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Woman's Work in Music.


Set in motion by Mrs. Theodore Thomas at the Columbian Exposition, a great wave of musical activity in the line of women’s musical clubs has swept over the country. In the directory of women’s musical clubs of the United States, recently compiled and published by Mrs. C. S. Virgil, there are over 225 clubs represented, and exactly one-half of the number have been organized during or since the Columbian year. Mr. Thomas felt so strongly the great influence these clubs, particularly choral clubs, would have on the musical culture of the country, that he gave great help to the movement which Mrs. Thomas so ably carried out. Mr. Krehbiel, in speaking at the informal meeting of women’s clubs at the M. T. N. A. Convention last June, said he thought the influence for good of these clubs could not be overestimated.

So much for the good that these clubs do; but there is an element of evil in them that bids fair to hurt the cause of music. That a little learning is a dangerous thing needs no proof at this late date, and in the wake of this great wave of musical enthusiasm has come a train of dilettantes who organize musical clubs without serious aim or serious work. The recipe for the making of one of these clubs could thus be summed up: Take a high-sounding name, add a good deal of constitution, mix well with by-laws and parliamentary discussion, sing a few songs, play a few pieces, read an occasional paper; season well with tea and talk, and, above all, have a beautiful club pin, and, behold! you have a musical club!

Shades of the great departed! Could Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, and all that noble army know the play that is done under the shadow of their names, wouldn’t they and St. Cecilia herself die a second death?

Again, a strictly literary club will take to itself a musical department, which generally means that some of the members who do not enjoy mental food need diversion, or that the appetites of the club need to be whetted for the physical repast to follow; so a sort of preprandial is served up in the way of a few songs à tremolo, or a tintinnabulous performance on the piano, and, lo! we have a musical department in our club. Notwithstanding this pessimistic view of women’s clubs, there are many that are doing noble work whose example is felt in a large number of communities. It is to be hoped that they will prove to be the little leaven leavening the whole lump.—Ada B. Douglass.

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There was a time when amateur female singers and instrumentalists were looked upon with horror by society people generally, and the term “musical performer” was in very bad repute. All is changed now, because custom has ordained that musicales in private houses are proper and quite in keeping with fashionable functions of all kinds; and whether they are given by women who make music a profession, or whether by those who follow the art only as a pastime, it matters not. Are you a player on any instrument or do you sing? If you can answer affirmatively to either of these questions, then you may consider that you will have no trouble in obtaining a hearing in society circles. The woman who has a superior voice, of course, stands a better chance than the one whose abilities are only of the ordinary quality, but she who can both sing and play is in great demand in fashionable circles in all of the large cities.—” The Metronome.”

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Masculine and Feminine in Music.— Roughly, one can divide composers into two classes: that which appeals to men, and that which appeals to women. Among the first a writer in a London paper puts Brahms, Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, and Schumann; and among the second, Mendelssohn, Grieg, and Chopin. Some composers appeal to both men and women, as Wagner. He says: “I am not at all sure that women really care for what is best in his music. They like his emotion, but do they admire his solidity, the richly embroidered purple of his harmony, the wondrous web of his polyphony, the sombre emphasis of his declamation? All women like Chopin, on the other hand, just as very few women really care for Beethoven unless they be educated musicians—for education balances the influence of sex. Then there are masculine and feminine pianists and violinists. Paderewski appeals more to women than to men, and d’Albert more to men than to women; Sarasate is particularly a feminine violinist, whereas Joachim and Ysaye are not. In order to disarm gathering indignation, I may as well say that by masculine and feminine I do not refer to the mere accident as to whether a human being is born a man or a woman, but to the essential cast of mind and temperament.”

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To the amateur club woman is opened a field of musical study nowhere else obtainable. Not only has she the enjoyment of studying the works of composers, judgment and comparison of their interpretation and execution by her associates; the interesting development of individuality in conception not the least of such enjoyment,—but the advantage of personal active performance before stimulating critics is also hers. No critic is so relentless as the amateur; and while charity comes with advanced knowledge, the amateur finds, perhaps, more stimulus in the possibility of condemnation of her equals than in the kindly leniency of her masters.

There is no means of correctly estimating the value of the amateur club to the musical culture of a community. The incentive to study and the inspiration of competition are inestimable; and the opportunities for acquaintance with classical and modern composers, as also of hearing artists in the profession, are by no other means so attainable. To my mind many benefits would accrue by federation. Interchange of both musical and executive ideas would be helpful in eliminating the many difficulties and errors sure to develop in the progress of the work, and the amateur club thus establishes a national rather than a local plane, insuring more progressive and pretentious results.—Mrs. Geo. B. Carpenter.

