Page images
PDF
EPUB

theme, and have poured their rich and inward-deepening melodies into the ears and hearts of those who think and feel for their world. We do not, therefore, enter upon this subject at present; but we entreat of those who can recal those glorious passages, to remember how much the spirit of them applies to the system which has suggested these remarks, and how much may be expected from the coming of a day, when the labourer shall walk no longer as a stranger over his world, and the poor man's garden shall soften the way to his grave.

We must here make an end, for we cannot find one. The subject would lead us further than we think it necessary, at present, to go. We trust what we have written to fulfil its ministry, believing that every attempt which is earnestly made to spread the knowledge of a simple and widely-practicable means of good, must, in these times, be unfortunate indeed, if it awakens no new sympathies, or freshens no old ones. Once more, with a trembling but not a failing heart, we cast our mite into the treasury; with a blessing upon it, it may do the work of a talent.

J. J.

ART. IV.-SACRED MUSIC.

1. Holy Songs, and Musical Prayers, composed or adapted; and Harmonized for four voices, with Accompaniment for the Piano Forte or Organ. By J. R. Ogden. Edited by James Martineau. J. A. Novello. London.

2. Church Music; A Sermon on the Antiquity, Excellence and propriety of the general adoption of the Legitimate Music of the Christian Church. By Thomas Cromwell, M.A., F.S.A. London: J. Green.

1843.

WE hail the appearance of any work, of which the object is to improve the Psalmody, in our places of worship. This is so delightful a part of divine service, that it is surprising, and lamentable, that so little attention has been paid to it. This is to be attributed, partly, to the general deficiency, or decline of musical taste and science in this country. A century or two ago music was much more cultivated; the number of those was considerable who could read plain musical composition, at first sight. In ordinary society, singing in parts was not unusual, and a fine was often imposed at the social board, upon those who were incapable of contributing to the common stock of amusement. Now, it is rare to meet with a person so qualified. From this fact it may be inferred, that it is not so much that we are an unmusical people, as that the cultivation of this taste has declined amongst us since the Reformation. In our Cathedrals, indeed, sacred music has in some degree been preserved as an inheritance from the Catholics, and by the aid of endowments, left for that purpose. But even there, it is not cherished as it was intended, and as it ought to be. In many instances the funds have been embezzled, and the music and the choristers are neglected. And how lame and miserable is the Psalmody in most of our country churches and meeting-houses. How few in our congregations ever join in the singing, or would improve the harmony if they did. To our ear, nothing is more animating, or affecting, than to hear a whole assembly unite in a Psalm of praise. How much more so would it be, if a general cultivation of musical science gave to the public the additional advantages of correctness and taste! We do not mean that the bulk of the population can ever become proficients in this art, but that there may, and should, be such a diffusion of musical knowledge and feeling, as to prevent them from violating the

elementary rules of music, which is so continually done. We are persuaded that public worship would then become more gratifying to those who attend; and it would increase the number of attendants of that class, who by other means are seldom brought within the walls of a sanctuary. The Germans are much more advance in musical science, and practice, than we are. We remember hearing an officer who had served in the Peninsula describe the sublime effect produced by the united voices of the German legion, as they chaunted their national hymns, while marching in that beautiful country, in the dawn of a Summer's morning; and we ourselves recollect the solemn effects of a simple melody, from the voices of the many thousand children who annually sing in St. Paul's Cathedral. For these reasons we have observed with pleasure the efforts which are now making, to render the art of singing popular in this country. We are not sanguine as to the result: but let the experiment be fully tried. If it succeed, (which it must do to some extent,) it will open a new source of amusement and pleasure to the people, and contribute to the advancement of religion and morality. We wish, therefore, success to the work before us.

It opens with an elaborate preface by the Editor, writtenwith more than ordinary skill, and much religious fervour: but we suspect with more zeal than acquaintance with the difficulties attending his proposed reformation in Psalmody. We gather this from the following remark in the preface:

"I have met with many productions belonging to the highest order of sacred poetry, for which no suitable musical expression could be found throughout the usual range of Psalmody. The traditional limitation of Protestant congregational singing to three or four metres, has exercised a more successful restraint on the music than on the poetry of the Church; and a number of the finest hymns in the language must either be excluded from our collections, or be admitted with the certainty of remaining unused. Not content with either dilemma, I submitted my difficulty to a friend, possessed in a high degree of knowledge, to find the music that was wanted, if it already existed, and the genius to produce it, if it did not.”

