excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 164-5 (366 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 164-5 (366 words)

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Musical letters from Abroad

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We have recently attended a rehearsal of the London Sacred Harmonic Society, under the direction of Mr. J. Surman. There are two societies meeting in Exeter Hall; the Sacred Harmonic Society, under the direction of Mr. Costa, and the one before mentioned. There were about one hundred and fifty members of the choir present at the meeting of the London Sacred Harmonic Society, with an accompaniment of about twenty stringed instruments. A new Anthem, by Dr. Elvey, of Windsor, was sung, and also Mozart’s Twelfth Mass. The performance was decidedly poor — vastly inferior to the German choruses which we have recently described. The time was tolerably well kept, but tune was far enough from accuracy. The same feeling about for the pitch, and uncertainty of tone, was observable in the more difficult modulations, which is so common with our untrained New England choirs; with this difference, however, that we occasionally stop to correct a badly-intoned passage, whereas here it was passed over as if unobserved, or as if such a dissonant performance had become a matter of habit. There was, too, an absence of all those things that go to make up a good choral performance, as Forte and Piano, Sforzando, Syncopated accent, distinctness and clearness of vocal utterance, &c. The leader would occasionally sing out at the top of his voice, “Piano,” but he did not seem to expect that attention would be given to what he said, and kept on, under a press of sail, until another opportunity should occur for calling out with like result.

This was, indeed, a rehearsal; but if a choir is permitted to sing thus in rehearsal, will they not form habits that will prevent improvement, and will not the public performances be of the same general character?

The violins were badly played. One could hardly help coming to the conclusion that they were mostly beginners, assembled for practice. It would not be surprising to hear as bad, or even a worse, rehearsal, on the Western Continent; but, in Europe there should be, at least, a correct performance of the technicals of music, if not something belonging to the higher department of appropriate expression.

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excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 164-5 (366 words)


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