[From Manx Quarterly, #2 June 1907]
BY R. OWEN.
A PLEA FOR CO-OPERATION.
As one gazes on the many natural charms of the Isle of Man, there is surely no escaping the fact that Manxland has been richly endowed with attributes of beauty. Here is an environment almost perfect physically, and one which, with economic adjustment, might become socially, hygienically, morally, and consequently, perhaps, artistically, ideal; and if, in this favoured Isle, there is one lesson which Nature inculcates more insistently than another it is the love of the beautiful.
From the beautiful in Nature to the beautiful in Art is an obvious transition ; and hence it is that the little Island responds to the rhythm of
The tides of Music's golden sea Setting toward eternity.
The charming folk-songs, and much of the interesting folk-lore generally, testify to the musical predilections of the Manx people of the past, while the intermittent activities of the present, especially in the department of concerted vocal music, find expression in performances which are at times so meritorious as to open up vistas of higher and still higher possibilities. Now, these possibilities, once suggested, complete satisfaction with the old order of things becomes impossible. There naturally arises a healthy discontent, which, sooner or later, necessitates advancement. Some of us may, perhaps, feel that progress might be quicker, that more should be done with a view to all round improvement. In the republic of music it should surely be not only the privilege, but the duty of each individual to do all he can in furtherance of artistic achievement, and in this spirit the writer would fain offer a few suggestions.
It is a regrettable feature of Insular musical life that the Guild is so largely the main objective. With the exception of the efforts of the Douglas Choral Union, the sporadic renderings of excerpts in churches, and, maybe, an antique oratorio with emasculated accompaniment once in a decade, musical existence is manifested but once a year at the Guild, apparent death and disintegration supervening, until the arrival of the time for preparation for the next competition brings about once more a revivification and aggregation of the cells of the musical tissue, which, at the moment of climax, ends as before, like the brief, merry love-dance of the May-fly in a summer evening.
Now, the Manx Musical Festival the Guild is not an end in itself. Its promoters never intended that it should be. The competitions are intended to stimulate and encourage the musical activities, and thus serve as means to higher ends; and the salutary experience which the. Guild provides should create a body of capable vocalists from which to recruit permanent choirs in various parts of the Island. At the Guild concert which closes the festival, the performance of the test pieces by the combined choirs demonstrate the value of unity; and in Douglas, if this hint were taken to heart and a spirit of co-operation shown, there should be no difficulty in organising an efficient permanent choir of 150 voices at the very least. Most assuredly Douglas ought to possess such an organisation. This body, constituted on the democratic principle, might be so ordered as to lay under contribution the entire musical wisdom of the Island. At the general business meetings, both honorary and practical members should be allowed to give free expression to their ideas, and encouraged to offer suggestions for improvement. Furthermore, be it noted; we have in our midst capable conductors musicians of peculiar individual talents in various departments, whose several practical experiences embrace all branches of musical endeavour, from competition to concert, from choir to light opera, from oratorio to grand opera. This represents a cumulative mass of knowledge and executive skill which, if available for the suggested Choral Society, would be of inestimable value, and would practically equip our vocal commonwealth for all kinds of work. It might possibly be arranged for each of these musicians, in turn, to wield the baton for a period which could be determined in accordance with the nature of the work in hand, or other circumstances. Thus, then, might be brought into being a musical organism of the highest capability of immeasurable possibility for good; a choir, which, if it did not live like the Handel Festival Choir, inspire a Haydn to compose a " Creation," would truly prove a source from which in the words of Lady Raglan, " proceed good actions an holy lives" ; and would verily exhale a. " breath of divinity and an instinct of the beauty which is eternal."