Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/525

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


SINGING.

and several others, among them Harper Kearton and Frank Boyle, are coming on well ; BO that there is really no lack of tenors if they all fulfil their mission. Of baritones and basses we may name King, Thorndike, Barrington Foote, Pyat, Thurley Ik-ale, and others. We have more singers now than we ever had.

The question of a National Opera has again come to the front, and there could hardly be a better moment in which to consider it than the present, in connection with the Royal College of Music. The founding of a National Opera House that is to say, a theatre liberally sub- sidised by government or endowed by private subscription for the exclusive performance of English opera and opera in English, is * neces- sity. If made part of the College, under the control of the directors, it could be conducted upon the strictest rules of order, propriety, and morality ; but it should be to all intents and purposes a public theatre. Though not necessarily as large as either of the existing opera-houses, it should be of sufficient size to have a full orchestra. English opera has been often condemned to a theatre in which the or- chestra has been mutilated, or there has been the full complement of wind with a totally in- adequate supply of strings. Either of these shifts must be avoided, and to avoid tnem the theatre would have to be of reasonable dimensions. A good model is not far to seek. Both the existing theatres are acoustically good. The new one should not be a mere practising ground for the students of the College, except to give them experience in subordinate parts. They should only be admitted when thoroughly proficient singers. Until then, artists would have to be pro- cured from outside ; but after that the College itself would furnish them. So with the orchestra ; it would be necessary at first to engage artists to ensure thorough efficiency, but it should ulti- mately be formed, as far as possible, of students competent to take their place in it. Thus by degrees the whole artistic staff might be formed of the pupils of the College. In this way an esprit de corps would be created which would tend to advance the artistic excellence of the whole establishment, while the fact of its being distinctly a public theatre would make students feel that there was no child's play. If a com- poser were commissioned to write an opera for this theatre, the libretto should be first submitted to the directors, in order that good original words and good translations might be as far as possible secured. Any profit realised from the theatre might go to found scholarships or a superannuation fund. If some permanent esta- blishment of the kind were founded, then both singers and composers would find it worth their while to work for it. Mr. Carl Rosa has shown to a great extent what may be done.

Reference has been made to the natural apti- tude for choral singing in the Northern and Midland counties of England. This branch received a vast impulse in England generally through the efforts of Dr. Hullah; and both VOL. in. FT. 3.

��SINGING.

��513

��Mr. Henry Leslie and Mr. Barnby have contri- buted largely to its advancement. Many re- fined renderings of difficult music have given proof of the high grade of excellence to which Mr. Otto Goldschmidt has brought the Bach Society. But all this choral activity has not been an unmixed benefit. The indiscriminate manner in which amateurs join the various public and private choral societies leads to the yearly deterioration and even destruction of many young voices. Undeveloped voices that can barely sing for ten minutes without fatigue, draft themselves into a chorus, and indulge in frequent practices of from an hour and a half to two hours of high music, with the idea that though they cannot make much effect alone, they are good enough for a chorus, forgetting or ignoring that the very want of practice and development that renders them inefficient solo- singers makes the chorus doubly dangerous to them. They say 'We are helped forwards by the practised voices.' But a feeble runner bound to a powerful one will be helped forward for a very short time only ; he will then be forced onward, and finally, when exhausted, will be dragged along the ground and trampled under foot. But it is not only on account of the music being so often beyond the compass of ordinary voices that mischief is done. It is well known that a voice in unison with several others becomes almost entirely neu tralised, as far as the possessor's consciousness is concerned. The singer's voice goes to swell the volume of sound, but cannot be heard by its owner, and the result is an amount of perhaps unintentional forcing that leaves her vocally exhausted at the end of a chorus. Be- sides, notes are taken by hook or by crook, and voice-production is forgotten. The conductor of a chorus has nothing whatever to do with indi- vidual voices. He must get the maximum of effect out of his little army of singers. Pro- fessional chorus-singers learn to make only the necessary effort, and a singer without the required vocal means sufficiently developed would not be admitted into a professional chorus. Again, those whose existence depends upon their voice will not allow enthusiasm to carry them beyond their powers, as those do who join a chorus for the love of the thing. The evil is so great as to require serious consideration, and the whole question of choral singing should be systematised. Elementary classes should be formed. Intro- ductory elementary classes should exist in which two voices only should practice in unison, each voice singing first alone, passage by passage : thus the production and right amount of tone would be cared for. Numbers of voices might be benefitted, if not saved from destruction, by learn- ing to sing in chorus. This is a subject that might well attract the attention of the Royal College of Music. As it is, the mischief will become more and more apparent, members of choral societies will fall away rather than lose their voices, and it may be found difficult to keep a sufficient body together. But with proper care a most instructive and enjoyable branch of

L 1

�� �