I wrote extensively about Scottish song-collector Alexander Campbell and his early 19th century Albyn’s Anthology collections, in my PhD. And my subsequent monograph. I’ve talked about him (a lot), and during the pandemic, I contributed a chapter to Steve Roud and David Atkinson’s essay collection, Thirsty Work and other Legacies of Folk Song (London: The Ballad Partners, 2022). So it’s gratifying to read a nice review of the essay collection in the April-May 2023 issue (no.324) of London Folk.
Campbell feels like a distinct ‘blast from the past’, after I’ve spent the past three or four years mainly thinking about more recent song collections. But I’m very pleased that other people seem to share my interest in this fascinating man!
When my first book was published in 2013, my dear friend clarsach-player and composer Dr Karen Marshalsay played at the book-launch, performing a tune that she had written especially for me. ‘Dr Karen McAulay of the Books’ has been included in Karen’s album, The Road to Kennacraig– you can hear the tune here.
Karen’s playing ‘my’ tune at a gig in Crail on 18th February 2023 – clarsairs have a much more interesting and varied existence than librarians! – but I’ll have to content myself with listening to my CD or the digital rendition. I feel very privileged to have a tune named after me.
I was just tidying up some loose ends in the chapter I’ve been writing. There was a music professor called John Greig who looked after things at Edinburgh University in between Reid Professors. Friedrich Rieck got the job – Greig didn’t. Within a decade the press was reporting his taking up an organist post in London. Then acting as an external examiner for the London College of Music, and finally principal of his own college – the British College of Music – in 1908. He died within a couple of years of opening it, having funded it largely out of his own pocket, but with a handful of shareholders holding a tiny fraction of the shares.
A contemporary magazine said it was just a money-spinning exercise. Okay, but it did advertise from time to time, notwithstanding Greig’s demise, so it clearly continued at least a little while. I also found reference in an Australian source, suggesting it was went on being a money-spinner for a while.
Here’s the thing: on the face of it, it appears still to be offering music exams to this day. I found reference to a modern professor in the UK, who offers masterclasses to students wishing to take ‘British College of Music exams’; there’s even a masterclass coming up in Ochanomizu, Japan this month (February 2023). However, I suspect that the professor actually means ‘exams offered by British music colleges’ rather than an institution by that name. Capital letters and word order make such a difference!
I don’t really mind. It has absolutely nothing to do with my research, and I stopped before I fell any further down the Alice-in-Wonderland-type rabbit hole. Anyway, I don’t need to mention the institution in a book about Scottish music publishers!
I have contributed an article about the first organist of Neilston Parish Church, to the Glasgow Society of Organists for the September 2022 issue of The Glasgow Diapason: Newsletter. It doesn’t really relate to my own musicological research, apart from its connection with amateur music-making in the West of Scotland in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, but I thought I’d share it here as well, since I had a lot of fun writing it!
Trains, Trossachs, Choirs and the Council
Dr Karen E McAulay, Neilston Parish Church
Moving from an Allen organ in a post-war church, to Neilston’s historical tracker action instrument, I’m enjoying the new playing experience, and change of scenery getting there. My research interests in Scottish music history mean I’m also intrigued by the church’s long past. Although not everyone is enthralled by local history, I love finding out what mattered to people in their everyday lives, and I wondered what I could find out about the very first organist. As you’ll see, someone – the organist himself? – kept the local press well-informed about his activities.
Neilston got its Conacher organ in 1888, when the church decided their three-year old harmonium wasn’t sufficiently supportive of congregational singing. Two ladies of the congregation made generous donations, the balance being found by the rest of the congregation. The organist, master grocer Hugh Gibson Millar (1859-1932), had inaugurated the harmonium, and now led a ‘select choir’ in a grand Friday inaugural musical entertainment, accompanied by Mr Fraser of Queen’s Park Church. The new organ occasioned a new pulpit being built, the old one banished to the manse! (The old manse has been demolished, and the pulpit disposed of before living memory. Maybe when the bachelor incumbent was promoted heavenward, his successor didn’t want this extra furniture.)
Neilston village had not only a flourishing church choir, but also a Tonic Sol-Fa Society. (Despite classically-trained musicians regarding the sol-fa system disparagingly, it was undeniably the means of many working and not-so-working class singers learning to perform music, at home or in a choir, from the late 19th century well into the 20th.) Some people were in both, causing problems when the same day was double-booked for a concert in December 1888. There was a flurry of angry “letters to the Editor” about this, with Neilston Parish Church Musical Association wading into the fray!
Millar was the son of a Kilmarnock shoemaker. Marrying in Kilmarnock, he lived and worked as a grocer in Glasgow for a couple of years, but they moved to Gertrude Place in Barrhead sometime between 1881-1883. By 1896, he had shops in Barrhead and Neilston, and the following year he was advertising for a boy to work in an ironmonger’s shop.
