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Fourth Prize Essay - The Educational Value of Concerts.


e-s-dymond.jpgMrs. Emma Stanton Dymond was born in Canada where she says, there was no opportunity of receiving instruction in music. Her father, the late Rev. Rural Dean Mellish, and her mother were both musical. Her father found time to encourage and aid her efforts at self-instruction. Mrs. Dymond began to teach the piano in 1881. In 1886 she was one of the first two women to receive the degree of Bachelor of Music at Trinity University, Toronto. In 1887 she was appointed Teacher of Theory in the newly-formed Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and continued on the staff of the conservatory until 1894. In 1888 she was appointed Lecturer of Harmony in St. Hilda’s College for Women. Mrs. Dymond traveled abroad in 1897 and resided for thirteen months in Leipzig, Germany, and for five in London, England. During her residence abroad she heard a great deal of good music, and studied with Gustav Schreck, of the Royal Conservatorium, Cantor of the Thomas Schule, Leipzig.

“Music has a noble mission in the world. The smallest of its provinces is to amuse.”—Macfarren.


Obviously not all concerts have an educational character. There are concerts, good enough of their kind, but of “such a mighty poor kind” that it would be absurd to consider them as being educational in any respect. Such a program as the following (I give but a third of it, feeling that more is not to be borne) will serve to show my meaning:


1. Orchestra (reed-organ and two mouth-organs), “Mocking-Bird.”
2. Song, “Let Me Kiss Your Tears Away.”
3. Recitation, “Seein’ Things at Night.”
4. Song and Chorus, “Hello, My Baby!”
5. Orchestra, “Home, Sweet Home.”
6. Vocal Duet, “Life’s Dream is O’er.”
7. Dialogue, “From Pumpkin Ridge.”
8. Vocal Quartet, “Come Where the Lilies Bloom.”

I venture to say that in many small towns, and in most country places, this is an up-to-date program, productive of general satisfaction and enjoyment on the part alike of performers and audience. I may go further, and say that higher specimens of art would be beyond the comprehension and musical taste of the hearers. But something may be claimed for this program—it presents a harmless and cheap form of amusement, of which no one can complain on the score of want of variety or brevity. But, musically it is not educative.

But we have other concerts; and how thankful we may feel for the advance in musical taste and appreciation which demands a class of concert such as the program extract below will illustrate! It, too, is one of the day, not uncommon this season-in any one of our larger towns and cities:


1. “Sonate,” No. 2 (Grieg), MM. Petschnikoff and Lachaume.
2. “Hymn a la Nuit” (Gounod), M. Pol. Plancon.
3.     (a) Air (Bach),
        (b) “Moment Musical” (Schubert), Miss Ella Ruegger.
4. (a) Nocturne,
    (b) “Etude,” G-flat,
    (c) “Ballade,” G-flat (sic) (Chopin), M. Mark Hambourg.


In spite of the increasingly large number of good concerts given in our cities and towns each year, the proportion of concert-goers is not so great as it might be. When we except those who go because they “must put in an appearance, you know” (which means the putting on of much fine apparel at home, arriving near the middle of the concert, and leaving some time before its close), those who have, unexpectedly, had tickets presented to them “which it would be a pity not to use,” those who go out of curiosity to see (not hear) a famous artist, and those who are persuaded to accompany some music-loving friend, there remains a small number who will obtain real benefit as well as pleasure from a high-class concert.

It is strange to think that there are many students of piano and voice who do not avail themselves of attendance at concerts as a means of study; who work away at home at a Beethoven sonata or a difficult aria and never dream of the inspiration received from the hearing of these works as given by a first-rate artist. Of course, there is the excuse so often heard “I really cannot afford it. My lessons and my music cost so much!” Well, here the teacher may do something. He may urge that to hear Sauer play that sonata is one of the best of lessons, and, if the poverty plea is genuine, even put a few dollars out at interest in the investment of seats to give to such pupils. He could not do better work in the cause of good music. And, once initiated, there is no more enthusiastic concert-goer than the eager, ambitious young music student, who soon develops a faculty for criticism.

