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TO THE EDITOR. Sir, | Again take up the subject of my essay towards the collection of some of the elements of vocal science, which I trust the success of your publication will enable me to complete, though the further I advance, the plainer I perceive that the work promises to be of considerable duration.
I am, Sir,
OF THE CHURCH. Compositions for the Church were originally designed to aid the effects of Divine Service, and they appear to have been limited at an early period of their introduction, to the single circumstance of producing a greater solemnity and elevation in the mind, during the public exercise of devotion. The progress of time, experience, and cultivation, has, however, enlarged the bounds of this species of writing, till it has come to comprehend at least all the objects of musical imitation that are thought to move the passions, emotions, and sentiments of the human heart. Before we can determine whether its range stops even at this point, we must decide upon the character which appertains to the sacred musical drama, which we call Oratorio, and whether it properly comes into our consideration, as belonging to the Church. The works of HANDELand of Haydn in this species, of the latter most especially, have employed every known application of the powers of the art to heighten and diversify the embellishments of The Creation & The Seasons. Beethoven, in his Mount of Olides, bas carried bis imitations to a still lower depth, as is shewn in the appellation (the stop thief chorus) now commonly given to one of the choral parts. But the Oratorio, like every other kind of composition, has gradually been growing of a lighter cast, and we should ra. ther apply a new term to such works as those we have quoted, than continue them under the division they now bear. · The Creation and The Seasons we should be disposed to call Sacred Operas, for they
certainly cannot be classed with the Messiah of Handet, nor with Athalia, Thco lora, Samson, Judas Maccabæus, Esther, nor indecd with any of those grand and solemn pieces to which Handel gave the name of Oratorio.
In treating, then, of the style of the Church, we must acknowledge a scale rising through various gradations, from the simple chaunt to the sublimest heights of composition, if we comprehend, which we must do, in our general arrangement, the Oratorio. We shall, how. ever, first consider Church Music in its original and most legitimate acceptation.
By “Musica di Chiesa* (Church music properly so called)" say's Dr. Burney, “ I mean grave and scientific compositions for voices only, of which the excellence consists more in good harmony, learned modulation, and fugues upon ingenious and sober subjects, than in light airs or turbulent accompaniments.” This definition appears to us to be too limited even for the common services. In Church Ma. sic there ought indeed to be a presiding gravity of character, that circumscribes and chastens the whole. The true style of the church banishes every vulgar, loose, or profane idea ; it elevates the wind, disposes to benevolence, expels all the ruder passions, all low affections, and all sensual appetites. The ceremonies of religion are nevertheless addressed to our sensibility, and are intended to fix devout and moral impressions through the medium of the senses. The feelings they move, and the sentiments they inspire, are of many kinds. They are connected with all the causes of the sublime.
- There are, therefore, required great and various degrees of light and shade, to humble, to assuage, to inspire, to raise up, to elevate the soul to religious fervor, to display to man the Majesty and Glory of his Creator, and to image to his fancy the power of the Almighty; to sooth him with the tenderness of Divine mercy, and to inspire him with the holy raptures of thanksgiving for the great blessings he receives. The effects aiined at through all thechurches of the world by the employment of music, are of the same kind; they differ only in manner and degree. Passing from the plain Hymn of the dissenting congregation, through the service of the Cathedral, up
* It should seem by Dr. Burney's adoption of the Italian name, that he had an especial regard to the music of the Catholic Choirs. We use the terra Church music, generally for all performances under the consecrated roof and dedicated to the service of the Deity.
to the High Mass of the high Catholic choir, we find they all contemplate the production of the same species of excitement.
Before we enter upon the qualities which most particularly apper . tain to this departinent of art, according to our own division, we must endeavour to impress upon the reader, that the attainments nccessary to rocal excellence are common to all the branches, but they differ in degree, according to their application. Thus, for example, the chamber may require more finish, the theatre more power, the orchestra more science. By enumerating the particulars, we do not except the general gists or acquirements necessary to constitute a singer.
It must be apparent that dignity, simplicity, and pathos, are the capital perfections in the manner of a church singer. These, howcvcr, as will be seen hereafter, are general terms, combining the results of mechanical processes and intellectual powers. + Correct intonation, pure and fine tone, and articulation both of words and notes, ought to be amongst the first and last objects of a church singer. † With respect to the first, intonation, the usual accompany
* We cannot fail to remark the curious classification with respect to rank, that the musical services of the several sects appear to imply. In the chapels of the three great denominations of dissenters, we find, aniversally, a strong and stimulating species of psalmody, calculated to work upon the self-love and enthusiasm of the lower orders, by the participation it gives them. In the psalms of the Church of England, there is only a species of plain song, in which, as among dissenters, the whole cougregation may join, but there is little to affect in any way. In truth, this part of the service wants great amendment. In the Cathedral, there is a nearer approach to the splendor of the Roman Catholic worship, and a presupposition of a higher condition of acquirement. In the Masses of the Catholic Chapel, we come at once into the loftiest region. We sre the music as well as the religion of greatness and atttainment. All the resources of art are employed; thus presuming that state of high cultivation, which the country where the Catholic faith still centres, and from whence it diverged, halia reality been the first to reach and continue.
