« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the far fields of heaven! They are the attendant spirits of Jehovah ; the invisible retinue of the Most High! And now the sublime, the triumphant hallelujah! The mortal is entranced. The soul is awake only to the consciousness of its immortal destiny. The affections, remembrances, anticipations, joys, sorrows of earth, are paralyzed. The arched vault seems to list itself even to the heaven of heavens; the circumscribing walls recede into illimitable space, and the disfranchised soul springs forth from its frame of clay, and exults in unutterable emotion, as in the very presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords !
That such, under certain circumstances, is the effect of a combination of vocal and instrumental harmony, no one doubts. Nor can we doubt that the Creator made the ear to be thus religiously affected by sounds, as the eye by visible symbols, though more deeply and more permanently.
In our own churches, then, we want this all potent auxiliary for divine worship ; and we must entertain right views of the object of the introduction of sacred music into our Sabbath exercises. But how few there are who do entertain such views. We wish to send up our aspirations of gratitude and devotion to God, through the choir, as we present our supplications through the minister; we wish to be made pure and holy by the sentiments which the music should inspire ; we wish to be made more fit for the acceptable worship of our Father. To accomplish this, nothing but general musical taste and practical skill will serve. We may sing or we may not sing ourselves, — the case is not altered. Without proper knowledge of music and perception of tones, we cannot appreciate or feel music. What a contrast would be presented by two congregations, possessing an equally good choir, the one of which should be thoroughly disciplined to understand musical expression, and the other utterly uneducated to discriminate. How deep, silent, all-pervading, sympathetic, the reverential sentiment in the former! - How listless, uneasy, heartless, the attention of the latter! Then, in order to create or augment this susceptibility to musical expression, even when the worshipper does not unite with the choir in singing, I would most earnestly recommend universal instruction in the art. Still more necessary is a popular musical education, to qualify a congregation to unite their own voices with those of a choir, when they may feel so inclined. No doubt a man with culti
vated susceptibilities, who never sings, may be properly and deeply affected by music; but there are tiines when the soul would utter forth its praise; when it would make a joyful noise before the Lord; when it would glorify Him in loud thanksgivings and ballelujabs. Then let a congregation send up their united and harmonizing voices to the Deity. Until such an end shall be attained, our public worship must be essentially desective; it cannot answer its bigh purpose.
But not only would a general musical education qualify a congregation to feel the music of their worship and to join in it, but it will be the means, and the only sure means, of making our choirs what they should be — of furnishing resources for excellence in music, which are now sought for in vain. There would then be abundant materials from which to select singers. And instead of the timid, discordant, scanty, inexpressive choir, we should have the confidence which would result from knowledge, the harmony which discipline would impart, the numbers which enthusiasm would furnish, and the expression wbich devotional feeling alone could supply; and in addition to all, the judgment and effect of a discriminating taste. We want hymns sung with music adapted to the sentiment, and in accordance with the spirit of a discourse and the impression which it seems to have made upon the audience. A watchful and judicious leader can easily accomplish this, if he have a competent choir. A plaintive minor strain would grate harshly upon the ear at a joyous wedding festival; a rapid and lightlytripping measure would but ill accord with the solemn and tearful ceremonies of the funeral. The fitness of music to the sentiment, whether of an occasion, time or place, gives it its efficacy and value, inasmuch as it acts as the means, not the end; serving the unobtrusive purpose of making more conspicuous and more intense, and of prolonging the emotion excited, while it is itself unseen. This great and most desirable result a well instructed choir can accomplish.
But what are the defects of our choirs, as managed among us generally? Do they accomplish what I have suggested they should accomplish ? Most assuredly not. In the first place, they are not regarded in the right light ;- they are esteemed rather the end than the means. They indeed attract many to attendance upon divine service; but it is those
" who to church repair, Not for the doctrine but the music there."
Such an end it should not answer. In truth when the choristers of a church are regarded only as concert singers, there is an end to all proper devotional feeling. I shall not forget how thronged with anything but worshippers of God, a church in Boston was, upon one of its most solenın festivals. All pressed in with eager eyes and longing ears, for sight and sound of the splendid artiste Caradori. She sang. Her rich, sweet tones touched the ear, but they did not reach the heart. God is not fitly worshipped in bravuras, however solemn; nor in multiplied appogiaturas, however delicately executed. While she sang, who did not think more of the play-house and the concert-room, than of the holy temple of Zion ? more of earth than heaven, of the creature than the Creator? This will serve as illustration of much of the music of our artificial, exorbitantly paid modern choirs. Hundreds, in some churches even thousands of dollars, annually expended to make the music an agreeable pastime,- something to afford pleasant relaxation of the attention, - a refreshing diversity in the exercises, - something to listen to as a performance, — to criticise as such, to adınire as such, and this is all! May we not reasonably suppose that the Lord will hate such vain oblations, and disregard the cry that is but mockery ?
