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The Woman's Club a Factor in General Music Culture.

An old musical magazine contains a brilliant essay in defense of an arraignment against the English as an unmusical nation, which opens thus: “The charge against the English of being an unmusical nation is one of very old standing, to which the reply (almost equally old) has always been that if we have never been great producers of music, we have at all times shown a great appreciation of those who were.” Without entering into the discussion of why women composers are few, we might clasp hands with the English people of that day and say: If—and notice I say if—women have never been great producers of music, they have at all events shown a great appreciation of those who were. And where is this so much in evidence as in the Woman’s Musical Club, where composers are studied, lionized, and even worshiped with an intensity and interest known to no other art?

It may be interesting to analyze this musical organization movement which has swept over the country with such force as to make a city without one or more of these clubs almost unknown. The question may well be asked: “Is it a healthy growth, indicating a real desire for a better understanding of this art which holds so enviable a place in the refinements of life? Does it indicate a deepening of the emotional and higher life in society, or is it simply a fad, to burn itself into a white heat for a moment, then fade away to give place to another?” Both answers are in part correct.

The Woman’s Musical Club is too old a feature of civilization to be termed exclusively a fad. That there are clubs actuated only by a desire to follow in the lead of fashion, and this based entirely on a superficial desire to be considered cultured, is beyond doubt. But the Woman’s Club, even in this imperfect state, is a mighty power for good. It is impossible to study the great composers and their compositions, to dip even in the most effervescent hummingbird style into the origin and essentials of music without its influence permeating into the heart of things and leaving a desire toward a higher plane. If this is true in the case of superficial club life, who can estimate the value of a real live club life in any community, and most of all in those cities too far away from music centers to be partakers of the highest in the art?

Study the schemes of music education laid down in the published year-books, note the essentials in the way of a knowledge of theory and even of counterpoint necessary for membership in many clubs, read carefully the recital programs, with their clear-cut analysis of compositions, and then say with the skeptics, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it were better far to return to the simple melodies familiar at every fireside than to pretend an interest in what is really beyond comprehension.” But is it possible for intelligent women to live in this atmosphere of the serious side of music without imbibing something of its nature?

Nor is this education only in music. These clubs are made up largely of women whose early life has included a liberal education, many of them college graduates. The club is the only incentive toward a utilization of these early studies in music, and the necessity for frequent essays induces intelligent reading which revives the old thirst for information and leads into other channels.

Suppose we admit it is only a fad. Is it not better to be a victim of a fad of this nature than the thousand and one useless fads of a society life? A will to like music, even though the motive is simply to be in the fashion, produces a power to comprehend. The original motive is swallowed up in a genuine interest in the subject, and an insight into the soul of the art is discovered unawares. When once discovered, the redemption is begun.

How may I better close this appeal for the recognition of musical clubs as a factor in general music culture than by quoting the words of one known and loved by all as a woman and a composer? Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, of Boston, writes: “I can not express too strongly my belief in the value of women’s clubs as a factor in the development of our country. So long as their work

continues to be of the high, earnest character at present shown in many of our cities and towns, so long will the influence for good be felt in the home-life of club members, and in the musical growth of their children. That American audiences display a power of judgment in marked advance of that shown fifteen years ago is largely due to the faithful army of amateurs who by unceasing toil have tried to cultivate a true appreciation of great music and musicians.”—From a paper by Mrs. Charles S. Virgil, read before the Conference on Woman’s Work in Music, at the M. T. N. A.

* * * * *

Mlle. Cécile Chaminade, the well-known composer and pianist, has appeared to a Berlin public and, as could be expected, proved most acceptable. Her piano-playing is of finest technical polish, full of esprit and taste. Her compositions heard were a piano trio, piano pieces, and songs. All displayed a charming nature and were well defined in form, and of fine harmonic structure. “So Fräulein Chaminade,” continues the Berlin critic, “may well boast an undoubted success.”

*****

At the principal examination of the Royal Academy in Leipzig, on March 11, 1898, among other compositions was an original one by Miss Sara Vennerberg, of Sweden. It was entitled “Prelude, Fugue, and Etude for the Piano”—a composition cleverly conceived, and (especially regarding the fugue) there was displayed a by no means superficial knowledge of contrapuntal laws. In performing the composition the composer showed that she was also an excellent pianist.

 

* * * * *

The new director of the Paris Comic Opera, Albert Carré, has appointed a lady, Miss Marie Gillard, to direct the chorus. It is the first time that this position has been entrusted to a woman in a French opera society; moreover, the choice gives general satisfaction, as Miss Gillard is a well-known teacher of singing.

*****

In an article on “The Harp,” from the “Cosmopolitan” of April, the writer says: “Its future seems literally to rest in woman’s hands.”

* * * * *

Miss Leonora Jackson, the young American violinist, is meeting with great success in her artistic career abroad. The leading critics of the Continental and English press all notice her work with warm commendation and unstinted encouragement.

We have received from several correspondents contradictory reports as to the place of Miss Jackson’s nativity. The London “Musical Standard” says she was born in Boston, in 1878, from which place the family removed to Chicago. Her studies began at an early age in that city, were continued in Paris, and later under Joachim, at Berlin. Last October, as noted before in The Etude, Miss Jackson was awarded the Mendelssohn State prize of 1400 marks. It is to be hoped that her own countrymen may have the pleasure of hearing her during the coming season.

* * * * *

The Etude has received a very neat booklet which contains an outline of the work of The Wichita Musical Club.

A survey of the pages shows that the meetings are held monthly, from October to May, and that both literary and musical work is carried on.

Some of the papers are “The Beginning and Development of Pianoforte Music,” “What is Classic Music?” “The Romantic School,” “Music and Musicians in America,” “Woman as a Composer.”

The works rendered were taken from the masters of the classic and modern times. Among the women composers whose works were studied were Clara Schumann, Julie Rive-King, Teresa Carreno, Chaminade, and Mrs. Beach.

The club has about fifty active members, besides a goodly list of associate and honorary members.

A department for chorus work under the direction of one of the members is a feature of the club’s work worthy of mention. It is apparent that both solo and concerted work is necessary to form a well-rounded program.

 

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You are reading The Woman's Club a Factor in General Music Culture. from the May, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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