The Choral Tradition: An Historical and Analytical Survey from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

The Choral Tradition: An Historical and Analytical Survey from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

The Choral Tradition: An Historical and Analytical Survey from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

The Choral Tradition: An Historical and Analytical Survey from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

Excerpt

I have had much pleasure in and understanding from choral music. From long experience in it I have, I think, learned more about the nature and purpose of music as a whole than in any other way. I have, too, learned a great deal about people. As it happens I regard people, as individuals, as more significant than any form of art which may be said to exist 'for art's sake'. I can, therefore, rarely see a picture without, at the same time, seeing with some conviction of reality the working hand of the painter; nor the play without the presence of the playwright. I can never hear a work by Bach without realizing also his circumstances in Leipzig; without hearing the background of domestic, ecclesiastical and civic activity against which he composed; without feeling the impulses of time and place which caused the accent and intonation of his style. So there is such companionship with the past that the past, as such, ceases to exist.

Neither can I escape the other agreeable realities: the liveliness of those choirs of children who have so often sung great music for me whether at home or abroad; the gaiety of Austrian choirs, the sweetness of Spanish choirs, the gravity of Roman choirs, the fervour of Welsh choirs, the thoroughness and enthusiasm of American choirs I have heard, and whose members I have met; the humility of those who have been nearly associated with me in great enterprises in Bach or Handel. I am with Jean Jacques Rousseau in one aspect of musical appreciation:

'. . . I vividly recollect the time, the place, the persons, and even the temperature and odour of the air, while the lively idea of a certain local impression peculiar to those times transports me back again to the very spot; for example, all that was repeated at our meetings, all that was sung in the choir, everything that passed then --the beautiful and noble vestments of the canons, the chasubles of the priests, the mitres of the singers, the persons of the musicians, an old lame carpenter who played the double-bass, a little fair abbé who performed on the violin, the ragged cassock which M. leMaître . . .

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