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Temple choir’s war work

26 February 2016

February 25th, 1916.

IN THE TIMES of Saturday last there was a particularly interesting account of a visit of Dr Walford Davies to a military camp. The object of his visit was to set the soldiers singing in an effective way. With him he took three of the gentlemen of the Temple choir. Dividing the soldiers into three groups, he gave each of these a note of the common chord, and, when they had got hold of them, he bade them give them out lustily. The effect seems to have been quite inadequate, at any rate by comparison with the volume of sound the three Temple choristers gave forth in their turn. But, before he had done with his pupils, Dr Davies, by dint of precept and example, not unmixed with kindly banter, made the men sing as they had never sung before. This, we take leave to say, is quite the right way to go to work. It is very well to collect folk-songs and to recommend them for use, but, as a matter of fact, the average Englishman has no notion of singing properly, that is, of using his voice and doing justice to the words. He needs instruction, and it would be an excellent thing if “choirs and places where they sing” were made use of as educational centres for vocal instruction. What we call congregational singing is tragically and pathetically ineffective. Given fine, strong melodies to be sung in unison for the most part, enriched, perhaps, with faux bourdons and occasional harmonized verses assigned to the choir, and diversified by the alternate silence of the male or the female voices, and given also attention to the verbal phrasing, it would soon become delightful to hear a congregation at vocal worship.


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