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Music-Clubs and Their Pitfalls


It can hardly be said that the clubs are getting ready for work, for as yet those who give the most active work and thought to the welfare of these organizations are resting up for the coming season. The growth of the musical-club fad, if so beneficial a function may be termed a fad, is nothing short of remarkable. Every city of any size or importance has one or more. Especially in the smaller cities are the benefits manifold, and in such localities as are deprived of orchestras the study of orchestral works by means of two pianos forms an interesting, as also a large, part of the work. If there be such a thing as a city where the musical club does not exist, the musical people should lose no time in organizing one. But it must not be believed that musical clubs are unalloyed benefits to the art which they stand to serve, nor for the communities in which they are created. The subject has doubtless been dwelt upon before, but it cannot be repeated too often that nothing in the world is so entirely good that harm may not come from it if it be wrongly handled, and one thing must not be overlooked; namely, that, if a club does harm, it does infinitely more injury than the best-conducted club can do good. It will readily be seen, therefore, that it behooves women to go into the work with their entire spirit, that each club and each individual may do. everything possible to bring the influence of good music further.

One of the most serious pitfalls in clubdom is prejudice. Whether this be favorable or antagonistic, it matters very little, the harm is the same. For the greater part, clubs are composed of women who are socially charming, attractive, and altogether delightful, but this in no way signifies that they are competent musical censors. Often the determination to foist a totally incompetent person into prominence for social reasons is ruinous to success, for this same sentiment will keep a competent person out. This has no part or parcel in the elevation of music, but is absolutely the same element that makes society the vapid, inane thing that it is. Under this head we may class the adherence to a leader or a set of officers because some members of the club have the influence to keep them there. In the largest cities we have examples of the effect of this partisanship just as well as in the smaller ones, and with just as disastrous results. Cliques are the death-marks to progress, and few persons who pose as workers in the cause of music realize how little thought is given to music, and how much to glorification of self or of the clique. It is true that the social standing of a club as of an individual is much to be desired and carries weight over those who are in every way better, but of lower caste, yet art is art, and if art be the object, the raison d’être of the club, let this be the first, last, and eternal consideration. A musical club is ruinous to the interests of music and musicians when it invites or accepts free services of professional artists. No person or body of persons is justified in taking that which is a man’s living and giving him nothing in return, not even thanks; for where is the club that does not believe that the benefits to the artist is ten times as great to the club? Not that the club should not have this benefit. It should, by all means, but it should pay for it, and then it would be in position to provide what is really instructive and artistic, instead of picking up the first best that is willing to give services, who nine times out of ten does it because he is unsuccessful and thinks this will help him along. If a man be a stranger, it is undoubtedly part of a musical club’s duty to give him a chance and a hearing, but it should be done on a financial basis, as it is degrading to the dignity of a club to be an object of charity, especially if this favor be accepted from one who possibly needs the money and needs it badly.

Another serious mistake in a club is to use incompetent club members to illustrate examples instead of engaging proper interpreters. What is the object of study if the best results cannot be obtained? Take, for instance, a program given to Bach. There will be a well-written instructive paper, and as illustration different members will be asked to prepare a Bach number. Now, Bach is not easy to play, and in most cases he is criminally misinterpreted. What is to be gained by having a half-dozen members hastily throw together some Bach pieces that even those who know them could not recognize? How much better to pay some authoritative Bach player a moderate amount and have Bach mean Bach.

Musical clubs are also detrimental to the cause of music when the members withhold their support from musical attractions other than those in which the club is personally interested, as music needs all the encouragement and support that a city can give it, and one good piano-recital, or evening of chamber- music will be of more actual benefit than a whole season’s club-work which at best exists only to put people into a more receptive condition when opportunities to hear do come along.

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Without knowing what every club in America is doing, one might still be safe in believing that nowhere has a musical club been of such direct benefit to its members and to the city as

The Musical Club of Warren, Pa.,

has been. Not only did it fulfil its mission in the field of amusement and entertainment in the very highest degree, but from an educational point of view the work of this club has never been surpassed.

The club undertook to have Madame Julie Rivé- King with them throughout the entire month of May. The work consisted of recitals and class-lessons, critical classes, and intimate informal talks whereby this artist imparted her knowledge to those who assembled eager to gain from so authentic a source. The recitals, four in number, were given to the public. It will readily be seen that, when clubs work with such seriousness of purpose and on such a broad scale, they are most vital to the musical life of the entire country.

