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REMARKS ON OUR CATHEDRAL AND PAROCHIAL
MUSIC. Our sacred poetry, sung in the cathedrals, is trans scribed strictly from the holy scriptures, and most commonly from the book of Psalms: except only the Te Deum, which is one of the most ancient and approved hymns of the church. This restriction, by which no hymns of no new invention are admitted as a part of divine service, we owe to the grand reformation. This opened to us the fountain of the sacred writings, which had before been locked up, as in Italy. From the same cause, our anthems are likewise given in our own tongue; which, though not so various as the Latin, is yet generally round and sonorous, clearly accented and capable of being adapted to a variety of musical expressions. But while we justly admire the sacred poetry of our cathedral service, must we not lament the state of it in our paros chial churches, where the cold, the meagre, the disgusting dulness of. Sternhold and his companions, hath quenched all the poetic fire, and devout majesty of the royal psalmist?
The character of our cathedral music is of a middle kind: not of the first rank, in the great quality of expression; nor yet so improper or absurd, as to deserve a general reprobation. Too studious a regard to Fugues, and an artificial counterpoint appears in the old, and too airy and light a turn, to the neglect of a grand simplicity, in the new : two extreines, which tend equally, though from opposite causes, to destroy musical expression. Yet, there are passages in Purcell's anthems, which may fairly stand in competition with those of any composer, of whatever country. There are others, who may justly claim a considerable share of praise. Handel stands eminent in his greatness and sublimity of stile. Our parochial music in general, is solemn and devout, much better calculated for the performance of a whole congregation, than if it were more broken and elaborate. In country 'churches, wherever a more artificial kind had been imprudently attempted, confusion and dissonance are the general consequence.
The performance of our cathedral music is defective : we have no grand established choirs of priests, as in France, whose dignity of character might, in a proper degree, maintain that of the divine service. This duty
is chiefly left to a band of lay singers, whose rank and education are not of weight to preserve their profession from contempt. The performance of our parochial psalms, though in the villages it be often as mean and meagre as the words that are sung, yet in grcat towns, where a good organ is skilfully and devoutly employed, by a sensible organist, the union of this instrument with the voices of a well-instructed congregation, forms one of the graudest scenes of unaffected piety that human nature can afford. The reverse of this appears, when a company of illiterate people form themselves into a choir, distinct from the congregation, Here devotion is lost be tween the impotent vanity of those who sing, and the ignorant wonder of those who listen.
The anthem, with respect to its subject, neither needs nor admits of improvement; being drawn from the sacred scriptures. A proper selection of words for music is, indeed, a work of importance here : and though in many instances this will be well made, yet it were to be wished, that some superior judgment would oversee, and sometimes (negatively at least) direct the composer, for the prevention of improprieties. A parallel remark will extend itself almost to the whole hook of Psalms, as they are versified by Sternhold, for the service of parochial churches. There are few stanzas which do not present. expressions to excite the ridicule of some part of every congregation. This version might well be abolished, as it exposeth some of the noblest parts of divine service to contempt; especially as there is another version already privileged, which though not excellent, is however, not intolerable. - The parochial music seems to need no reform: its simplicity and solemnity suit well its general destination; and it is of power, when properly performed, to raise affections of the noblest nature,
It were to be wished, that the cathedral music were always composed with a proportioned sobriety and reserve, Here, as we have observed, the whole is apt to degenerate too much into an affair of art. A great and pathetic simplicity of stile, kept ever in subserviency to the sacred poetry, ought to be aimed at as the truest and the only praise. The same devout simplicity of manners may be attained in the performance, and ought to be studied by the organist and choir: their ambition should lie in a natural and dignified execution, not in a curious display of art. The maxiin of Augustine was excellent, and
deserves the serious attention both of those who perform and those who hear; “ I always think myself blamable, when I am drawn more to the singer than to what is sung.?? But an additional circumstance seems necessary, as means of bringing back church music to its original dignity and use : we have seen in the course of this dissertation, how the separations follow each other in the decline of the poetical and musical arts.
And for the sake of the truth, we must here observe, that in the performance of cathedral music, a separation has long taken place, fatal to its truest utility. The higher ranks of the church do not think themselves concerned in the performance. It were devoutly to be wished that the musical education were so general as to enable the clergy, of whatever rank, to join the choir in the celebration of their Creator, in all its appointed forms : the laity would be naturally led to follow so powerful an example.
MADAME VILLACERFE Was a French lady, of noble family, dignified character, and unblemished life, whose death was distinguished by a greatness of mind, not usual in her sex, and when we consider all its circumstances, unequalled by the inost renowned heroes of antiquity.
