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The Music Festival and its Influence

One might almost think that things are not equally divided, when he sees that in some parts of the country there is a surfeit of music and in others there is a famine of that glorious art. But there is much more famine than there should be, and it may be an unpalatable fact, but it must be said, that it is within the power of all the teachers in smaller cities to overcome the aridity to a certain extent. That they do not, is purely inertia or indifference. It is not necessary to repeat the well worn statement that, without the inspiration of hearing music, pupils cannot be expected to advance, and teachers themselves must grow rusty and careless; not so careless, perhaps, as hopeless.


Accepting these facts as a point of departure, there is but one conclusion at which to arrive, and that may seem more difficult than any other. Frankly stated there must be music. Without it, the efforts of the teacher are nearly in vain; without it, the pupil is working in the dark; without it, there is no objective point, no standard, and no possibility of measurement. The risks attending the importation of artists to the smaller cities are greater than those in the entertainment business care to undertake; and they cannot be blamed as it is always a risk. With all the need, and all the talk of the need of music, when the opportunity offers itself there are few who avail themselves of the chance to hear music, and even if the few who care for it do attend, they are not large enough in number to meet the requirement.


It is within the power of every teacher to interest her patrons in the matter if it be properly presented. The trouble is that too many teachers recognize no duty further than an hour spent by the side of a pupil, during which time the pupil is told a few things concerning time and tune, and perhaps the position of the hand. It is no wonder, then, that the pupil is still more anxious than the teacher for the hands of the clock to find their way around the face, which means that it is time for the teacher to go and with her all thought of music until the next visit. Of course all lessons are not given in this spirit, but it is safe to average that nine out of ten are. And even if this be not the exact condition, even, indeed, if the teacher be of very much more ambitious and conscientious turn of mind, the conditions are not such as to induce interest or ambition in the pupil because in the first place he has no consciousness of objective point; he does not know what the teacher is trying to accomplish, and for this very reason his work is as far from satisfactory as it is possible for work to be.


Nor is it enough for children to be of a musical family, to hear music, and even the best, in their own homes. They must also associate with others who have the same enjoyments and who appreciate the same line of thought. Companionship means more as far as music is concerned, than it does in any other run of life or of study; for it is safe to say that as much is accomplished by mimicry as in any other way. Children are born mimics and what they see and hear mean more to them than it does to grown people. A child who is studying music with a careful teacher, who gives only the best works and inculcates only the best principles, should not be permitted to associate with those who are not working on the same lines. This certainly sounds exaggerated, but it is not. I have known children who were brought up on sonatinas and music by Gurlitt, Reinecke, and such writers, to become perfectly unmanageable because the “little girl up street” played a “coon-song” or a march, or a waltz of some sort.


It is not enough to cultivate the music in one’s own home. To create a musical atmosphere, it is necessary to do for the good of the public, everything that can be done, remembering that the outlay is slight in comparison to the good that is accomplished. The remedy that may be offered for the total lack of good music is the Music Festival.


The Worcester Festival.


This is by no means a new scheme; indeed, the history of the Festival, even in America, goes back almost one hundred years; and in England it has been the greatest educator that the country has had. Perhaps Worcester, Mass., has the best record for its festivals; as not only they have been of enormous dimensions, but they have left the stamp indelibly upon that city and its surroundings, which are of a musical refinement that could hardly be expected of a city that has not the symphony orchestra or the string quartet as a steady diet. The festival scheme of Worcester brought into the city a choral organization whose work is done with some definite object; consequently it is done with the utmost care. The works are not the same year in, year out; it has become known all through the United States that many of the great choral works have their first presentation in Worcester at these festival times. The people of that section know what the best music means, for they have had for years one week set aside in the cause of music. The greatest singers have been there; the greatest pianists have played there; the greatest orchestral works have been given there; and the arrangements have been such as to permit the rehearsals to be heard by the public. What this has meant to the musical atmosphere of Worcester is utterly beyond the possibility of estimating.


The Maine Festival.


