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Societies exchanging Transactions.
Folk-Lore Society: F. A. Milne, Esq., 11, Old Square, Lincoln's Inn.
Gaelic Union for the Preservation and Cultivation of the Irish Language: Rev. John Nolan, O.D.C., Honorary Secretary, 10, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Hamilton Association: George Dickson, Corresponding Secretary, Alexandra Arcade, James Street North, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
National Eisteddfod Association: T. Marchant Williams, B.A., Honorary Secretary, 64, Chancery Lane, W.C. Philological Society, University College, Gower Street, W.C.: F. J. Furnivall, Honorary Secretary, 3, St. George's Square, Primrose Hill, N.W.
Powys-Land Club T. Simpson Jones, Honorary Secretary, Gungrog Hall, Welshpool.
Royal Institution of Cornwall: Major Edward Parkyn, Secretary, Truro.
Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland: Robert Cochrane, F.S.A., Honorary Secretary and Treasurer, 17, Highfield Road, Dublin: George Dames Burtchaell, M.A., Secretary, 7, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin.
Smithsonian Institution: Washington, U.S.A.
Society of Antiquaries: W. H. St. John Hope, M.A., Assistant Secretary, Burlington House, W.
Society of Arts: Sir H. Trueman Wood, M.A., Secretary, 18 and 19, John Street, Adelphi, W.C.
Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language: J. J. MacSweney, Secretary, 19, Kildare Street, Dublin. Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History: J. Machell Smith, Honorary Secretary, Bury St. Edmunds.
Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion.
MUSIC IN WALES.'
A FEW years ago I had the honour of reading, before the members of this Society, a paper on the same subject as that which I now offer to your attention. I then laid stress upon the importance of promoting the study of instrumental music in Wales. This attracted a great deal of attention, and some steps were taken towards the establishment of a National Musical Association, charged with the task of organising the resources of the Principality, with a view to widen and deepen its musical culture. The attempt came to nothing. Its energy soon faded away, and matters reverted to their former state. shall not take up any of your time with speculations as to the reason of this collapse, since it is more important to look present facts in the face, and consider what may now be done in a different manner, perhaps, but with the old object in view.
1 Paper read before the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion at No. 20, Hanover Square, on Thursday, the 14th of January, 1897; Chairman, Mr. John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia), Harpist to Her Majesty the Queen.
In the paper to which reference has been made, I, while advocating the establishment of a National Musical Association, recognised the value of the Eisteddfod as an agent in promoting musical culture. On this occasion, a separate and independent organisation being apparently impossible. I shall ask you to consider with me whether Eisteddfodic procedure can be better adapted than it is to meet the needs of the time.
On the face of it, and having regard to the conditions. of modern progress, we are encouraged to conclude, even without investigation, that usages which have remained unchanged for many years must needs, in an age of advance, have fallen behind. My acquaintance with the Eisteddfod in its musical aspect extends over thirty years, and I am bound to say that its procedure now is-unless memory has played me a sorry trick-pretty much what it was in 1867. There are the same competitions, on the same subjects, and carried on under the same conditions. Meanwhile the needs of the art, as a popular study, have greatly increased, its standards have been everywhere raised, and its methods, as well as the principles upon which the methods are based, have changed. Is the old machinery capable, as it now stands, of dealing with so much that is new in material? General experience makes us pause before answering this question in the affirmative. It points, indeed, with resolute finger, to a negative reply. I have good reason to believe that the need of reform is widely felt among Welshmen of education and culture. Many letters have reached me from such persons, all of them expressing a more or less earnest conviction that the musical section of the Eisteddfod should be made to do better work than at present, and that both the character and method of its competitions are capable of great improvement.
If I may take this as indicating a growing opinion among the leaders of Welsh thought, the prospect is distinctly bright. In some cases, however, I hear a note not so much of reform as of revolution. The whole system of competition is now and then denounced, and I know at least one efficient choir in Wales which resolutely abstains from it, believing that more good is done by careful practice of choice music with a view to concert-giving. My own opinion is that competition is a very valuable feature in the musical procedure of Wales. We do without it almost entirely in England, and, on the whole, prosper without it, but consider how different are the circumstances. In Wales the competitive system is that upon which the educational influence of its most venerable institution is based. The Welsh people delight in it, as all who have attended an Eisteddfod well know, and I have yet to discover signs that they would be likely to give it up under any conceivable circumstances. For good or for evil, Eisteddfod music is competitive music, and so it will remain. Why should it not be altogether for good? If there be a weak point, strengthen it; if the machinery creak and jar, carefully oil the bearings; if any part of it seem ill-adapted to new requirements, take it away, and replace with better. This, as it seems to me, is the safest course, because the most progressive within the limits of a wise conservatism.
Here I reach a very practical consideration, and the first suggestion which I have to offer.
I have not hastily formed an opinion that the constitution of the Eisteddfod, in its musical section, is defective as regards the power which controls it.
When the highest authority of the institution has chosen a place of meeting, all musical arrangements are, as I understand it, left in the hands of a local Committee,
made up of more or less influential persons, known to have sympathy with the art, and, in many cases, to possess some knowledge of it. No one exceeds myself in admiration of the zeal and devotion which the musical committees of the Eisteddfod bring to their work. All praise to them for what they have done in the past, and what they are still doing with, if possible, augmenting earnestness. But, for the most part, the members are persons engaged in business, whose acquaintance with musical necessities is limited, perhaps, to those of their own immediate neighbourhood, and who in few cases, I imagine, keep touch with the general advance of music. This being so, the more conscientious a committee is, the more it is likely to distrust its own initiative, and the more disposed to fashion its procedure upon the usage of the past. May not this explain-to some extent at any rate the unenterprising, almost changeless character of musical doings on the Eisteddfod platform? I have reason to believe that the Committees themselves often feel the disadvantage under which they labour, and it is not an uncommon thing for members to seek advice from persons who, as they suppose, are qualified to give it.
What can be done in this matter? Nothing, I venture to say, that shall deprive the local Committee of its power and responsibility. That body must still be supreme, but it may be counselled, and my suggestion is that the National Eisteddfod Association should appoint a distinct and independent advisory board, made up of persons in Wales and England whose musical knowledge and ability command general respect. This Board should simply act as "honorary standing counsel", giving its advice when the local Committee asks for it, and at such times and places as may be convenient. The Committee of 1899, for example, might meet the Advisory Board at the Eisteddfod