Puritans are much easier to trace culturally than most other groups. The leaders of Puritan churches were quite literate, and books of Puritan Psalm songs are among the oldest colonial artifacts. The Bay Psalm Book, a collection of sacred music, was in fact the first book published in English-speaking colonies.
The Meaning of the Music
Music, like everything in the Puritan tradition, was meant to help people reach a high religious ideal. This particular group did not allow instruments in their musical tradition–rather, music was restricted the simplistic and sombre singing of Psalms in unison.
Different Protestant denominations did hold different beliefs about church music. Some, like the Quakers, fundamentally opposed music entirely. Others, such as Anglicans, allowed organs and choirs into their churches and took interest in musical activities outside of church life.
Only eleven copies of the Bay Psalm Book’s first edition now exist. Old South Church, which was founded by the Puritans in 1669, have two of these copies. This artifact is so significant that it is allegedly worth up to $25 million dollars. Controversy over possibly selling this book to support the church has been controversial, despite the many changes the church has seen since its founding. According to Church historian Jeff Makholm ” “These are elements of our Puritan and Colonial past that help to define what we are as a congregational church…The idea that you would sell those items of our heritage and break faith with those who gave them to us is disturbing to many members of the congregation.” [Read news report here]