The organization controlled by Wm. R. Chapman is also doing a most worthy work in the way of bringing the best music available into those cities where, without this, it would not be possible for them to have the orchestra nor the artists. This is the series held in New England through Maine and New Hampshire. The choral societies are permanent, and they are trained by good local musicians, who know and who feel the benefit to their work through the few days of Festival that they enjoy yearly. The entire country in that section feels the growth; and those who sell pianos can tell the difference, and those who furnish sheet-music to such sections are themselves astounded at the advance, not only in the amount of music that is sold, but also in the quality.


Boston Festival Orchestra Series.


Because the need for an orchestra that could be called upon at a moment’s notice was so clear, the Boston Festival Orchestra was formed; and the musicians who compose the organization state, that it is almost beyond belief to note the musical growth of those cities, where even in a smaller way, a Festival season has been instituted. The Festival has become a permanency at Springfield, Mass., and it is well-known that the New Englanders have not only the name for great musical advancement, but they well deserve it; as they leave no stone unturned which may create the musical influence which is necessary for a high state of development.


Every year finds the Festival developing in new fields, and where it appears it is safe to believe that it will grow to be a permanent thing; for the benefits are as obvious as they are immediate. This year brings New Haven into line with a series of concerts to cover three days. The work of H. R. Palmer through the South has been especially welcome, and Richmond, Va., under direction of Arthur Scrivenor, has felt the power of the education; Spartansburg, S. C., owes R. H. Peters a debt for his enthusiasm in bringing about yearly festivals, and only those living in these vicinities can understand the degree of musical benefit derived.


Festivals in the West.


In the West we find the Cincinnati Festivals, under Theodore Thomas, which are of long standing and of deep influence. Ann Arbor enjoys its festival season under direction of Prof. Stanley, and the growth of the interest and understanding proves that his work has not been in vain.


Another name, which must be added to the list of those who are accomplishing fine work with his orchestra in the Western cities, is Adolph Rosenbecker. Through his efforts many festival seasons have been arranged and the continuance of the work seems doubtless. The Rosenbecker orchestra was selected for the Festival tour of Sir Alexander MacKenzie through part of Canada. The Goulet orchestra was used in the Eastern section; this Canadian Festival was conducted on the same lines as those festivals which have spread music broadcast through England. The tour extended as far as Vancouver and Victoria on the Pacific coast, the intention being to remain on English ground.


Festival Plans.


It is within the power of those who live in the smaller cities, to do as much for themselves in music as in other arts which develop or lead to culture, and the fact that there have been so many failures in building a following for musical matters, should not discourage the attempt to do so among those who are earnest in their desires. In the arranging of festivals the business arrangements should not rest with the musicians of a city, nor should a few wealthy and well-meaning philanthropists be called upon for sufficient money to undertake the importation of orchestra and stars. The bills may thereby be paid, but there is no assurance that the attendance will be there, and there is no reason to believe that this can become a permanent institution. The success of a festival can come only through the personal interest of the people as individuals. This can only be enlisted by making them subscribers and co-laborers.


It is a serious mistake to believe that the magnificence of the entertainment will make the success; for it will not. The festival has to be a success through attendance and the interest of the people, and until this is accomplished there is no use in discussing the attraction. Get your organization first; let that organization consist of business men—not of musicians; arrange with the railroad companies to make terms, not only to carry the visitors, but also to get them home on the same night, to avoid the extra expense of hotel bills, and you have a basis upon which to work successfully.


If the business men feel that this is out of their province, it is only necessary to refer to the conditions of Worcester, where, during the week of the festival, the city is transformed. The business houses are filled and every line of business feels it from the restaurants to the dry-goods houses. The city is filled with people, and there cannot be such an aggregation or congregation of people without the business that accrues from them. Regarding the matter from a purely commercial side—that is to say, supposing that it is of no interest to the business men of a city whether their children have the benefit of the musical atmosphere or not, there is enough to be derived in a financial way to make it an object for them to exert themselves. So it remains for the music teachers, the organists, and the music-lovers to interest the business men; it is for them to lay down a plan of action; and the action is to interest all classes, without regard to sect or caste, and the chances are that there is no possibility for a festival conducted upon such lines to be a failure.




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