The Choral Harmony
ByPhillips, Sampson, & Co. pp. 378.and . Boston:
THE great number of music-books published, and the immense editions annually sold, are the best proof of the demand for variety on the part of choirs and singing-societies. Nearly all the popular collections will be found to have about the same proportions of the permanent and the transient elements,— on the one hand, the old chorals and hymn-tunes consecrated by centuries of solemn worship,—on the other, the compositions and “arrangements” of the editors. Here and there a modern tune strikes the public taste or sinks deeper to the heart, and it takes its place thenceforward with the “Old Hundredth,” with “ Martyrs,” and “ Mear ” ; but the greater number of these compositions are as ephemeral as newspaper stories. Every conductor of a choir knows, however, that, to maintain an interest among singers, it is necessary to give them new music for practice, especially new pieces for the opening of public worship,—that they will not improve while singing familiar tunes, any more than children will read with proper expression lessons which have become wearisome by repetition. Masses and oratorios are beyond the capacity of all but the most cultivated singers ; and we suppose that the very prevalence of these collections which aim to please an average order of taste may, after all, furnish to large numbers a pleasure which the rigid classicists would deny them, without in any way filling the void.
This collection has a goodly number of the favorite old tunes, and they are given with the harmonies to which the people are accustomed. The new tunes are of various degrees of excellence, but most of them are constructed with a due regard to form, and those which we take to be Mr. Baker’s are exceedingly well harmonized. There is an unusual number of anthems, motets, etc.,—many of them at once solid and attractive. The elementary portion contains a full and intelligible exposition of the science. To those choirs who wish to increase their stock of music, and to singing-societies who desire the opportunity of practising new and brilliant anthems and sentences, the “ Choral Harmony” may be commended, as equal, at least, to any work of the kind now before the public.