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Reading the Line

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Reading the Line:
an English-language lined-out Psalmody tradition in Presbyterian Scotland
by N. Campbell

This booklet sheds new light on the English-language equivalent of Gaelic psalm-singing. 'Reading the Line' or 'giving out the line' involves the praise leader chanting each line and the congregation singing the same line more slowly. Gaelic psalmody has preserved this singing style but it was once standard practice in the Lowlands and actually came into Scotland due to English influence.

The booklet traces the rise and decline of 'reading the line' in English as well as its re-emergence in that language in one denomination, the Free Presbyterian Church, in the twentieth-century. It also includes a brief survey of the North American versions of this tradition and the distribution of Gaelic services in the Free Church and other groups in the present day. Painstaking research in libraries and in discussion with older people in the Highland mainland is reflected in the detailed and carefully-referenced chapters.

'Reading the Line' should be of interest to students of Scottish social and church history, bilingualism and cultural change. (All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to Bethesda Care Home and Hospice, Stornoway.)

[The text above is taken from the back of the booklet.]

This slim (32 pages, including endnotes) little booklet gives, with admirable succintness, an account of an ecclesiastical tradition often overlooked by church historians. Norman Campbell's lucid writing style makes what might in other hands have been a dry exercise in history flow like the melodious psalmody style whose course he follows.

The booklet is short, but the finished text is merely a readable surface covering over a deep sea of research. This, indicated by the copious endnotes, will give anybody interested in pursuing the subject no end of courses to follow.

If you have any interest in psalmody, public singing, church history or even how changing social mores interact with public worship this may be the best 5 you'll spend.

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