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Choral Societies and Their Progress.

BY HARVEY B. GAUL.

There is perhaps, no surer indication of our musical progress here in America, than the work now being done by choral societies. When one compares it with the work of some years ago, the older societies seem to stand midway between the present societies and the cross-roads “singin’ skewl.” That the choral society is a permanent institution is assured, for one has only to look at the small cities, (or towns and villages) to see a Tuesday Club, or a “Fortnightly Study Section” in flourishing condition, ready to attempt any sort of musical work.

It makes no difference whether the town is a flag-station or a division point; there you will find a small coterie of folk—a nucleus—who have ideals, and believe in the musical uplifting of their fellow creatures. From this chosen band of disciples grows the choral society. In truth we owe much to such organizations as the “Culture Club,” and similar bodies for the advancement they have given to music in their native towns.

In one respect America may be likened to Wales, for every fair-sized township or hamlet, nowadays, fosters its choral union—Gesangverein—or Oratorio Society. This is really a good way of estimating our rapid strides in the making popular of worthy music, and is but an indication of the trend of the time. It is part of the wave of improvement and reform that has spread over the country. Our orchestras, choirs, public schools, teachers,—even traceable is some of the advancement to Carnegie organs—have all contributed their no meagre bit toward this popular sentiment, this fine evolution, this desire for finer and better works, and of which the choral society is a big means toward the end.

Works are received and requested nowadays that a few generations ago were impossible, so incomprehensible were they to the average audience. Programs now feature Elgar, Coleridge-Taylor, Debussy and others, who, not long ago, were way beyond the scope of the ordinary auditor, (not to mention chorister.)

Then again we have a capella singing—the perfection of ensemble that directors are working hard to achieve—a style of singing, common in the old country, somewhat new to us, though we are fast becoming acquainted with it as conductors realize and religiously strive for that goal.

What a great mission the choral society has, its aim and object being to give the very best, and one of the highest forms of music; so that really it is an educative force, for it puts before the people—sometimes musically unlettered—the choral works of the masters. Many who have not had the opportunities or advantages of a musical education have learned, through the choral society, either as singer or listener, to discriminate between the meretricious and that which is good; truly no mean knowledge. The charity concerts, which have so freely been given and with great expenditure for assisting soloists etc., have played a great part. Generous indeed have the organizers been in providing these musical benefactions, and great has been the fruit of their efforts. Think of the joy some of this music must have kindled in bosoms, where noble thoughts were unfamiliar visitors and often unwelcome guests.

Verily, a choral society is a godsend, if properly managed and guided, to the community in which it has its home, and a benefit which cannot be overestimated. A long life and a prosperous one to every body of singers our country o’er.

 

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You are reading Choral Societies and Their Progress. from the July, 1906 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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