excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 73, 74, 75 (652 words)

excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 73, 74, 75 (652 words)

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Musical Reminiscences Past and Present

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73, 74, 75


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On Sunday morning, the 6th, I had the gratification to attend the usual half-past ten service in St. Bartholomew’s [...]

How beautiful were the tones of that truly grand organ—how sweetly they travelled to my ears from the north transept to the furthest corner of the church, where I was seated! There should always, I think, be an introductory voluntary, whether there is a processional hymn or not. It has, if properly selected, or ably improvised, a calming influence on the mind, which prepares, with dulcet music, the humble worshipper for his subsequent duties.

The sounds of the organ die away, the distant “Amen” after the choristers’ prayer is heard, and the procession of the priests and white-robed choir from the vestry to their stalls in the chancel, is accompanied with a more joyous strain from the organ, which gradually subsides, and the respected vicar, the Rev. G. Hume Smith, then commences to intone the sentences, preces, etc., in a manner which shows at once that you are listening to one who,with practice severe and tone loud and clear,” has attained to the highest point of chanting power, not to be wondered at when the Vicar’s long connection as Precentor with the Leeds Parish Church is remembered. The Versicles and responses by Tallis were nicely sung by the choir, with the exception of the usual drop in the pitch. The grand old chant in C, of whose authorship we know nothing more than that it is called “ Ancient,” was a right one for Venite, Exultemus, and with hearty and expressive alternate unison and harmony did the choir unto Sing unto the Lord.”

The Psalms (6th day), commencing with the 30th, Exaltabo te, Dotnine (“I will magnify Thee, O Lord”) were sung to the old familiar appropriate double chant in E flat, by Robinson (John, who was organist at Westminster Abbey in 1762), and another by an unknown author. The Psalms throughout, from Monk and Ouseley’s Psalter, were chanted admirably—clearness and distinctness of enunciation, good intonation, and an exactitude of time and ensemble worthy of a cathedral choir. The same may be said of the Te Deum, also given to a double chant, without any change or variety, and this I think might be rectified either by the introduction of specially composed Te Deum chants, or the more easy settings—anthem-wise. A fine, solemn effect was obtained by the singing of the verse “Holy, Holy, Holy!” without organ accompaniment, and in which the sweet female voices of the choir added greatly to the result. The Apostle’s Creed, monotoned with varied organ accompaniment on A, made the pitch rather too high for the subsequent sentences and responses.

The anthem by Stainer, “Jesus said unto his disciples" sung very nicely, though it presented no particular features of power or interest, was preceded by a much too long introduction on the organ, not reminding one of any particular theme or subject, though serving as a medium for showing the good and varied qualities in the organ. After an excellent rendition of the Litany by the Rev. Percy Stewart (curate) Tours’ Communion Service in F was taken, and here again the clear voice and distinct enunciation of the vicar could be heard in every part of the vast building,—thus proving the advantages of intoning in all large edifices, where otherwise the ordinary mode of reading would be absorbed in echoes and a jumble of words. The composer has cleverly varied his Kyrie Eleison in D by the introduction of the minor key, at the same time preserving something of its original melodic structure. The closing phrase to the words, “And write all these Thy laws in our hearts— We beseech Thee” is extremely devotional and impressive.

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