The present volume is accordingly the result of the labours of Mr. Ogden, who has either adapted or composed the music. The Editor is not aware of the difficulties which he has imposed upon his friend, in calling upon him to append notes to many of the hymns in this collection, for it appears they were "chosen out of the general mass, avowedly for the peculiarity they possess, in differing so much from the metres in common use." Had the Editor been a composer, he would have known that

all music which is gratifying to the ear, is governed by certain laws in its movement, to which musical poetry must conform, not only in rythm but in the very formation of the words. For instance, the word "apt" (see page 16,) is placed under a long note, when it requires a short one. It would be

as difficult to set some poems to music, as a catalogue of household furniture; and of this complexion are some of the "holy songs" in the present work. The great reason why Dr. Crotch's Palestine, of which the words were furnished by Bishop Heber, has never made its way in the musical world, is the misapprehension of the composer, that melodious music could be put to poetry of that cast. It is impossible to set to music "Hammer and Chisel," which expression occurs in that work. Neither is it possible to deal with the hymn, page 22, in the volume before us, by the same pious and learned bishop. Poets often know very little of musical phraseology. They are not aware that a strain of music is so constructed that it naturally divides into aliquot parts. The bars consist of even numbers, as 2, 4, 6, 8, 12; and musical ideas never flow in bars of the odd numbers, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11; and, unless the words, and the sense of the words, move in the same way, the effect is bad, and often ridiculous. In page 17, the unfinished sentence, "Remit all our" is repeated three times before the important word "offences" is given. It follows then, that the composer, to conform to this law, and not break in upon the melody he has formed in his mind, is compelled to repeat certain words in the verse, producing a style of music, wholly unsuited to congregational singing. As far as practicable, Mr. Ogden has done justice to the poems entrusted to him. Some of the melodies exhibit a deep feeling, and are accompanied with an impressive harmony, deviating from the common track of modulation, usually found in Psalmody, and managed with a grace and ease highly creditable to the composer. We particularly admire the airs, in pp. 3, 4, 8, 13, 40.

Some few inaccuracies in accentuation occur; and others, in the length of the strains, may be laid to the charge of the words, for which the taste of the author fully compensates. The book is handsomely printed, and, as we learn from the preface, it "has given great pleasure to the circle of the author's friends, though its plan and performance have deviated so much in sentiment and metre, from the rigour of the ecclesiastical style," we hope, and believe, that the religious public will receive the same pleasure, and form the same favourable opinion of it.

Mr. Cromwell's Sermon is an animated and interesting discourse upon Sacred Music. The author is, perhaps, an enthusiast; but, without some enthusiasm, no great reforms have ever been achieved. Still we cannot help thinking that he has rather overrated the importance of music in our religious service. True it is that the music of the Jewish tabernacle and temple was splendid and imposing; so also in the Roman Catholic churches; but it was the nature and design of these forms of worship to impress the senses. To convince the reason and enlighten the judgment, was not the direct object. There should be a harmony in all these things. A pure and plain faith and worship requires grave and simple music. As to chaunting in our old presbyterian meeting-houses, we confess it does not suit our taste. We do not expect much good from it. When we recollect the design, and the results upon the public mind, of a gorgeous external service, our feeling is, "Touch not the unclean thing." Be as plain and unpretending as possible. Be satisfied with simple poetry, and easy, intelligible, psalm tunes. By aspiring too much, you will lose your proper character and charm. For this reason we do not hear with pleasure of the introduction into some of our places of worship of chants, fonts, and liturgies. It is an assimilation to the Church by which the dissenters will be the greatest losers. It is the construction of a bridge by which the nonconformist may walk over to the church, as well as the churchman to the chapel. If the difference between the two be reduced merely to a few abstract and mysterious points of speculation, the dissenters, we suspect, will be in danger. Our author is of a different opinion, which he supports with much reading, and plausible, if not sound, argument. Speaking of the improvement of church-music, he says, p. 23

"The Establishment has fallen heartily to this work; and much of that warmer devotional feeling which has of late manifested itself in the ordinary attendants upon its services, is, no doubt, the result. Let every sect, I would say, that calls itself Christian, (and in the exact degree that it regards itself as par excellence Christian,) imitate the example. I should anticipate from it more good to the genuine cause of Christ, and even more converts (should it seek them) to its particular views, than from enlarging upon doctrinal differences while the world lasts.”

The next time we visit the metropolis we shall certainly step down to the chapel at Newington to hear the chanting, and to observe how the choir goes on. If such a style of music as the author recommends is to be introduced into our service, how is it to be supported? Where is the musical talent and taste to be found? However, if not our ear, we shall have our eye

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »