excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 89 (618 words)

excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 89 (618 words)

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Musical letters from Abroad

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I attended service there [St Peter's Church, Leipzig] this afternoon. At the precise hour the organ prelude commenced; it continued two minutes, and the first Lied immediately followed. There was no introit, or introductory motette as in the Nicolai and Thomas churches. The choir consisted of three boys and two men; and beside these, the organist, another person walking about in the organ loft, and myself, there was but one person present — a goodly old lady; so that when the service commenced, the congregation in fact consisted of but one woman. It reminded me of the clergyman who, when he had no one present but the clerk, took the liberty to alter the prescribed form of the service, reading not “Dearly beloved brethren” but “Dearly beloved Roger.” Here was an occasion then, when the singing was indeed congregational. The members of the choir were all singing, the old lady appeared to sing, and I joined the general chorus. The organ was full and made up for any deficiency of vocal power. I observed that in some stanzas the voices commenced without the organ, and sung three or four syllables, when they were joined by the full organ; though in some other stanzas the voices and organ were simultaneous in their commencement. This, however, can have nothing to do with that which we sometimes call expression or the adaptation of the tune to the different stanzas of the hymn, for no attention whatever is paid to this subject here; there is no variation of soft and loud, but every stanza is loud, and is apparently sung and played without the slightest reference to the principle above mentioned. Indeed the principle of adaptation (as generally understood by us in the United States), seems not to belong to the Congregational style of singing. The minister, who was not present at the commencement of the service, came in during the singing of the last stanza, faced the cross upon the altar for a few moments, and then turning towards the people (by this time numbering perhaps between twenty or thirty), he commenced the responsive chanting service. His first sentence is confined to about half a dozen words, which are given in the tones three and five of the scale; this being responded to by the choir, the minister chants quite a long sentence, after which the choir respond Amen. The response closed upon five of the scale, ascending to it by the sharp four — thus five, three, sharp four, five. After this the minister read about two minutes — the people rising. This was followed by the organ, and another hymn. The minister retired the moment he had finished reading (prayer) and was not present during the singing that followed; but at the close of the hymn, as before, he came in and read a scriptural lesson; again he retired, and again the organ announced another choral. By this time some fifty or sixty persons had assembled, and they succeeded in raising quite a chorus. At the close of the last stanza the minister appeared, not at the altar, but in the pulpit, and after half a dozen words of prayer, commenced his sermon. And now the choir, three boys and two men, took their turn in going out; as the minister seemed to have nothing to do with their part of the service, so, I suppose, they were alike relieved when he began to preach. Considering myself by profession and long habit as more nearly allied to choristers than preachers, and especially as I could not understand what was said, and as I could retire without being noticed, and without disturbing others, 1 followed their example.

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excerpt from 'Musical letters from abroad' pp. 89 (618 words)


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