CHAPTER V. Music--William Vincent Wallace
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Music--William Vincent Wallace.
I HAVE already spoken of my having been taught to play the flute when I was a youngster. My music-master was Samuel Wallace, an old bandmaster in the 17th Regiment. He was a charming player, warbling exquisitely on the flute, and playing upon many other instruments nearly as well. He was the father of William Vincent Wallace, the well-known composer, who was a first-class performer on the violin and pianoforte.
The first concert that I ever attended was one given by Wallace the son, in 1837 or 1838. He alone performed at this concert, first on the violin and then on the piano. It is hardly necessary to say that I had never before heard such music. I sat by the side of my dear old grandmother, who, always ready to indulge me, had taken me with her to listen to Wallace's warblings. I was fairly entranced, confessing that I had at last heard something that I could never forget, and I then and there resolved that I would try and become a player myself.
This man, William V. Wallace, who had thus tickled my ears and filled my young soul with indescribable sensations, became, not many years after this, a very great man indeed in the musical world, establishing a reputation that has outlived him. All who know his music, will not be slow to admit that the lovers of melody are under great obligation to this composer. I have not a word to say here of the preference shown by many in these days of musical culture and development to the new school of music becoming fashionable 3 but I am not myself so far gone in this direction as to have outgrown my love for simple and flowing melody. The best proof of the claims of Wallace to be regarded as a tuneful composer is that his music still lives, is as popular as ever, and holds its own in these days with new works of a host of new writers.
I would like to say a few words as to variety in music. To my mind, that is one of its chief charms. It is calculated to soothe and
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excite. My own experience prompts me to confess that there are times and seasons when my nerves are thrilled, my heart touched, and my thoughts are raised by sounds sweet and simple; and there are times, also, when my mind or soul, as well as my heart, craves and longs for something fuller and greater, higher and holier. It seems to me strange that anyone should have ever thought it a suitable thing to say that only one class of music should be tolerated and taught. There is a beauty and perfection in natural music, as certainly as there is in music the outcome of cultivation. Not all the world are yet musically educated, and even if they were, there is still a wonderful variety in the many schools of music. Italy represents one; Germany another; France a third; and, let us in all diffidence add, England another. I am not quite sure that in these days, when there is such a craze for culture, so called, and such a passion for something new and startling, that music may not suffer by the many attempts to perfect it. Plain speech, plain writing, simple and natural manners are still in high repute in the world; why not, then, strive to preserve, in all its purity, simple and natural music? Let us have variety in music, as we have it, unquestionably, in all other things. Diversity is a law of Nature. It has been written of the voice, "There are many kinds of voices in the world, and none of these is without signification." May it not as truly be said of music, "there are many kinds of music in the world, and none of these is without power to move us." I should as soon think of maintaining that one class of music only is worthy of being cultivated as that all my friends should be of one age, of one type, or of one nationality. I have had many friends in my time. They have been of all ages and various nationalities, and of different idiosyncra-cies, and I have loved them none the less in discovering them to have been not cast in the same mould. Were a man to invite me into his orchard and to tell me to help myself to one kind of fruit only, where there was a great abundance and variety, I should not know what to think of him; and were he to show me into his garden blazing with a variety and a profusion of beautiful flowers, and to tell me to fix my gaze upon one sort exclusively, I should wonder at his folly. When men are in a mood to make ornamental plantations, they keep before themselves the necessity of variety, even contrast. And when poets rave about loveliness in women, there are as many to be found praising blue eyes and fair hair as there are
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those who are ready--on paper--to lay down their lives for a flashing eye and a dark skin.
Music in all its varieties is one of heaven's best blessings--without it this world to some of us would be a dreary place to linger in. With music at command, we have always within reach a something to excite or to soothe us. I think and speak of music, of melody and harmony, as of twin sisters. I am enamoured of both, but wedded to neither.