Singing the Lord’s songs: Hymns on the Eastern Cape Anglican-Xhosa Missions, c.1855–1869

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What insights can mission hymns give us into South African music history, the
encounters between peoples, beliefs, languages and cultures that took place on
mission stations, and the ways in which the nineteenth century world was imagined? This article explores accounts of how hymns were sung, as found in the archives of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, an Anglican mission organisation that established mission stations in the Eastern Cape among the isiXhosa-speaking peoples and other Indigenous groups in 1855. While these accounts provide only written descriptions and, more often than not, only one view of what was happening, they nonetheless show us that hymns were undergoing constant reformulation, change, and transformation, and point to the factors behind this process. The archival accounts are examined to reveal the role played by both Indigenous people and missionaries in the creation of mission hymnody, and the implications this had for how the repertoire was received and understood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-217
JournalSouth African Music Studies
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Philip Burnett is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Music at the University of York, United Kingdom. He is an historian of nineteenth century missionary musical practices, focussing specifically on missions in Southeast Africa.


  • South Africa
  • Anglican Missions
  • Music
  • Nneteenth Century

Cite this