Let us remember to enforce the principle of concert-study wherever and whenever we come in contact with the musically unawakened, the conscientious student of piano, or even the too-busy-to-go-anywhere teacher, and what a change we shall see in our audiences! We shall not have to go abroad to learn to listen to music, we shall not have to defend ourselves against the charge of non-appreciation of, and indifference to, good music, but we shall be helping to build our Temple of Art in America so that posterity will bless, and not curse, us.

When we Benefit by Concert-going.

Now, to put two and two together, and make, not four, but one,—viz.: the relation of study to concert- going.

Given the opportunity of hearing some such concert as the above, whether it be song-recital or piano evening, oratorio or symphony orchestra, let me say that enjoyment will be in exact proportion to the pains taken beforehand to understand what we are going to hear.

“He that hears music without the ability to discriminate its constituents resembles one who witnesses a dramatic performance in an unknown foreign language; who may be charmed by the gestures and the elocution of the actors, and even understand the course of the action, but, understanding not the words that are spoken, must be dead to the poetry of the work.”—Macfarren.

It is hard to make some people understand that there can be a greater or higher enjoyment of music than they already possess. They are so content to bathe themselves in waves of musical sound, and to receive purely sensuous impressions, impressions which fade as soon as received, that we are informed after a missionary appeal to their better feelings: “Oh, I don’t believe that these very critical people do really enjoy music! They are so occupied in thinking about it they have no room for sensation of any kind.” Of the intellectual enjoyment which comes only after the study of form in music, of the history of music, and by the cultivation of the art of listening to music they are satisfied to know nothing.

We must not fail to recognize the good work done in this direction by the many music clubs which have sprung up everywhere. “The study of the lives of the composers and their works” forms the basis on which such clubs meet, and to many bring added knowledge and wider culture as the result of the season’s work.

But individual effort is needed before the real benefit of hearing good music is obtained and lasting impressions secured. We are too prone to ascend the hill of science in a sedan chair, and to do our thinking by proxy. Let us read for ourselves how music is made, and who made it.

“The necessary laws of music are few and simple. We can easily acquire the rudiments of harmony, counterpoint, and form, and when we possess them we shall learn more from hearing the great composers than from all the lectures and analysis in Christendom. To obtain a mastery over the practical application of these laws involves, no doubt, the work of a life-time; but this is not what we want, it is appreciation, not production, that we have in view, and our object demands more of the charity that edifieth than of the knowledge that puffeth up,” says a recent English writer.

This is surely not too much to ask of us, and when this has been accomplished we shall have more intelligent listeners, more intelligent critics at our concerts. Instead of merely admiring the color of Mr. P.’s hair as he sits at the piano, or the agility of Mr. J.’s left hand in “runs,” or the high notes of the new tenor, and the bow arm of the latest importation in violinists, we shall in addition be capable of hearing and feeling the power and beauty of music itself.

The practice of following a performance of a large concerted work with score in hand is advocated by some, discouraged by others. If there should be time for sufficient study of such a work before its performance, it would perhaps be better to leave the score at home. But where only one performance is given, and very little time can be had for study, score-following at concerts is no doubt useful and instructive.

Listening is always more concentrated when the eyes are closed, or when one is in a dark room. From which it need not be inferred that the ideal concert-room should be darkened, nor that the ideal concert-goer is necessarily blind! There is often too much to distract the would-be listener in his surroundings. To say nothing of talking and whispering, the glare of over-lighting, the rustling of programs, and, why does no one protest against the barbarous practice of hand- clapping by way of approval of what has just been enjoyed? Surely, if the truest form of applause is silence, we might be allowed to express ourselves in that way, if in no other. The sudden transition from music to noise is nearly always abominably startling.


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