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It is feared by many musicians that the work of women’s musical clubs will expend itself without good results; that a sort of amiable faddism will be its characteristic note, and the ladies will hold their meetings and have a nice, sweet time and hear a lot of sweet talk about music, with all the necessary fluffiness, without leaving any more serious impression upon the community at large than a soap bubble. There is something in this idea, and there is a certain line of work in connection with these clubs now going forward which is open to this criticism. I mean now that whole list of lecturing and talking about music which follows those persistent feminine ideals—the syllabub and the candied fruit. It is so easy for a woman gifted with a fine presence, a melodious voice, an angelic disposition (when she is n’t crossed), fond of music and well-gowned (for nothing gives so solid a foundation as this), to stand before an audience and talk amiable iridescence with alleged application to music; a little poetry on the side, occasional references to Raphael and other well-known painters, with a background of angels, sunsets, and halos. If her audience is properly selected, the impression at the end of the effort will be that of having experienced something “quite too sweet for anything.” But its value as an explanatory medium for musical art, or as an inspiring incitation to serious study of music, will be not only absolutely nothing, but worse than nothing. It is the case of the soap bubble again, which, when it bursts, leaves behind it nothing; but at the same time you are “out” a certain amount of soap, which you never get back.

The candied fruit ideal leads to a slightly different production, the enjoyment of moonbeam and halo being rather less; and for stiffening, or as a basis for the saccharine crystallization, a few facts are usually taken, just as they put a string in the kettle for the rock-candy

to crystallize upon. In this way certain facts about composers, epochs, important compositions, and the like, are administered in a sugar-coated way, often very pleasantly, to the patients and without perceptible harm to their musical health.—W. S. B. Mathews in “Music.”

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If there exists in a small town or city a good musical leader with a well-developed overtone and a capacity for organization as well as a genius for programme building, the chances are that, from an educational point of view, the benefit will be inestimable.

The great thing to avoid in such work is that the natural desire for popularity shall lower the standard, and the programme shall be leveled to meet the wishes of the untutored ears that hunger for “tunes.”

That programme making is a fine art can not be denied, and it must be managed with discretion, tact, and judgment.

One can not expect the average untutored listener to be jerked from “All Coons Look Alike to Me” into the exalted atmosphere of a Beethoven symphony, without a pause between stations, and arrive in other than a breathless condition, somewhat stunned, in fact.

But one must ever keep his eye on a pure, high standard, and insist upon intelligent conception.

Lecture recitals, once so novel, now so well known, have been productive of much good fruit.

A small city, suburban to a metropolis, has what would otherwise be a somewhat flat and tasteless winter season, enlivened by two vocal clubs, both admirably managed. Suburban towns frequently depend almost solely upon the attractions of the parent city, and one who has been a resident of a suburb well knows the discomfort during the last numbers of a programme, and the finish is quite often sacrificed for fear the last train will be missed.

These two musical clubs are composed the one entirely of men, the other of women.

The latter club is under a particularly capable leader, who loves music for music’s sake. She does her work entirely for love and receives no remuneration at all.

The club rejoices in the somewhat novel name of “The Dominant Ninth,” and has some fifty members who pay $5.00 each at the beginning of the season, and this supplies them with music and pays the other expenses. There are some 300 associate members who also pay $5.00 yearly, their tickets each admitting two persons to the five recitals given during the season, three of which are artist recitals, while two are given by the club. No single tickets are procurable. The club meets for practice once a week, and is admirably drilled in high-class chorus work.

During the present season two artists’ recitals have been given, namely, Madam Lehman’s setting of the Rubaiyat, and Omar Khayyam’s great Persian Quatrains as translated by Fitzgerald.

This most difficult and praiseworthy piece of work was listened to most earnestly by the audience and was received with enthusiasm. The leader preceded the singing with a brief explanation of the poem and the music. —Mrs. L. E. Chittenden.

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Mrs. Theodore Thomas desires to inform the press, the public, and the amateur musical clubs of America, that her name has been a second time fraudulently used in the circulars of the National Federation of Women’s Musical Clubs, as the chairman of its Board, in spite of her published statement to the contrary and her indignant protest against its unauthorized use in the same connection last fall. Mrs. Thomas wishes to state emphatically that she is not, and never has been, connected with the Federation in any capacity whatsoever, and that the circulars issued by that Association signed with her name as president of its Board, are, so far as she is concerned, fraudulent.


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