The short history of this excellent woman, is, I believe, generally known, and will probably be recognized by many of my readers, but she is so striking an example of Christian fortitude, philosophic suffering, generous forbearance, and angelic love, without the least alloy of vanity, selfishness, or sensuality, that the affecting narrative cannot be dwelt on too long, nor repeated too often.
An early, a mutual affection, had taken place between the subject of our present article, and Festeau, an eminent surgeon of Paris; but from the insurmountable ob. stacles which in those days (1700) so strictly guarded superior rank, all further intercourse was prevented than animated civilities, when opportunities offered, and soft but secret wishes.
The lover would have perished, rather than by a rash proceeding, degrade the object of his affections in the
eyes of her family and the world, and his mistress, taught by love, the omnipotent leveller of all distinctions, though she felt too powerfully the merit of Festeau, who, in the scale of unprejudiced reason, far outweighed a thousand pretenders to frivolous accomplishment and superacial attainment; she nobly resolved
To quit the object of no common choice,
. Several years passed in this honorable contest with the passions ; in which duty and honour triumphed over wild wishes, and selfish appetites. Madame Villacerfe, from an indisposition which contined her to her chamber, but not to her bed, was, by the prescription of a physician, ordered to be bled.
Festeau, as surgeon to the family, being sent for, his countenance as he entered the room, proved the state of his mind. After gently touching her pulse, and a few professional questions, in a low voice, he prepared for the operation, by tucking up that part of a loose dress which covered her arm; an interesting business to a man who had long laboured with the most ardent attachment to his lovely patient, whose illness infused an irresistible softness over her features, and lighted up the embers of an affection, suppressed, but never extinguished.
Pressing the vein, in order to render it more prominent, he was observed to be seized with a sudden tremor, and to change his colour: this circumstance was mentioned to the lady, not without a fear, that it might prevent his bleeding her with his usual dexterity. On her observing, with a smile, that she contided entirely in Festeau's skill, and was sure he had no inclination to do her an injury, he appeared to recover himself, and smiling, or forcing a smile, proceeded to his work, which was uo sooner performed, than he cried out, “ I am the most uniortunate man alive, I have opened an artery instead of a veio.”
It is not easy to describe his distraction, or her composure; in less than three days, the state of her arm, in consequence of the accident, rendered amputatio a neces. sary, when so far from using her unhappy surgeon with the peevish resentment of a little mind, she requested of him not to be absent from any consultation on the freatment of her case, and ordered her will to be made.
After her arm was taken off, symptoms appearing, which convinced Festeau and his associates, that less than twenty-four hours would terminate the existence of one who was an ornament to her sex; the voice, the looks, the anguish of her lover, as well as her own feelings, convinced her of the solemn truth.
This opinion, her earnest and solemn entreaties, on a death bed, not to be disregarded, obliged her friends to confirm, and a few hours before that awful moment, which none escape, and which bold bad men only affect to despise, after desiring the attendants to leave the chamber, Madame Villacerfe addressed her disconsolate surgeon in the following words :
“You give me inexpressible concern for the sorrow in which I see you overwhelmed, notwithstanding your kind efforts to conceal it, I am removing-to all intents and purposes, I am removed from human life and all that remlates to it, it is therefore highly incumbent on me to begin. to think and act like one wholly unconcerned in it.
“ I feel not the least resentment or displeasure on the present occasion, I do not consider you as one by whose error I have lost my life; I regard you rather as a benefactor, who have hastened my entrance into a blessed immortality,
“ But the world may look on the accident, which, on your account alone, I caụ call unfortunate, and mention it to your advantage, I have therefore provided, in my will, against every thing you may have to dread from the ill-will, the prejudices, or the selfish misrepresentas tion of mankind.”
This pattern for Christians, this example for heroes, soon after expired. A judicial sentence, devoting his fortune to confiscation, and his body to exquisite tortures, could not have produced keener sensations of misery and horror, than Festeau felt during her address, which was an emanation of celestial benignity, an anticipating reves lation, a divine ray from the spirit of that God who in. spired and loved her, and in whose presence she was shortly to triumph and adore.
But when he contemplated her exalted goodness and unparalleled magnanimity in suffering pain and mortal ayonies, inflicted by an unhappy man, who, of all others, loved and doated on her most; when he saw her dying look, and heard that groan which is repeated no more, sick of the world, dispirited with human life and its pursuits, angry beyond forgiveness with hiinself, he