"Music and the Jubilee"

(July 20, 1897, Issue 35260, pg. 12 col. E)

  To THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

Sir,—The admirable article on the progress of art during the present reign which appeared in your issue of last Saturday bears witness to the increased interest taken by the British public in all artistic subjects.  It seems to me also that the increased development of national feeling in art—especially music—is well worthy of remark.

British music and musicians have gained an amount of sympathy from the public, both here and abroad, that was unthought of 60 years ago.  At that period an English name on a title-page was almost sufficient to at once condemn the composition.

But this unfortunate and old-fashioned opinion is apparently still held by our military authorities.  One would think that on such a thoroughly national occasion as the Jubilee they would gladly display some amount of national feeling in their selections of music, but such was not the case.

For instance, at the review of Colonial Troops held by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace I noticed that the programme of the Grenadier Guards was as follows:—

March ... "Under the Double Eagle" ... F. Wagner
Overture ... "Zampa" ... Hérold
Waltz ... "Wiener Reigen" ... Gung'l
Selection ... "Orphée aux Enfers" ... Offenbach
Waltz ... "Immortellen" ... Gung'l

The above might be an appropriate selection of music for a military review in Berlin or Paris, but it is not so apparent why such pieces should be chosen to welcome our Colonial kinsmen to their Fatherland.    I have examined several other similar programmes, and find to my astonishment that British music on these occasions (with two or three exceptions) has been totally ignored, the preference in all cases having been given to foreign productions.

I have no idea of depreciating either German or French military music; some of the marches in particular, are rich in melody and in accent—are well harmonized and scored, and nearly all have a go and swing which render them admirable for military purposes; nor am I so exclusive as to wish that British music only should be performed at British musical entertainments; but on great national occasions it is not unreasonable to expect that the public should be reminded that British tunes do exist.  I know of nothing more inspiriting than "I'm Ninety-five," "The Girl I Left Behind Me," "Hearts of Oak," "The British Grenadiers," and our whole rich collection of Scotch, Irish, and Welsh national tunes; but most of these, at the recent Jubilee celebration, were conspicuous by their absence.  Yet which would be the most likely to touch the sentiment of our home-coming brethren?  Such tunes as "Home, Sweet Home" and any of the above-mentioned, or marches and waltzes with such unfamiliar titles as "Gruss an Bayern," "Au Secours," and "Unter dem Fenster der Gelibeten"?

It is only in England that should an anomaly would be possible.  It is inconceivable that at a national fête in Berlin the German military bands would confine themselves to performing French and Italian tunes, or that on a similar occasion in Paris songs from the German fatherland would alone be heard.

Our Royal Family, and especially the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, have labored for many years to foster and encourage British musical art.  One would naturally expect that during the Jubilee—the culminating point in her Majesty's Record Reign—all our musicians would have done their best to show that this Royal encouragement has not been thrown away:  but our military musical authorities, with a unanimity and persistency worthy of a better cause, seem to have been determined to show that no practical results have accrued from the efforts made by our Royal Family on behalf of British music.

Apologizing for the length of this letter, which, I trust, may be excused on the ground of patriotism and a jealous regard for my art,

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

A BRITISH MUSICIAN.*

July 17.

* Sullivan confirms that he is the author of this letter in Lawrence, Arthur: Sir Arthur Sullivan Life Story and Reminiscences, London, 1899.

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