The Best Book About English Church Music You Will Read This Year

It’s ‘O Sing Unto the Lord,’ by Andrew Gant

So I was all set to tell you today about Andrew Gant’s O Sing Unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music, which is one of the more delightful books of history I’ve read in a long time, and then everyone’s favorite young composer Nico Muhly pops up in the Times with his own review, which says everything I want to say but in a much more enjoyable fashion.

Nico Muhly on Why Choral Music Is Slow Food for the Soul

He even made a playlist! You don’t need me at all! I will simply add that this is a terrific book, in which your knowledge of the particular historical eras Gant discusses can only amplify your enjoyment but is by no means necessary for understanding. Here’s a sample passage that should show how light your learning needs be to take a lot away:

Amazing, right? English choral music may not be your thing, which, you know, fine, everyone is different — although I’ve got to say, really, maybe you want to rethink some of your interests if, say, you have a whole lot of opinions of what makes TV prestigious but you can’t tell your Tallis from your Weelkes — but this is a terrific book and if nothing else it should spark your interest in hearing some of the only sounds that are not completely crazy-making in the idiot world which we are apparently condemned to suffer our remaining days. Get it, and maybe start listening to something like this, or this, or the two volumes of this, and see if you’re not somehow set at ease. I promise you when you finish this book you will say to yourself, “I was glad.” (Haha, get it? Ugh, sorry.)

O Sing unto the Lord