Page:Great Speeches of the War.djvu/317

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Great Speeches of the War

Our new Armies, as we know, have not been well served in this essential. Of all the admirable qualities they have shown, none is more wonderful than the spirit which has carried them through the laborious and distasteful groundwork of their calling without a note of music except what that same indomitable spirit supplied — out of its own head. We have all seen them marching through the country or through London streets in absolute silence, and the crowd through which they pass as silent as themselves for lack of the one medium that could convey and glorify the thoughts which are in all men's minds to-day.

We are a tongue-tied breed at the best. The Band can declare on our behalf, without shame or shyness, something of what we feel, and so help us to reach a hand towards the men who have risen up to save us.

In the beginning, as I have said, the elementary needs of the Armies overrode every other consideration; but now we can get to work on other essentials. The War Office has authorized the formation of bands for some of the London Battalions, and we may hope to see that permission presently extended throughout Great Britain. Of course, we must not cherish unbridled musical ambitions, because a full band means forty pieces, and on that establishment we should require even now a very large number of bandsmen. But I think it might be possible to provide drums and fifes for every battalion, full bands at depots, and a proportion of battalion bands at half or even one-third establishment. But this is not a matter to be settled by laymen. It must be seriously discussed between bandsmen and musicians—present, past, and dug up—who may be trusted to give their services with enthusiasm.

We have had many proofs in the last six months that people only want to be told what the new Armies require, and it will be freely and gladly given. The Army needs music — its own music, for, more than any calling, soldiers do not live by bread alone. [Cheers.] From time immemorial the man who offers his life for his land has been compassed at every turn of his services by elaborate ceremonial and observance, of which music is no small part—carefully designed to prepare and uphold him. It is not expedient nor seemly that any portion of that ritual should be slurred or omitted now. [Prolonged cheers.]