+ I am aware, that in these essays, I have not adopted the most complete order, but it is because as I am giving my thoughts in this shape rather than in a regular treatise, I have chosen that which appears to me most likely to interest the student.
I “The effect of all those supplementary graces which really serve to assist musical expression they must diligently study and judiciously apply, either to enforce a single word or give the proper effect to a whole sentence; and though they must do this without sacrificing distinct articulation to delicacy of tone, yet they must endeavour to hit that precise medium in the vocal faculty which pronounces and sings at the same time, and which is at once, in point of sound, melodious, and, in point of spoech, articulate-a merit to which only first-rate performers generally attain."--IV utson on Church Alusic.
ing instrument, the organ, instantly betrays by the beating of the pipes, the slightest deviation from tune. There is no friendly band to support the singer or cover bis defects. With regard to the second, because his sole dependence is on himself, bis performance is assisted by none of the accessories which minister to the theatre or to the orchestra, and moreover, because he is cut off from the exercise of all those blandishments which serve to call off the attention of tbo bearer in those situations of more various attraction, his practice of sustaining, increasing, and diminishing his tone should be more sedulously matured & kept up. He should study and fix the purest and the finest tones that his voice is or may be made capable of producing, in conjunction with the several powers of elocutory expression. Those varieties which bestow their peculiar characteristics on the passions, he should have at bis absolute command. It is not by degrees of loudness and softness only, but also by the quality or kind of tone that certain passages are well and distinctly marked. This ulea has been carried so far by some, that they suppose the voice in singing to imitate the tones of passion in speech, and there is undoubtedly some analogy. But not to discuss the precise degree of resemblance, every observer knows, that the tones of certain yoices are more expressive of certain passions than others; and the faculty of appropriating these tones should be sharpened and cultivated by minute observation and practice, since in the church this faculty of voicing bestows more undispnted empire over the heart than any other acquirement. The attainment we speak of is not, however, to be understood as direct imitation or mimicry, which is of all others the most distinctive mark of the want of commanding capacity, Every student sets out upon his researches with a given quantity of natural aptitude. His first acquisitions will necessarily be the fruits of imitation. But in proportion as he gathers strength, he will begin to rely upon himself, and to discard, even without perceiving it, the assistance he draws from others. As his knowledge of his own powers and his perceptions of the powers of the art aro enlarged, he will grow bolder in varying the application of that knowledge and those perceptions, till at length (if he be gifted with any fertility and vigour more than belongs to mere mediocrity,) he will impart, to whatever he does, that modification of intensity and energy which constitutes what we are accustomod to call originclity.
The elocution of church singing must be carefully and severely formed. It admits not of the slightest extravagance. It must be calm and moderate even in the most solemn or forcible passages ; it must temper even the most vehement exclamations of anguish, complaint, or joyfulness, with a chastity and purity that precisely hits the sympathy of the auditor. Here lies the judgment. To rise to fervor without endangering this fine test of execution by turgidity or bombast, is by far the most difficult part of the manner we are now considering. There is scarcely any guide. The eloquenoe. of the bar, the senate, the stage, are all of too violent a nature, and that of the pulpit is below the truth of expression. The sensibility of a congregation or an audience, is, in point of fact, the only test. To arrive at the most competent authority, however, we must endeavour to draw our illustrations from real life, from those sentiments and feelings which are ordinarily expressed, or which we ourselves experience, upon occasions wbich place us in a parity of circums stances with the situation we are called upon to depicture. These, a little heightened in the colouring, will afford us the means of forining à true judgment.
The ornamental parts of church singing must be circumscribed by the same limitations. Uniformity and congruity must be scrupulously preserved. Not a note should be appended that does not conform, with the most significant exactitude, to the entire style of the composition. The singer ought always to remember, that he is addressing himself to his bearers upon the most important subject that can occupy the human heart. He should seek only to advance the duty he is religiously engaged to fulfil. He is no longer an artist only. He has taken upon himself a loftier character. He is employed in the most sacred, the most holy, most awful of all occupations-in the worship of the Creator and Preserver of all mankind-in the celebration of events, or the relations of scenes in which the pawicular intervention of the Deity is recorded. All the parts of his execution should be decent, sage, and holy. Besides this overruling and strongest influence, there is also avother to be drawn from the technical circumstances. Most of the compositions of the church are in parts, which implies a conventional understanding of the united effects of all the voices. The individual effort must be combined with the general results, and each one should study to know and to accommodate his powers to the powers of the rest.