VOLUME III of the works of William Billings contains much of his most technically assured and adventurous music, including anthems and set pieces that are more extended than the compositions in volumes I and II, pieces which stand at the limits of the parish-psalmody style, and those that seek out unusual verse structures and evangelical texts with an intimate, personal tone. In The Suffolk Harmony (1786) he even arrives at a new homophonic rather than a contrapuntally-based style, one that produced some lovely pieces but never found wide favor.

This volume reflects an important editorial achievement. While volumes I and II present editions of collections published by Billings himself, the present volume includes, in addition to two published collections, The Psalm-Singer’s Amusement (1781) and The Suffolk Harmony (1786), occasional pieces published in pamphlet form, pieces attributed to Billings but published in other collections, as well as compositions edited from manuscripts and published here for the first time. The editor has consulted a wide range of manuscript and printed sources in the preparation of this volume, which will certainly count as a landmark in psalmody studies in this respect.

The American Musicological Society is proud to continue its support of this, the first scholarly edition of an American composer’s omnia opera, a series of four volumes planned in commemoration of the American bicentennial. The Society records its gratitude to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Sonneck Memorial Fund for grants in support of this publication. The collaboration and financial contributions from the American Musicological Society and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts have continued to make this major publishing endeavor possible. Thanks are due also to the American Antiquarian Society, Brown University, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan for providing sources to produce the facsimiles. In addition to the fine editorial work of Karl Kroeger, the publication has benefitted from the incisive editorial advice offered by editorial consultant (and AMS President 1982–84) Richard Crawford, whose numerous hours of editing and generous sharing of his expertise are gratefully acknowledged. The Society also thanks Cynthia Adams Hoover for her successful efforts in obtaining grant support and in continuing to serve as coordinator among the editors, printers, and the two societies. Assiduous work by all have contributed to a volume which will take its place as an important landmark and resource for students of American culture.


American Musicological Society