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of 1898 and there discuss with them plans and projects. This reform, be it observed, would displace no authority, and create none. It would simply bring to the executive body all the experience and wisdom of experts and place it at their disposal. I am very sure that Committees are ready to take advice, and a case in point, to which I shall refer presently, came under my observation only the other day. A body somewhat like that suggested above does already exist, I am informed, but I am not sufficiently acquainted with its constitution to be able to say how far it meets my idea.
I pass on to another matter-a somewhat delicate one, because it touches, on one side, the amenities of competition. Dealing with this, it shall be my earnest endeavour to avoid offence, and my resolute purpose to speak with plainness and directness.
When attending musical competitions in Wales, I have often had to notice the curiously strong, not to say bitter, feeling they excite. Welshmen are generally credited with keen susceptibility and quick tempers, but, assuming the truth of this, and making allowance for it, there remains much feeling not accounted for. We must not, of course, expect the calmness of a philosopher from the average man who is smarting under defeat. In most
cases he will relieve his mind somehow, and, as a rule, he does it by putting forward evidence to prove that he has been beaten through the operation of causes beyond his own control. But it too often happens that an unsuccessful Welsh choir will adopt the ethics of some football crowds and "take it out of" the adjudicators. The ridiculous absurdity of this course never seems to be perceived-for ridiculous absurdity it is when a competitor accepts a judge before the verdict, and repudiates him after it. I have met with various grotesque cases in
the course of my Eisteddfodic experience, but will mention only the recent conduct of a well-known choir, which declined to sing before certain adjudicators on the plea that, at a meeting held not long before, when the choir was unsuccessful, those gentlemen and their colleagues refused a detailed statement of the reasons which led to their decision. Nobody, I imagine, disputes the right of a choir to accept or reject an adjudicator, or, having rejected him, to keep its motive to itself. But when a cause is assigned, let it at any rate be adequate; let there be some force in it; let it show, on the face of it, some sort of ground for an action of gravity. I will not dwell further on this point. It is notorious that Eisteddfodic contests are often a source of bitterness and ill-will.
How can this arise out of a peaceful competition in the harmonious region of music? A competition taking place among bodies of men and women who are supposed to be one in love of their art, and in agreement that reward properly belongs to highest excellence, wherever it may appear. Other elements must enter into the case, grosser in character and appealing to lower instincts. What are they? I cannot take upon myself to answer positively, but in this connexion I should like to see a change in the form and character of Eisteddfod prizes. Some of these prizes, especially at the national meetings, are of considerable value, rising as high as £200, which goes in the form of money to the winning choir. It is a sum large enough to arouse cupidity; to invest a contest with something like the excitement of gambling for a high stake, and to make its loss felt far more keenly than failure in point of musical merit. Those of us who know anything of human nature cannot but incline to the belief that were money prizes abolished, large sums especially, both competitions and competitors would gain in all qualities
that make not only for peace and good-will but for dignity and manliness.
I am expected, no doubt, to show a better way of rewarding merit. In that, as it seems to me, there is no difficulty. An ideal arrangement might be brought back from the far-away past of ancient Greece, and we might offer to crown successful competitors with a wreath of wild parsley. It is not likely, however, that they would appreciate the honours which satisfied the most cultured people the world has ever known. Nothing if not practical in this paper, I suggest that Wales and her sympathisers should provide a national challenge trophy, to be competed for each year, like the Elcho Shield, and, by the winning choir in the great choral struggle, to be handed over, with all convenient pomp and ceremony to the custody of the Mayor, or other local authority, of the place from which the successful competitors come. In addition to this the costs out of pocket of the winning choir should be paid by the Eisteddfod committee. By an arrangement of this kind there would be no pecuniary loss, and plenty of honourable distinction, which should satisfy every reasonable man.
I would carry the same process through the whole range of minor prizes, eliminating the money element, and offering equivalent rewards in scholarships, free private instruction, instruments, and volumes of music, etc. Every prize would thus be not only a personal reward and recognition, but a means of working up to higher excellence, instead of melting in the hand of the recipient and leaving nothing behind.
It may be said-probably it will be said that an Eisteddfod worked upon the plan just laid down would find itself without musical competitors. I do not think so badly of Welsh amateurs as to believe anything of the
kind. It may be that some sordid souls would seek a cave of Adullam and retire into it grumbling, but the vast majority would appreciate the healthiness of the change, and fresh adherents would, no doubt, come forward, attracted by the enhanced dignity of Eisteddfod procedure. If, however, it should turn out that Welsh musical competitors are mere cheque-hunters, using their art as a means to the end of material gain, knowledge of so portentous a fact seems to me worth buying at considerable sacrifice. Loss sustained in a process of disillusion is often really an excellent investment.
I turn to another matter-one of purely musical importance, and on that account, perhaps, to be considered the most earnestly.
From communications I have received, both through speech and in writing, I gather that some dissatisfaction exists with the present method of selecting music for study, particularly in the choral competitions. The rule is to choose two or three pieces-a chorus, a part song, and so on-and virtually ask the competitors to concentrate their energies within that limited area, during many months of the year. I can imagine no more wasteful and extravagant plan, and I am prepared to dispute its alleged value at every point.
Mark, in the first place, how it tends to limit musical knowledge, which, under another method of procedure, might be extended year by year in a material degree. How much the better is a choir which has spent six months in getting up a chorus and a part song?
It is something the better, no doubt, because all knowledge is good, even a small amount of it, and, of course, the two or three chosen pieces serve as texts for lessons in vocal skill. But consider the waste involved. I declare to you that when the great choirs which competed at
Llandudno came, one after the other, upon the platform, each with its three pieces of music, the knowledge that so much time, energy, and skill, had been expended comparatively to so little purpose made me profoundly sad. Something more than waste of time and opportunity results from the present system. Imagine the deadening effect of constant working at two or three pieces; the liability to come up for the struggle in the condition known among sporting people as "stale", and the temptation which conductors must feel to vary the monotony of practice by fancy readings, and an excess of what may be described as mechanical devices! My suggestion as to a remedy for all this is not now put forward for the first time, inasmuch as it had the honour of being discussed at a meeting of this Society held in Llandudno last year.
Now, as then, I propose that musical committees should name a complete work of convenient dimensions, but always of high character; all the choral numbers in that work to be prepared by the competing choirs, and the adjudicators to declare, just before the contest, what selections from them they wish to hear performed. The advantages of such a plan seem to me strikingly obvious. In the first place, the choirs engaged would master the concerted music of a complete composition and be ready to take part in its performance, either at a concert of their own, or in the service of the Eisteddfod. That is a distinct gain as compared with knowledge of mere fragments, or of such comparatively insignificant things as part songs. In the next place, the choirs, having a larger and more varied task by way of preparation, would find increased interest in their training. Moreover-and this is a point of the greatest importance-the plan I advocate would break through one of the limitations which belong, as I conceive, to Eisteddfodic procedure.