The Sherwood Club of Cresco, Iowa.

The above club was organized in Cresco, November 14, 1901, and it is very satisfactory to know that the work of this club is being carried on in a most original and beneficial manner. The method of work during the first year was to alternate the study of Mathews’ “Popular History of Music” with the practice of eight-hand arrangements for two pianos, the sessions occurring weekly. The engagement of William H. Sherwood was one of the very delightful and instructive features of the work. For the coming season several artists will be engaged, among whom is Edward Baxter Perry.

The officers of the Sherwood Club are: Pres., Miss Lauraine Mead; Vice-Pres., Miss Bernice Laidlaw; Sec. and Treas., Miss Bessie Johnson.

There is one suggestion to be made, and to a club working with such sincerity of purpose it cannot be taken amiss. I can never be induced to believe that the alteration of so pronounced a form as a Beethoven sonata can be beneficial. The arrangement of the symphonies for eight hands, two pianos, are perfectly in order; for it is the closest approach possible to an orchestral arrangement; but such an arrangement of a Beethoven sonata is likely to be misleading. There are a great number of fine things written in that way, among them the Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann symphonies, many of the Wagnerian selections, the Saint-Saëns Symphonic Poems, the Weber Overtures, the Liszt Rhapsodies and Symphonic Poems, all of which form admirable matter for study.

The Saturday Club of Sacramento, Cal.

Not only is the Saturday Club of Sacramento conducted on the highest plane artistically, but from personal knowledge I am able to state that its membership enrolls more really artistic musicians than most cities of its size can show.

The Pacific coast is a world by itself, and in this way the musicians in that section become more independent. The assisting artists are drawn from San Francisco for the greater part, and the choice has been admirable, including, as it does, the Minetti Quartet, which is capable of presenting chamber-music in the highest and most artistic form. Among the artists engaged last year was Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler, who is happy to state to anyone who discusses the coast and its conditions that a more intelligent audience she has never found in her travels. The Minetti Quartet appeared last season, and is down again for the coming year. One of the most splendid programs that has ever come under my notice is that which was given to Shakespeare. It is herewith presented, being a model of the finest type:

Shakespeare, 1564-1616. Essay, Shakespeare in Music. Illustrations: Sellinger’s Round, Dr. Byrd. Carman’s Whistle. Where gripinge grefes the Hart (Romeo and Juliet), Richard Edwards. Heart’s Ease. Catch (Twelfth Night). Light o’ Love. Violin Solo, Dances from Henry VIII, Edward German. Song, Bid Me Discourse (Venus and Adonis), Sir Henry Bishop. Piano: “Hark, Hark, the Lark!” (Cymbeline), Schubert-Liszt. Illustration: The Pour soul sat pining (Othello), Verdi. Piano Quartet: Overture, “Merry Wives of Windsor,” Nicolai. Song, Under the Greenwood Tree (As You Like It), Carrie Adams. Piano, The Royal Gaelic March (Macbeth), Kelly-Sherwood. Song, Ophelia’s Ballad (Hamlet), Ambroise Thomas. Piano Duet: Overture, “Antony and Cleopatra,” Rubinstein. Songs: She Never Told Her Love (Twelfth Night), Haydn; Sigh no more, Ladies (Much Ado about Nothing), W. H. Pommer; It Was a Lover to his Lass (As You Like It), De Koven; Tell me Where is Fancy Bred? (Merchant of Venice), De Koven. Piano, Wedding March and Dance of the Elves (Midsummer Night’s Dream), Mendelssohn-Liszt. Vocal Quartet, Yon Spotted Snakes (Midsummer Night’s Dream), G. A. Macfarren. Quintet: two violins, flute, ‘cello, and piano, Nocturne (Midsummer Night’s Dream). The program was under direction of Mrs. W. E. Briggs.

For the season of 1902-03 the officers are: Mrs. Albert Elkus, Pres.; Mrs. Louise McC. Gavigan, Sec.; Miss Aurelia M. Waite, Treas. A copy of the Saturday Club’s constitutions and by-laws should be in the hands of every club about to start or desirous of being more successful than it is. The by-laws are more important than one is likely to realize. These by-laws have been draughted with rare skill and insight to the needs of a musical club.

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