Friday, 10 February 2012

Oriana Madrigal Society: Concert Review 1918

I found this rather witty little review in the July 1918 edition of The New Age journal. It does not deserve to be lost in the mists of time.  Mr William Atheling is the pen-name of the American poet Ezra Pound. Unfortunately I am unable to tie down the date of the concert. Any suggestions?

‘With an atmosphere of faded ‘Liberty and Co.’ green, an air of depressed sprightliness, the Oriana Madrigal Society [1] blossomed upon the Aeolian [2] stage and spread through the auditorium. They sang Savile’s ‘Here’s a health to his Majesty’ [3] with an ecclesiastical drag. This song is not a dirge, and half the time would have fully sufficed for its presentation. They came not to bury Caesar but to drink his health ‘with a fa la la.’ The liquor had run very low.
Suburban chapel feeling then dominated the ‘Cuckoo.’ No air of gutter-snipe impertinence was left to that feathered songster, no suggestion of connotations. ‘Cease sorrows, cease,’ wailed out like a neo-Celtic keening. The words do not, perhaps, demand an excess of gaiety, though they may be summarised as ‘Cheer up, we’ll soon he dead.’ But it would have remained a dirge at double the tempo employed.
The slowness in singing all these old songs is probably due to sheer ignorance; to the society’s being too lazy to get up their subject; and to the usual hatred of technique common in such bodies. In the choral work in ‘Hark, all ye lovely saints,’ [4] we heard too much machinery, too much sh-sh-sh, and grr-grr, never the fine light bell-tone which results from skilled manipulation of combined voices.
Mr. O. Collier had some quality, but the sloppy enunciation of his support produced ‘The hunt is ouh.’ for the ‘The hunt is up.’ There was a drag in ‘Three Ravens,’ and not much vigour in ‘Tomorrow the fox will come to town,’ which should be a rough-and-ready and out-of-doorish affair. ‘Sweet nymph, come to thy lover,’ was not a pleasure as given. Nor would that horny old lecher, Henry Tudor, have found due robustezza in his composition, ‘Pastime with Good Company.'
Mr William Atheling The New Age July 25 1918 [with minor edits]

[1] Oriana Madrigal Society founded by Charles Kennedy Scott in 1904.
[2] The Aeolian Hall was located at 135-137 New Bond Street.
[3] Jeremiah Savile’s ‘Here’s a health to his Majesty’ written circa 1690. It was edited by S Gregory Gould and published in 1916. It is now the regimental march of the Royal Army Medical Corp.
[4] ‘Hark, all ye lovely saints,’ by Thomas Weelkes
[5] ‘The Hunt is Up’ by J.F. Bridge


Anonymous said...

The Oriana concert reviewed by Pound took place on 9 July 1918. I know this through a transcription that I have recently made of the diaries of the philosopher and archaeologist R.G. Collingwood. Collingwood was a member of the Oriana Madrigal Society and sang in this concert.

John France said...

Thanks for that! This is fascinating.

John F