I do not pretend to advise as to the best mode of conducting this important part of public worship. The topic would require more discussion than we have time for, now. Nor is it necessary to decide ibis. Whatever is the mode, it can only be made efficacious and appropriate by such a general instruction as I have recommended. The very expense of our music now, is enough to condeinn it; not but that the true sentiment which the right kind of music should inspire, would be cheaply purchased at almost any price; but if we do not worship, ourselves, it is very onerous to pay a heavy tax to buy worship. Such an arrangement is hardly more to be countenanced than the oriental custom of hiring sobs, and tears, and lamentations, at funerals.
And the voices of children! What a choir are they! How many tears have I seen roll down the unconscious cheek at their simple, innocent, unaffected, feeling voices! Who is not thrilled by the eloquence of childhood? Who is not inspired by its ingenuous earnestness ? Give me, for all the hired musicians of our churches, the touching simplicity of children's voices, sanctified by the associations which must always cling
around any juvenile performances. I listen and am made better; I feel the influence stealing into my heart. There is nothing to chill the flowing current, — nothing to arrest and roll back a spontaneous and outgushing sympathy.
Music can hardly be said to possess an intrinsic power of producing emotion directly, it is merely suggestive. Its chief influence consists in its ordained connection with a thousand manifold associations. It is the associations, not the strain itself, which are productive of pleasure or pain. “We may be able, for instance, to say with certainty that a particular air is pathetic and plaintive ; but what particular sort of sorrow it expresses is left for every hearer to imagine. To some, accordingly, it will impart a vision of mothers, wailing for their dead children ; and to others, of divided lovers, complaining of perfidy or fortune. To one it will speak of the desolation of captive mariners; to another of the moanings of secluded penitence. And this very vagueness and uncertainty, joined with the excitement of the imagination which it produces, gives compass and extent to its power of expression." *
A particular air, delightful as a melody, may be exquisitely painful when linked to associations of a painful nature. Such as the memory of a beloved friend ; of days of innocence lost.
The effect of popular melodies upon a people can be accounted for only upon this supposition. - The Ranz des Vaches speaks to the heart of the Swiss of the snow-crowned peaks, and blooming vales, and glittering ice-fields of the Alps. The Marseilloise transports the memory of the far absent Frenchman, to the sunny hills and genial skies of his native France. The Wild Chase of Lutzow thrills through the veins of the German with an electric power. Our own homely Yankee air fires the breast of the New-Englander with the recollection of ancestral patriotism and national triumph..
So with our choirs of music. — Where the associations suggested are of a pure, elevating character, with such character shall we invest the music itself. Where remembrances of a grovelling and unseemly nature are called forth, such to us will be the nature of the music. Hence the unalloyed and sincere delight with which we listen to the songs of children.
I can but allude to Sunday Schools. The advantage which they may derive from universal musical instruction can hardly
* Ed. Review, Vol. XVIII. Art. Alison's Theory of Taste.
be over-estimated. These institutions are highly and deservedly esteemed; and their interest is much enhanced when all the pupils can unite in singing appropriate hymns. The solemnizing effect, too, which I have heretofore described as produced in a day school, must be doubly consistent and desirable in a school exclusively devoted to religious and moral instruction. And when we consider, too, the delight which singing would give to domestic worship; and how great an aid it would be to the anxious parent in his labors, how, my friends, can we hesitate to make the experiment, at least, of introducing music into every school in the Commonwealth ? And it will be done, — perhaps not every where immediately, - but before long it will be done. And, unless peculiar accidents happen, every experiment will be successful. But let us begin now ; let us set the example ; let the project take root in a few of our cities and large towns, and the wide spreading branches shall drop their goodly fruit in every village of the State.
I call upon the teacher, as he wishes to avail himself of every means to proinote the happiness and moral advancement of his pupils, to make this experiment. I call upon the parent, as he eagerly grasps at even the most inconsiderable aid to enable him to bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to urge onward this experiment. I call upon the philanthropist, as he loves his fellow-men, and labors and suffers for their good, to assist in laying in the fresh hearts of children this great corner-stone of their future happiness. I call upon the Christian, as he values a purer worship and the extension and perpetuity of those blessings which are dearer than life to him ; as he prays that the kingdom of God may come and His will be done, to lend his influence to this measure.
And, lastly, I reverently implore Almighty God, that this measure may meet His approbation and receive its impulse from His spirit, - and that every effort for its accomplishment may be strengthened by His power, guided by His wisdom, and blessed by His beneficent care.