Ambitious and undoubtedly talented, he got a Mus. Bac. from the University of Trinity College, Toronto in 1896. This external qualification (early distance learning?!) was discontinued in 1897, and the University merged with the University of Toronto not long after. By the 1920s, degrees like his were dismissed as bogus by many. Nonetheless, the press reported significant exam successes by his pupils. (Millar’s degree was reported by the press in connection with any musical activity, but not with his trade.) The year he got his degree, one of his female pupils excelled in practical and ‘Musical Knowledge’ exams with Trinity College London, whilst in 1901 Robert Craig of Barrhead got top marks in Musical Knowledge, and was reported as studying organ, harmony, counterpoint and music history with Millar.
The newspaper reported a Christmas service led by Millar and the choir in 1898, including what was performed. The choral items later appear in the United Free Church of Scotland Anthem Book (1909), clearly popular choices.
Smith, R. A., How beautiful upon the mountains,
[Elvey or Hopkins] Arise, shine, for Thy light is come
Hatton, J. L., Let us now go even unto Bethlehem
Batiste, Édouard, Angelic voices [organ]
Handel, G. F., March in Scipio [organ]
Choir outings were popular in the two decades before the Great War. (You have only to look at eBay listings for choir trip postcards!) The Barrhead News reported an outstandingly successful choir outing by train to Callander and the Trossachs, led by Millar and the Revd. Robert Barr in June 1899. They had a great time, with unspecified high jinks in the railway tunnel between Queen Street and Cowlairs; a picnic by the banks of Loch Katrine, provided by the young ladies of the choir; and singing and violin playing on the way home, arriving back at 11pm. An evening party on another occasion seems to have ended after midnight! Being in a church choir plainly enhanced one’s social life.
Within a month, though, he was moving to play a Willis organ at Clark Memorial Church in Largs – reported as a step up, with a good organ and a better salary. Indeed, his census return in 1901 finds him living in a fine terraced house with a sea view on Aubery Crescent, Largs with his wife and thirteen-year old Andrew. Millar was described as an organist – not a grocer – and Andrew as an organist’s apprentice. Hugh and Sarah’s two older boys had clerking jobs, and were apparently staying with an ironmonger’s family back in Gertrude Place. The Millars seems to have had homes in both Largs and Barrhead from then on, as later confirmed by his death certificate.
He was barely at Clark Memorial two years, when the Barrhead News announced in September 1902 that he had left, and was resuming music teaching in Barrhead. His home, ‘Hughenden’ in Gertrude Place, by now had a Conacher organ of its own, available to pupils for practising; there’s no further mention of being a church organist.
1903 saw him becoming local secretary for an examination board called the International Music College, a one-man concern run by a music-teaching organist in London. Millar also made enquiries about the water supply for a water-powered chamber organ – another domestic instrument, or was he moving the Gertrude Place instrument? – in a house he proposed to build on Neilston Road. Described again as a grocer, 1904 saw him standing for election as a councillor in Barrhead. The following year, Councillor Millar, Mus. Bac., FRSM, did have all his qualifications reported! In time he became a bailie, and finally, Provost.
Millar died in 1932, in Aubery Crescent, Largs, but his death certificate gave his usual residence as ‘Sandringham’, Paisley Road, Barrhead. The Scotsman published his obituary:- ‘Hugh G. Millar carried on business in Barrhead, was a member of the Town Council for about 25 years, and served two terms in the civic chair. He also represented the burgh on Renfrewshire County Council for a long period. He had a residence in Largs for 30 years, and took a keen interest in local municipal affairs, being Chairman of the North Ward Ratepayers Committee. The ex-Provost, who was 73 years of age, is survived by a widow and three sons.’
A man of many talents, he seems to have had a comfortable, varied and interesting life. His shoemaker father would never have guessed that his tradesman son would end up probably the first Barrhead provost with a music degree, a diploma, two homes and his own chamber organ!
Followers of this blog will know that you can look at historical piano teaching materials in the libraries that hold legal deposit collections. Nowadays, there are a handful of big national and university libraries in the UK that still receive one copy of everything published, under statutory legislation. But there are other libraries – especially in Scotland – that also received this material, until the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Theodore Latour was pianist to King George IV – Victoria’s uncle. He taught privately and at girls’ schools, played and composed, and also wrote some piano tutor books. As it happens, Emily Bronte had music by Latour in her collection, including one of his books of progressive exercises, although I haven’t examined that particular publication. (Robert K. Wallace mentions it, in his Emily Bronte and Beethoven: Romantic Equilibrium in Fiction and Music.)
