Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/672

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

'nothing to compare with it,' and that the society was 'now the wonder of the nation.' The concert was repeated on the 18th January following.

The State legislature having granted, Feb. 9, 1816, a special charter, wherein the purpose of the society 'to extend the knowledge and improve the style of church musick' was recognised, a new code of rules was framed, and other means adopted to strengthen the efficiency of the organisation. The records of the first decade furnish abundant evidence of the poverty of the musical resources of Boston. With the hope of securing better organists than were available at home, liberal offers were made to musicians in New York and Philadelphia. On one occasion there was an undisguised fear that a certain concert must be postponed 'in consequence of the want of an organist.' In the early concerts the solos were sung by members of the choir. The first engagement of a professional vocalist was that of Mr. Thomas Phillips, in April, 1818, to whom was paid the extraordinary sum of 400 dollars for two concerts. The following list presents the names of eminent artists who have appeared at the society's concerts: English—Mmes. Anna Bishop, Patey, Parepa-Rosa, Catherine Hayes, and Edith Wynne; Messrs. Braham, Cummings, Hatton, Incledon, Patey, Henry Phillips, and Santley; Continental—Mmes. Alboni, Caradori-Allan, Grisi, Nilsson, Rudersdorf, Sontag, and Tietjens (whose last appearance in America was at a concert by the society); Messrs. Formes, Stigelli, Mario, etc.; American—Mmes. Clara Louise Kellogg, Antoinette Sterling, etc.; Messrs. Charles E. Adams, Thomas Ball (the eminent sculptor), Myron W. Whitney—and many others.

It was not until the 17th concert, Dec. 25, 1818, that a complete oratorio was performed. This was 'The Messiah.' Liberal selections from the work had however been given at the previous concerts. The following list of works, with the year of first performance, contains the most important choral compositions produced in the course of the 63 seasons which have passed (1815—1878), comprising 610 concerts. Of the compositions named few had been heard in Boston, or even in America, before their performance by the society.

Handel's Messiah (1818), Dettlngen Te Deum (1819), Samson (1845), Judas (1847), Solomon (1855), Israel (1869), St. Cecilia (1863), Jephthah (1867), Joshua (1876); Haydn's Creation (1819), Mass in B♭ (1829), Seasons (1875); Bach's Passion (1874), Christmas Oratorio, Parts 1 and 2 (1877); Mozart's Mass in C (1829), Requiem (1857); Beethoven's Mount of Olives (1833), Ninth Symphony (1853); Spohr's Last Judgment (1842); Mendelssohn's St. Paul (1843), Elijah (1848), Lobgesang (1858), Psalm xlii. (1866), do. xcv. (1868), Hear my Prayer (1874), Christus (1874); Rossini's Stabat (1843), Moses In Egypt (1845); Bennett's Woman of Samaria (1871); Costa's Eli (1857), Naaman {1869); Verdi's Requiem (1878); besides works by Marcello, Neukomm, Romberg, Hiller, Donizetti, St. Saëns, Buhler, and Nicolai; by Dudley Buck, Paine, and Parker, among American, and Born and M. P. King amongst English composers—47 works in all. Of these the Messiah has been performed 68 times, the Creation 60, Neukomm's David 57, Moses in Egypt 45, Elijah 43, Samson 33, Lobgesang 12, St. Paul 10, the Ninth Symphony 6, Israel in Egypt 5, Mozart's Requiem 2, etc. etc.

Excluded from this enumeration are those occasions when selections only were sung; as well as numerous concerts at which the society formed only a part of the choir, or which were not given under its own direction; the most important of these have been ceremonies of public rejoicing or mourning, dedicatory exercises, musical festivals at New York, and the Peace Jubilees at Boston in 1869 and 72. The number of concerts given during a season has varied in accordance with the public demand: it has been as low as one and as high as twenty-three. Very rarely during the past twenty-five years has a concert been omitted at Easter-tide; and more rarely still has Christmas passed without a performance of 'The Messiah.' The support of the society is nearly all derived from the profits of its concerts. New members pay an initiation fee of five dollars, and it has sometimes been necessary to levy a special assessment to pay off outstanding debts. There is a permanent trust fund, the nucleus of which was formed from the earnings of the festival of 1865, and which, by subsequent earnings, interest, bequests and donations, now (1878) amounts to 12,000 dollars; the income is available at the discretion of the board of government.

Six festivals, modelled on those of Birmingham, have been held. The first occurred in 1857. The fiftieth anniversary was celebrated in May 1865, by a week's performances. Triennial festivals have since been regularly held, beginning in 1868. On each of these occasions, excepting the last (1877), a guarantee fund has been subscribed by the friends of the society.

In pursuance of its avowed purpose to improve the style of church-music, the society, in its earlier days, published several volumes of anthems and hymn-tunes, established lectures on musical topics, and formed singing classes. The publications quickly became standard, and large profits were realised from their sale. Oratorios were also published under its supervision. By these means, and by the generally high standard of its concerts, the society has largely contributed to the elevation of musical taste in Boston, and has prompted the formation of similar associations all over the Union.

The number of members, active and retired (the latter a voluntary condition, after twenty years' service), at present is about 300. The active choral force is 600 strong. The female choristers have never been members, technically, the system of annually inviting the aid of their voices having obtained ab initio. Mr. Chas. E. Horn was the first regularly chosen musical director (1847), the president having until then performed the duties of a conductor, in accordance with a provision in the by-laws. In 1850, Mr. Charles C. Perkins, being president, assumed the bâton. Since then, a conductor has been appointed by the board of government as follows: J. E. Goodson, 1851; G. J.Webb, 1852; Carl Bergmann, 1852; Carl Zerrahn, the present (1878) conductor, Aug. 24, 1854. The following have been appointed organists: Samuel Stockwell; S. P. Taylor; S. A. Cooper; J. B. Taylor; Miss Sarah Hewitt; Charles Zeuner; A. U. Hayter; G. F. Hayter; F. F. Mueller; J. C. D. Parker. The position is now held by Mr. B. J. Lang, elected September 15, 1859.