Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

rural labour, will sing "the old and antique songs" of their native valley, in a manner that will charm the most cultivated taste, and even move the feelings,

More than light airs, and recollected terms

Of these most brisk and giddy-paced times;

such songs as that which is described by the enamoured Duke Orsino ;

Mark it, Cesario; it is old and plain :

The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,

And the free maids that weave their thread with bones,
Do use to chant it.

But if it requires little art and study to sing these ancient and simple airs, to sing the melodies of the psalms requires still less. In those parts of the country where attention is paid to parochial psalmody, especially in Scotland, the psalm tunes are familiar to every one; and when devoutly sung by the whole body of a congregation, nothing can be more fallacious than the ludicrous light in which Dr. Burney has attempted to place them. They are, on the contrary, solemn, impressive, and, in a large congregation, frequently sublime. When Haydn heard a psalm sung in unison by four thousand children, in St. Paul's Cathedral, he was moved to tears, and declared that that simple and natural air had given him the greatest pleasure he had ever received from music. In every large congregation there must be many coarse and untunable voices; but the greatest part of the assembly will be qualified, in voice and ear, to sing such plain and simple music with propriety; and in the present state of musical knowledge, there are few congregations without many persons who can

sing at least a correct bass to the melody, especially if the harmony is simply and steadily played upon an organ, and sung by a small choir; or (as in Scotland,) sung by a small choir without an organ.

Dr. Burney's arguments against the use of psalmody are derived entirely from the abuses of it; and, whatever may have been the case in his time, his description of these abuses is much exaggerated as applicable to the psalmody of the present day. Still it may, and ought to be, much improved. The parochial clergy ought everywhere to pay great attention to its cultivation. It ought to form a regular branch of tuition in schools, by which not only an end would be put to the "drawling and bawling," (for Burney's complaint of which there is still some foundation,) but the people would be enabled to sing the different parts of the harmony. Care ought to be taken to introduce into every congregation some collection of the psalms of established character, in order that the harmony may not only be good but uniform ; for a bass taken from one collection, a tenor from another, and a counter-tenor from a third, though good in themselves, may produce nothing but discord, when joined together. Strict attention ought also to be paid to the time of these tunes. They are too often sung as if they consisted entirely of equal notes, which are drawn out to an immoderate length. But they have long and short notes, accent, and rhythmical movement; a disregard to which affords the chief ground for Dr. Burney's charge against them.

The importance of a part of our musical service, in which the whole congregation have it in their power to raise their voices in songs of prayer and praise, is more

and more acknowledged. And the prevailing impression on this subject will naturally be followed by the adoption of the means necessary to invest this portion of our public worship with all the dignity and solemnity of which it is capable.

58

CHAPTER XV.

COMPOSERS OF ENGLISH SACRED MUSIC SINCE THE TIME OF PURCELL.

-CLARKE.-ALDRICH.-CROFT.—

WELDON.

VERS.

BOYCE. NARES.

[blocks in formation]

KENT.BATTISHILL.-ARNOLD.

WESLEY. CROTCH.-ATTWOOD. HORSLEY.-ADAMS.-ENGLISH CATHEDRAL MUSIC.

THE choral music appropriated to the service of our cathedrals is peculiarly English, and differs essentially from the sacred music of every other country. It belongs to the school of composition founded by the great harmonists of the sixteenth century; and the grave and religious character impressed upon it by Gibbons, Tallis, and Bird, has been preserved by the unbroken series of distinguished musicians, who, down to our own time, have devoted their talents to the service of the church. Our music consecrated to religion retains the grand and solemn harmony of the old masters; and, if its melodies have, in the progress of time, acquired additional grace and smoothness, they have not lost the serious and chastened expression which befits the language of devotion. It admits none of those light and tripping measures, which in the words of Pope,

Make the soul dance upon a jig to Heaven,

or rather, draw it down from those heavenly contemplations which religious music ought to inspire, and fill it with the thoughts of worldly pursuits and trifling

amusements.

Some account has already been given of the most distinguished composers for the English Church, down to the latter part of the seventeenth century, including the illustrious Purcell. It remains to notice the most eminent of their successors.

DR. JEREMIAH CLARKE was educated in the Chapel Royal, under Dr. Blow; and was afterwards, along with him, joint organist of the Chapel Royal. A hopeless passion for a lady of rank much superior to his own, threw him into a state of melancholy, which terminated in suicide, in the year 1707*. Being thus

*The death of this "pathetic composer," as Burney calls him, was attended by some singular and melancholy circumstances, which are thus related by that historian :

"Early in life he was so unfortunate as to conceive a violent and hopeless passion for a very beautiful lady, of a rank far superior to his own; and his sufferings, under these circumstances, became at length so intolerable, that he resolved to terminate them by suicide. The late Mr. Samuel Wiely, one of the lay-vicars of St. Paul's, who was very intimate with him, related the following extraordinary story, which he had from his unfortunate friend himself :- Being at the house of a friend in the country, he found himself so miserable, that he suddenly determined to return to London; his friend, observing in his behaviour great marks of dejection, furnished him with a horse and a servant to attend him. In his way to town, a fit of melancholy and despair having seized him, he alighted, and giving the horse to the servant, went into a field, in the corner of which there was a pond surrounded with trees, which pointed out to his choice two ways of getting rid of life; but not being inclined to the one more than the other, he left it to the determination of chance; and taking a piece of money out of his pocket, and tossing it in the air, determined to abide by its decision. But the money falling on its edge in the clay, seemed to prohibit both these means of destruction. His mind was too much disordered to

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »