excerpt from 'Musical letters from Abroad' pp. 16-18 (595 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from Abroad' pp. 16-18 (595 words)

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Musical letters from Abroad

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This establishment [London Foundling Hospital] is interesting to musical people, from the fact that Handel was one of its patrons, composing for it, and performing his music for its benefit. A tablet is seen in one of the rooms, with the amount received for several years in succession from Oratorios given. But alas! for the music now; it is anything but church music. There are nearly 400 children, about half of each sex; they all sit in the organ loft, and all sing the chants, responses, tunes, and services. They are dressed in a neat uniform, the boys in blue, with a white collar turned down, and the girls with white caps and aprons. The organ loft is so arranged, that by the raised seats every one can be distinctly seen.

The service commenced by an organ voluntary; and a lighter, more frivolous piece of organ-playing, I never heard. It was an attempt at a kind of extemporaneous overture with fancy stops, flute, oboe, &c., and great organ contrasts, staccato passages, sudden pianos, and fortes, and sforzandos, in little scraps of melody, light as the lightest of Donizetti or Verdi, without dignity, solemnity, character, or sense. Not a particle of reverence about it. I have heard the organ abused before, and degraded enough, but this was the climax of organ absurdity and degradation.

In the chanting the children kept together, and there was the entire absence of that drawling in the cadences, so common in America. The notes in the cadences were very quickly sung — very much quicker than I have been accustomed to teach them, yet not too quick. But little attention was given to words — they were not properly delivered; but the smaller words were omitted, and many were so clipped or abridged as to be decidedly coarse or vulgar, as

"Glory be t' 'he Father," &c. "As 't was 'n th' beginning," &c.

This was particularly observable in the monotone recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and Creed.

The Te Deum was sung in anthem form, and was well done — i.e. they all kept together, pronouncing the words with the speed of an auctioneer, but without any attention to sense, emphasis, pause, and the like.

A strange psalm tune was sung. It was like an andante allegretto, with marked time, by Haydn. Strange indeed, to hear a hymn so sung to music so very light and inappropriate. But it was well done, that is, they all went through it together, as true as a factory wheel goes round, and with as much expression and good taste.

In the place of an anthem, an extract from the Messiah was sung. Rec. “For behold darkness,” &c.; aria, “ The people that walked,” and the chorus “For unto us.” The bass song was well done, by a fine voice, and in quite an artistic manner. The singer did himself much credit indeed, but the chorus was a failure — the little things (children) kept along and got through with it, but no character was given to it whatever. It is not children’s music. Children might as well be required to read Shakspeare, as to sing Handel. They may hit the tones, but they cannot sing the music.

The organ accompaniment was here excellent — orchestra style was required, and orchestra style was played. The staccato was boldly, cleanly, and most distinctly given. Indeed the organ was made a most excellent substitute for an orchestra; and very great skill indeed was manifested by the organist.


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excerpt from 'Musical letters from Abroad' pp. 16-18 (595 words)


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