing, for then it is a gracious gift.

  7. Thou shalt not quit thy choir when thy feelings are hurt, but rather raise these feelings to the ministrations of the Lord.

  8. Thou shalt not mumble thy words, but rather remember there is great charity in clarity.

  9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's voice, but neither shalt thou become overly impressed with thine own.

  10. Remembrest thou always that it is easier for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a sourpuss to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
(Based strongly on an article in The American Organist, 2/98.)