Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music

First Advisor

Joseph Rackers


Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, most hymns in the Anglo-American tradition ended with the congregation singing amen following the original stanzas, almost always framed within a plagal cadence. Helping this tradition take root was Hymns Ancient & Modern (1861), an Anglican hymnal that published the “amen” cadence after every modern hymn. This practice was heavily adopted among other denominational hymnals throughout England and the United States, peaking around the turn of the century. By the middle of the twentieth century, a decline in the number of hymnals including this cadence was noticeable; however, it would take until the end of the century for the plagal-amen cadence to disappear from hymnals. Today, only one doxological hymn, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (OLD HUNDREDTH), customarily makes use of this convention.

This research presents the context of the plagal-amen cadence tradition through a survey of its shared history, particularly from the last two centuries. By first examining the use of amen and the plagal cadence separately, insight into their individual backgrounds is gained. Their association was already being discussed during the late eighteenth century, and the plagal-amen cadence only grew in popularity from that time forward.

This study suggests that the music of Thomas Tallis, primarily in his Preces and Responses, led to the popularity of the plagal-amen cadence. Tallis’s immediate influence was felt among contemporary English composers, but a revival of his music in nineteenth-century England had a greater influence on the plagal-amen tradition. With his historical title as the father of English cathedral music, Tallis was favored by those leading the Oxford Movement. Because of this, the simple IV–I cadence chosen by Tallis to set the text amen attained a much greater significance in the history of church music.