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Woman's Work in Music.

From time to time there have appeared in The Etude accounts of musical societies and clubs composed of amateur musicians, but none which seem to have worked along the same line as the one with which I have the honor to be connected.

For this reason I venture to give an account of our society’s work and scope. Our experience may prove an incentive to many students and lovers of music, who have a desire to combine work and social interests to produce systematic results.

Our society, which we have named “The Crescendo,” is now entering upon the fourth year of its existence—noteworthy fact, as the city in which the club is located has long enjoyed (?) a reputation for indifference to the better class of music.

The number of members is limited to twelve, elected by vote of the society, two negative votes being sufficient to exclude a candidate, thus securing congeniality among the members. Each successful candidate must possess a fair amount of musical education, either in singing or the use of some instrument, enough to enable her to interpret with some degree of intelligence the music of the various composers prescribed in the course of study for the year. Meetings are held every two weeks from October until June, at the homes of the different members.

The program includes a written examination upon the essays of the last meeting from questions provided by the examiner. A record of each person’s work is made, and a prize awarded at the end of the year to the one having the largest number of correct answers. Upon the conclusion of these important preludes the musical program is taken up. A regular subject is assigned beforehand, and each member is expected to take active part either in solos, duets, trios, or in any way she may prefer.

Simple refreshments are offered by the hostess at the end of the musical numbers, affording a delightful means of carrying out the social spirit of the gathering.

The latter part of the afternoon is devoted to a musical game prepared by the hostess. This may be original or a musical adaptation of the many games now in vogue.

The work of the first two years was general in character, but last year a more elaborate plan of study was prepared and carried out, as the following will show:

October 31.—Country, Italy. Period, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Essay, “Music in Italy previous to Seventeenth Century.” Sketch, Scarlatti. Composers: Carissimi, Monteverde, Colonna, Siradella, Rossi, Scarlatti, Durante, Cimarosa, Pergolesi.
November 14.—Sketch, Cherubini. Composers: Cherubini, Lotti, Spontini, Martini.
November 28.—Country, Germany. Period, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Essay, “Music in Germany previous to Bach.” Sketch, Bach and Passion Music. Sketch, Händel and the Oratorio. Composers: Bach, Händel.
December 12.— Sketch, Gluck. Composers: Gluck, Pleyel, Romberg, Clementi, Dussek.
December 26.—Sketch, Mozart. Composers: Mozart, Klengel, Cramer, Hummel.
January 9, 1897.—Sketch, Haydn. Essay, “The Symphony.”
January 23.— Sketch, Beethoven. Essay, “The Sonata.”
February 6.—Country, England. Period, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Sketch, Early Music in England. Composers: Byrde, Purcell, Field.
February 20.— Country, Italy. Period, nineteenth century. Sketches, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi.
March 6.— Essay, “Italian Opera.” Composers: Same as February 20.
March 20.—Country, Germany. Period, nineteenth century. Sketches, Weber, Spohr. Essay, “Romantic School.” Composers: Weber, Spohr, Marschner.
April 3.—Sketches, Schubert, Meyerbeer. Illustrated reading, “The Erl King.” Composers: Schubert, Meyerbeer.
April 17.—Sketch, Mendelssohn. Essay, “The Oratorios of Mendelssohn.”
May 1.—Sketch, Schumann. Composer: Schumann.
May 15.—Minor German Composers. Sketches, Hiller, Rietz, Jensen, Volkmann.
May 29.— Sketches, Franz, Brahms, Becker, Flotow, von Suppe, Strauss.
June 5.—Sketch, Richard Wagner. Essay, “Wagnerian Opera.” Illustrated reading, “The Flying Dutchman.”

A public musicale at which works of Schubert and Schumann were performed was given during the year.

The coming year will be devoted to nineteenth century composers in various countries. In selecting music for our programs, we have kept in mind the saying,

“What is worth doing at all, is worth doing well,” and have taken only the best of each composer’s work, rendering it, so far as we were capable, in a style befitting its worth.

It has often been remarked that in our intercourse neither unfriendly spirit nor friction has developed. The explanation is simple. While we recognize the social spirit in our gatherings, we emphasize the intellectual bond which unites us, and in mutual interchange of knowledge we have thus far found no opportunity for small jealousies.

Emerson says, “Hitch your wagon to a star.” This is tacitly our motive. As we rise in musical and intellectual power, we must inevitably find more room for broadening and increasing our capacities. By this means we hope still to retain and deserve our name, “The Crescendo.”—M. Bertha Robeson, of Newburgh, N. Y.

*****

It is unfortunate, to say the least, that sectional and other animosities played so prominent a part at the late Convention of the Federation of Women’s Musical Clubs, which was held in Chicago.

The press of the country could not restrain their gallantry; but made toothsome morsels of the squabbles, and rolled them under their tongues with a gusto that savored of more than ordinary satisfaction. Sarcasm- tipped witticisms and condescending cynicism colored every reference to the proceedings.

It is to be hoped that the cause for which the real, unselfish workers have been laboring has not been injured by those who sought merely to fill the public eye and ear.

Just how much serious work was done we are not prepared to say, and what permanent good has been accomplished remains to be disclosed by the future which is yet to come.

That Mrs. Sutro did earnest, energetic, self denying work must be acknowledged by all, even by those who refused her their unqualified support. It has been proven that a Federation is among the possibilities. It is self evident that thorough and comprehensive organization, even a centralization of the general direction, must give force and definite energy to all efforts for the improvement of the home and social life of the women of the United States with all the multitudinous benefits implied by development in the life and ideals of the mothers and sisters.

Mrs. Uhl, wife of the former ambassador to Germany, a lady of culture and high social experience and tact, has an alluring field before her as president. The seed sown by Mrs. Sutro and her administration must have fallen into fallow ground in many places, and now let the new officers bend every effort to nourish and cherish the tender plants and bring them to a hardy maturity.

It is to be regretted, however, that the manner in which the contest was carried on, and the rather plain evidence of sectionalism, and, perhaps, even civic jealousy, have left scars that may require some time to heal. And yet we feel sure that the Eastern division of the Federation will turn in, and, with a will, set to work to carry on the work so successfully and promisingly initiated. Nothing is to be gained by division, and everything hitherto accomplished may be lost. The work is here to be done; let the workers not be wanting.

* * * * *

Rupert Hughes contributes an article to the March “Century” on “Women Composers,” in which he says: A prominent publisher tells me that where, some years ago, only about one-tenth of the manuscripts submitted were by women, now their manuscripts outnumber those of the men two to one. While this ratio will not hold in published compositions, the rivalry is close even there. Women are writing all sorts of music. A few of them have already written in the largest forms, producing work of excellent quality and still better promise. It is in the smaller forms, however—in instrumental solos and short songs—that they have naturally found their first success. So good has their work been here that honesty compels the admission that hardly any living men are putting forth music of finer quality, deeper sincerity, truer individuality, and more adequate courage than the best of the women composers.

 

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