英日対訳:トーマス・ビーチャム自叙伝「A Mingled Chime」第13章イギリスの合唱事情(1/2)「庶民は合唱」とは?








The question has often been asked why the English more than any other people are given up so earnestly to the practice of choral singing. I have read many answers to it, of which the least plausible is that of a distinguished British historian who declares that solo singing is favored in an aristocratic society and communal or choral in a democratic. This certainly will not do, for at the time this opinion was uttered the country where, after England, choral music flourished most widely was Imperial Germany, and those in which it was and still remains the most backward are the two great republics, France and the United States of America. There may be something, but I do not venture to say how much, in the rather extreme view of another writer that as we have produced fewer solo singers of rank than any other country of importance the public takes such little pleasure in listening to them that it prefers to make music for itself. Lastly, there is the sadly cynical observation of one to whom any rejoicing of the heart in tuneful numbers is a painful ordeal, that concerted singing does have one clear advantage over other kinds, as it enables a man to let off all the emotional steam with which he may be seething, without hearing in the glorious welter of noise around him either the sound of his neighbor’s voice or that of his own.  




With all respect to the views of those eminent persons I fancy that the true origins of this indulgence of ours are of an antiquity and respectability that make them worthy of our esteem and sympathy. As most people know who have any acquaintance with the history of art the inhabitants of my country during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were more given up to music making than those of any other in Europe; and in castles, cottages, theaters and outdoor shows it was cultivated to the full. But with the triumph of the Long Parliament, dominated by Puritans, plays were forbidden, masques abandoned, the Maypole and the Hobby-horse disappeared from country fairs, all music except psalm singing was discouraged, and in less than fifty years from the passing of the great and pleasure-loving Elizabeth the gayest and most melodious community in the world had become the saddest and most silent. The Merrie England of the Middle Ages was no more, the spiritual and cultural unity of the people was disintegrated and has never been refashioned. For the rest of the seventeenth century its contribution to the development of the art was as nothing if compared with that of its continental neighbors, and abdicating its old-time leadership it seemed content to take no part in the two revolutionary movements of the time, the rise of Opera and the growth of the Orchestra. One attempt after another was made to introduce and establish Opera but without success, and while in France, Italy, and Germany it became and remains the most popular branch of music, in England it has always been the occasional entertainment of a small minority. Although the love and practice of choral singing departed from high places, the memory of its great days lingered in the heart of the populace: but alas, it had nothing to sing. The happy pagan strains of its forefathers no longer appealed to a breed whose main intellectual nourishment was the stern sublimity of the Authorized Version, and who pined for a new vocal strain that would satisfy the religious as well as the artistic longings of a regenerated spirit. Their prayers were answered by the coming of the mighty Handel, who, seizing upon the dramatic stories of the Bible and making the chorus their real protagonist, blazed the trail for the whole of that revival of mass singing which has played a far greater part than anything else in our musical history. For a century and a half the words, song and Handel, were almost synonymous, and with just reason; for since his time mankind has heard no music written for voices which can even feebly rival his for grandeur of build and tone, nobility and tenderness of melody, scholastic skill and ingenuity, and inexhaustible variety of effect.  




But the tide of the movement did not rise to full height until the rapid transformation of the North from a drowsy Arcadia to the busiest industrial area of the universe. The bulk of its new population was Nonconformist, shunned the theater and all other garish pleasures, but swore by the Bible and loved to sing. Life was grim and tedious in its hideous towns, and as there was little that their consciences permitted them to do in the way of amusement, the choral societies grew in size and numbers until they became social gatherings as much as artistic institutions. By the close of the century there were nearly five thousand of them up and down the land, a large number of high excellence, and tidings of their exploits spread over the earth.  




Although England is a smallish country with an apparently homogeneous people, there are striking physical contrasts between the voices of one part and another in a dozen recognizable instances; and of some interest to the biologist should be the manifest dissimilarities between two choirs living only a few miles from one another, traceable without doubt to ancient racial differentiations that time in most other directions has ironed away. It is no insult to the musical intelligence of the South to say that in simple vocal endowment it does not enter into serious competition with the North, although the capital possesses one or two notable exceptions to this rule such as the London Philharmonic Choir, which the genius of Kennedy Scott has lifted to a higher cultural level than any other in the Kingdom. It is the region beyond the Trent where the traditions of the craft are best maintained and its practice most widely diffused, especially in Yorkshire, whose singing is as serious and dour a business as its cricket. I speak of the attitude toward it and not of the performance, for nothing can exceed the solid brilliance of the sopranos or the rich sonority of the basses, particularly those of the Huddersfield district, who in range and power out rival all others, the Russians not excepted.  




As for the chorus-masters, those who made of these raw masses of vocal material (entirely amateur) instruments for the interpretation of great music as flexible and subtle as a fine orchestra, they were a race apart and totally unlike any other class of musician on earth. A small percentage only of them had received an orthodox musical training, and the vast majority were almost wholly without knowledge of any branch of the art except their own. Their acquaintance with the orchestra was negligible, as may be gathered from an occasion when a celebrated member of the craft, apologizing for his maladroit handling of some instrumental passage in an oratorio, said with mixed pride and humility, “I knaw nowt about band, but I can mak choir sing:” and “mak choir sing” he certainly could. What most of them did have were a perfect ear, a refined sense of vocal tone, an appreciation of the meaning of words, and the potentialities of them as carriers of sound, an accomplishment handed down from Tudor days. Often too they were men of character with a distinct capacity for saving an awkward situation of the sort that occurred at a northern festival during my boyhood. The choir had learned under its trainer some stirring piece of the martial sort by a popular composer of advanced age who for some years had not been seen in public. The committee out of courtesy asked the veteran to conduct his own work, and to their considerable surprise as well as embarrassment he accepted the invitation. But owing to some mistake at the last moment in his travehng arrangements, he arrived only an hour or two before the performance, had a hurried rehearsal with the orchestra, and came face to face with the choir for the first time on the platform. It may have been temporary fatigue or permanent loss of vigor, but to the general consternation tire old gentleman began his piece at about half the pace the choir had practiced it, and for the first quarter of a minute the chaos was complete, some of the choir going on, others hanging back, half the orchestra following the conductor, and the rest racing after those singers who were in advance. All at once the audience, which was beginning to palpitate with anxiety, was electrified by the sight of their beloved chorus master rushing wildly from the wings onto the stage and roaring out at the top of his voice, “Tak naw nawtice of him, tak naw nawtice of him, sing it as you’ve larnt it.” And in some miraculous fashion the choir after a few bars of lightning readjustment, struck a common tempo and sang on brilliantly to the end, dragging in their wake both conductor and orchestra like captives bound to a triumphal chariot.