David Everard Ford
by Lyn Law
Reprinted from an article in West Gallery No.22
In 1822, David Everard Ford had musical ambitions. Over three hundred subscribers had enabled him to publish a book of his own settings of about twenty psalms and hymns. As might be expected, half of the subscribers were from within a radius of fifty miles of Lymington where he had been ordained as Minister over the Independent Chapel the previous year. Odd copies found their way to Co Limerick, the Isle of Man, Shrewsbury, Cornwall and New Zealand. The remainder reflected his other contacts, some being quires near Trowbridge, some in London and a large number in the areas around Stevenage and Sudbury (1). In the preface to his work, he outlines plans to publish further music, hoping "that he will always consider it a duty, second only in importance to the due discharge of the Christian ministry, to assist in their songs of devotion, in the present world, those, who will hereafter tune their harps and their voices to celestial harmony".
What his new congregation thought of him we do not know. He had a penchant for the dramatic and is known to have startled them on one occasion by having a trumpeter spring forth from a hiding place during one of his anthems.
Two years after that event, in 1827, he published (anonymously) Observations on Psalmody by A Composer. In the first thirty-five, very small, pages he claims to have "traced the history of Psalmody from the creation of the world to the present day", conceding that he is writing "a small treatise on an extensive subject".
The rest of the book deals with the contemporary state of Psalmody in England, although we have no evidence of his then having experience north of about Oxford. Being an organist himself, he was partial, thinking it the instrument "best adapted to support the human voice". He conceded, however, that "where there is an organ without a quire, we usually find good music but bad singing". Despite some of his criticisms of quires he claimed that the root of the problem was "BAD COMPOSITION". His views are not unexpected from a trained composer and acknowledged musician, parallel fifths coming in for the usual censure.
His account of the repetition of divided lines resulting in ludicrous effects ("upon poor POL"... "And brought down SAL" indicates that as a boy he may well have found his attention diverted, "giving rise to a train of thought altogether inconsistent with the solemnity of worship". He also considered the problems of suiting tunes, dynamics and expressions to words, particularly when the content of successive verses varied.
There is considerable discussion on the use of different clefs and on which voices should take which part. He preferred not to have the tenors on the air, although it might be necessary in some places to bolster quiet or tentative voices. He felt that training was the answer. "Any man who has sense enough to spell his own name, provided he has a taste for music, and a talent for application, might in the course of a few weeks, obtain all the knowledge that would be necessary for the purpose". (The Independent Union Chapel in Islington organised fee-paying classes in the 1840s and, according to the Oxford Companion to Music had a thousand people singing the anthems! Half the London subscribers to Ford's 1822 book were from Islington - maybe there is a connection.)
Naturally, the trained musician had something to say about instruments and their players. "The highest ambition of many country quires is to make a great noise. To accomplish this, the first step is to muster as many hands as possible. Every man in the village who has a flute or a fiddle, a clarionette or a bassoon, a hautboy or a vox-humana, must bring it with him to church; although, perhaps, he hardly knows the scale of the instrument and is quite incapable of producing one good tone upon it." ... "The stringed instruments flatten, and the wind instruments sharpen though, to the annoyance of half the congregation, the performers have spent ten minutes tuning their instruments."
From the shelter of an anonymous publication, criticism is quite safe. What was Ford like as a practitioner? Edward King, chronicler of Lymington history and grandson of the printer of Psalms and Hymns and Observations states that Ford was a noted musician and composer. It appears that he had relatives in the Sudbury area and the large number of subscribers to his Psalms and Hymns from that area suggests that his work was already known and well regarded, even if his choice of tune name was often with one eye on sales: Long Melford (15 copies), Stevenage (12 copies).
The book itself contains settings of words by Ford's fellow Independents, Watts and Collyer. Although there is a figured bass and indications of right-hand organ chords, the settings are for four voices. There is considerable variety. St Neot's ("When overwhelmed with grief") is a stately tune in G minor. Long Melford ("Come ye that love the Lord") is in 3/4 time with plenty going on in the bass. Beckington ("Jesus, I love thy charming name") is a tune of charm and simplicity. Sometimes trebles in the top and third line are accompanied for a while by quaver passages on the cello as in Buntingford. Lymington Chapel in 3/4 time starts with a fairly straightforward section ("I leave the world with willing feet") but turns quite lyrical for the words: "Once its enchantments soft and sweet Threw silken fetters over me". That section is first sung piano and then, so as not to waste it, repeated forte.
One hopes that the eleven quires which bought the book enjoyed the singing. In Lymington, quires from the parish church, the Independent chapel and the Baptist chapel ordered one or two copies each. Single copies were ordered by quires in Clare and Glemsford (near Sudbury) and by Salisbury Baptist Chapel and both the Independent and Methodist chapels in Melksham. Cowes and Newport in the Isle of Wight each ordered two and Long Melford four. In addition, there were about ten orders for six copies or more, apart from the music and booksellers in London and Lymington who felt they could each shift twenty or more.
David Everard Ford lived until 1875, apparently moving to Manchester in 1843. His diaries can be found in King's College, Cambridge, together with such riveting items as a register of the 8,395 sermons he preached. Oh, and Congregational Psalmody 1855 containing another 128 psalm and hymn tunes harmonised for four voices.
An Original Set of Psalm and Hymn Tunes with A Funeral Ode, Adapted for Public Worship and Harmonized for Three and Four Voices, with Figured Basses for the Organ and Piano-Forte by the Rev. David Everard Ford, Lymington, Hants Printed and Published for the Author by J. Peck, 47 Lombard Street, 1822.
Observations on Psalmody by A Composer, Westley & Davis, London, 1827
Two subscribers were from Wymondley College in Hertfordshire, a college training Protestant Dissenters for the ministry, which was relocated here from Northampton in 1799. The fact that there were also subscribers from the three nearest towns in Hertfordshire, ie Baldock, Stevenage and Hitchin strongly suggests that Ford may have been trained at the college. He also composed a tune named Baldock, which was included in the Union Tune Book. back