excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 138-9 (400 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 138-9 (400 words)

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Musical letters from Abroad

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The great Cathedral, where we attended, and where Zwingli once preached, is as plain as plain can be. There are no carvings, paintings, crosses, statues, or anything ornamental; not even a leather cushion can be found, or the smallest piece of drapery about the pulpit or elsewhere. There is neither organ, choir nor any instrument of music. The seats in the centre of the main floor are of plain, hard boards, unpainted; this part of the house is occupied exclusively by women. The men are mostly in the gallery, which is divided into separate stalls, each for one person. Each stall has a seat swung on hinges, that turns back after the fashion of the old New England swinging seats of a hundred years ago. The men on going into the church did not sit down, but each one took his stand in one of the stalls, waiting for the commencement of the service. Some took off their hats, others continued to wear them. When the bell ceased, the minister stepped up to the railing near the pulpit, and gave out the pitch by sounding the four principal tones of the scale to the syllable la, (1, 3, 5,8,) and immediately the large assembly began to sing. The singing was slow, very slow; I have never before heard a tune sung so slowly as on this occasion. In singing a tune - "The Old Hundredth,” for example, —I am persuaded that the Rev. Mr. Havergal’s congregation would get through the tune by the time this Zurich assembly would get through the first line. The hymn-book used here, includes, also, the tunes, printed in four parts, and, although the tenor and the alto were not to be heard, yet many of the men made a bold attack upon the bass, which they made to tremble with uncertainty, if not with fear. The trebles in one line sought to attain the pitch of E; they reached a little higher than

Eb, but yet fell short of their aim, and this caused the sinking of the pitch, so that at the end of two stanzas it was something like a tone below its starting point. It was well that but two stanzas were sung; for a new pitch would have been necessary if the number had been much greater. Here, then, is a specimen of congregational singing without a choir or organ.

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excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 138-9 (400 words)


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