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I am happy to know that, in view of the Eisteddfod at Festiniog next year, the musical committee have virtually decided upon adopting the suggestion now made, and this is the case to which I referred just now when declaring my belief that Committees generally would be glad to take counsel with competent advisers as regards measures of reform and improvement.
I spoke, a moment ago, of limitations in Eisteddfodic procedure, and the matter thus indicated is worthy of full consideration. At present I can only discuss it briefly, beginning with the expression of an opinion that music. in Wales suffers generally from limitations, which ought as promptly as possible to be removed. I will tell you exactly what I consider them to be.
One of those limitations is found in the unduly preponderating study of vocal music as compared with instrumental. Observe that I say "unduly preponderating ". Wales is a nation of singers. Singing is, in a special degree, the natural expression of Welsh feeling, and there is no reason at all why we should seek to rob it of that character. But vocal music is only a section of the art which everyone of us desires to see flourish as a whole in the Principality, and for the completeness of which-for the purpose of obtaining from it all the benefits it can confer there should be proportionate cultivation of instrumental music. I have laboured this point before, others have done the same, and I am right glad to say that the beginning of a change for the better is perceptible. But it is, as yet, only a small beginning, and progress is slow. We must have patience, and not conceal from ourselves the fact that there are obstacles in the way. A nation is not easily diverted from the old ruts in which it has long run smoothly and contentedly. Moreover, the study of instrumental music involves difficulties. In
struments are costly; instruction in the use of some of them is not always readily obtainable, and opportunities of association for combined performance do not everywhere present themselves.
The Eisteddfod should help by every means in its power. It should offer strong inducements to the study of instrumental art-among them the distribution, as prizes, of good instruments and good music, with free tuition, as far as it may be available. It should, also, take care that competent students benefit by any engagements which, as a concert-giving institution, the Eisteddfod has to offer. In this way something might be done towards making possible the fully equipped Welsh orchestras which I trust I shall live to see, and to hear which I am prepared to journey to the farthest bounds of the Principality.
Another limitation is connected with the Tonic Sol-fa system. Let not my Tonic Sol-fa friends be excited at this. I was an early, if not a conspicuous adherent to their cause; in long-past years I taught it as well as I was able, and, if circumstances indicated such a course, I should be prepared to teach it again. Music-lovers in this country owe more to Tonic Sol-fa, as an agent of artistic progress among the people at large, than they can ever pay.
But the system, with its beautiful completeness for vocal purposes, and with its easy opening of the doors of the temple where music sits enthroned, has the defect of its qualities. We must look at Tonic Sol-fa not as at itself alone, but with regard to the universal art. The system, after all the good it has done, is but sectional, and sectional, if one may venture upon prophecy, it will remain. But as a first stage towards the higher knowledge and culture-towards full participation in the universal musical life-Tonic Sol-fa is invaluable.
I fear, however, that the musical people in Wales regard the first stage, so easily and pleasantly reached, as satisfying all their needs. No musician will agree to that. It means incompleteness; it means that the vast treasures of music which have not been, or may not conveniently be, translated into the written language of Tonic Sol-fa, must remain for ever inaccessible, and it certainly means that all who are so content are no wiser than the Welshman who, if such there be, remains satisfied with his native speech, and refuses to learn the world-wide tongue in which I am now addressing you.
I believe that the promoters of Tonic Sol-fa rejoice as much as any of us to see their people carry study into what is called the "old notation". They desire this, unless I much mistake them, and therefore would encourage any steps taken to excite among their Welsh followers a "divine discontent" with what has already been accomplished. Here, also, the Eisteddfod can do good service, by offering suitable prizes for knowledge and skill, especially for excellence in sight-singing, which, whether in Tonic Sol-fa or the "old notation", should be encouraged much more than it is. I know that few candidates appear when sight-singing is the test, but that is an additional reason for keeping the matter within the range of public attention.
If I revert for a moment to the limitation imposed by the present choice of works for competition, it is to point out that even under the system now in vogue more might be done to extend knowledge and taste. Again and again are the same choruses and part-songs chosen; Eisteddfod music thus far goes round and round in a narrow circle, and there is movement without real progress.
"Enough is as good as a feast," and I have ventured upon a sufficient number of suggestions for one sitting. Let me recapitulate them :
First, the establishment in connexion with the National Eisteddfod, of an Advisory Board, which may be consulted by the local musical committee at pleasure.
Second, the abolition of money prizes, as far as possible, and the substitution in most cases of rewards directly musical in their nature.
Third, the substitution for fragmentary pieces, in choral competitions, of an entire choral work, any part of which competitors may be called upon to perform.
Fourth, all possible encouragement of efficiency in reading the "old notation".
Sixth, steady and constant effort in every way to enlarge the scope of musical study by the people.
I shall not be misunderstood in giving this advice. I am not now, for the first time, showing an interest in Welsh music, or devoting some hours of a busy life to a consideration of the ways and means by which it may be improved. My motive must be known, but let me say that, as an Englishman, I am not altogether unselfish. There is in Wales a rare capacity for serving our common country in music. Much of it is undeveloped, and it is to the interest of British art generally that the whole should be brought under cultivation. Welsh music does not belong to Wales alone. We all have a share in it through the advantage we gain from its efficiency, and upon this fact, as well as upon my keen sympathy with Welsh effortsin art, I base my claim to tender such counsel as many years of experience and observation have suggested.
DOMESTIC AND DECORATIVE ART IN
THOMAS E. ELLIS, M.P.
I DESIRE at once, and quite unreservedly, to repudiate any claim to speak with authority upon any one of the arts, graphic or plastic, domestic or decorative. I am a mere wayfarer on the Queen's highway, who, in the bustle of the crowd, glances to right and to left to appreciate the beauty or the barrenness of the land; and any remarks which I may make to you to-night, I make, not as an expert, not as one who has any special knowledge or any claim to speak dogmatically upon these matters, but as an observer and a wayfarer.
As we look round upon the life and the activities of our day in Wales, I think we cannot but feel that we are in the glad spring-time for Wales. There are buds and blossoms and flowers of promise in every sphere of the activity of the Welsh people, whether they live in Wales or over the border, and I think in a season of awakening it is right and well and perhaps a duty on our part, to see what is the meaning of the awakening, how deep it is, and into what channels the new life which comes from the awakening is spreading itself.
I think one may say at the start-and one admits it
1 Address delivered before the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion at 20, Hanover Square, on Wednesday, 10th March, 1897; Chairman, Dr. Isambard Owen, M.A., Senior Deputy Chancellor of the University of Wales.