It’s possible to find copies of some of Latour’s works online via Google Books, IMSLP or Archive.org, so if you’re interested, we could point you in the right direction.
I have been experimenting with other ways of talking/writing about the Stationers’ Hall Georgian legal deposit music corpus. Here are my Saturday afternoon efforts. Have you tried any such audiovisual presentations in your own research? Do you find them helpful?
We’re delighted to share our first guest blogpost, by Dr Brianna E Robertson-Kirkland. It’s fascinating to read about this Georgian musician’s passionate interest in copyright!
As the reigning primo uomo at the King’s Theatre from 1774-1778 (and then briefly again in 1784), Venanzio Rauzzini enjoyed many privileges. A handsome salary, opportunities to compose his own arias and some pull when it came to casting; the castrato used all of his clout to demonstrate his versatility in the music industry. Prior to his London residency, he had shown an enthusiasm for composition as well as singing, having composed the opera Piramo e Tisbe, performed for the Bavarian court in 1769 and ‘two or three comic operas […] which has been very much approved’ (Rice, 2015: 6 & Burney, 1775, 1:128). His passion for composition did not diminish as he continued to write opera, songs and even instrumental music after his immigration to Britain. Composing opera in which he starred also gave Rauzzini the opportunity to showcase the talents of his young students. Vocal teaching was just another strand in his multidimensional musical career. One such student, Nancy Storace, debuted on the operatic stage as Cupido in Rauzzini’s L’Ali D’Amore at the tender age of 11 as well as performing alongside her master in the cantata setting of La Partenza in 1777.
Opera in London was constantly surrounded by gossip and scandal. Moreover, claims of copyright were a tricky, controversial subject. Arias and songs were frequently removed from one opera and inserted into pasticcio. Such light-hearted theatre entertainments resembled a patchwork of favourite operatic numbers held together by a somewhat loose and generally absurd plot. While one arranger would oversee such a production, lyrics and occasionally the music were altered, blurring the lines between arranger, editor and composer. Expectations from singers added an extra complication since they frequently added their own unique flair to arias to ensure originality. If a singer was known for singing a particular aria, it was generally expected they would utilise it as a suitcase aria, inserting it into operas at their demand. The composer’s name usual appeared, even when a suitcase aria was performed, but when singers names were branded on title pages, often in a bigger font, it is not too far of a leap to assume the singer felt an equal sense of ownership.
This is perhaps why the controversy between Rauzzini and fellow composer Antonio Sacchini became so heated. Not only had the two written an opera of the same name, L’eroe cinese, the similarity between the two was remarkable, leading to gossip that Rauzzini had ghost-written the original for Sacchini (Rice, 2015: 126). There was a further claim that Rauzzini had composed most of his own arias when playing the leading role in Sacchini’s operas. This was not uncommon, as Rauzzini often composed his own arias, though it was unusual that Sacchini should gain the credit. Neither benefitted from the controversy and afterward Rauzzini was far more diligent in claiming authorship over his work.
Michael Kassler’s comprehensive list of Music Entries at Stationers’ Hall, 1710–1818 reveals from 1795 onwards Rauzzini regularly entered his compositions into Stationer’s Hall including all 14 songs appearing in A Periodic Collection of Vocal Music published in two volumes in 1797. However, Rauzzini neglected to enter his Twelve Solfeggi or exercises to be sung by the voice (1808) – a final publication that provided a legacy for over forty years’ experience in vocal teaching. In his preface, Rauzzini writes:
I think that after a practice of thirty four years in England, during which time, I have had the opportunity of reflecting on the different dispositions and abilities of a great many Pupils professional as well as Dilettanti, my opinion may be relied on, and my advice followed, therefore, confiding on that Experience (1808: 1).
If this treatise was to be his legacy, why not enter it too? Did he not fear that his work could be stolen or claimed to be someone else’s work? The solfeggi are excellent examples of vocal exercises, but they lack an indicative style (which was perhaps the point of such exercises) that could make it more difficult to identify them as Rauzzini’s work. That being said, Rauzzini died just two years after this publication and before his second volume A second sett of solfeggi for the voice was published. Perhaps, he was simply too old to care. Or perhaps, there was a different attitude towards singing treatises in terms of copyright? Though there are some entries for music treatises listed by Kassler, compared to song compositions they are relatively few. This begs the question: why were music treatises not regularly entered?
While Rauzzini’s treatise continued to be recommended by other masters as late as the 1830s, his original treatises was manipulated and bastardised creating Exercises for the Voice, consisting of various solfeggi, collected from manuscripts of the late Venanzio Rauzzini (1817). While the title was careful not to claim Rauzzini as the creator a quick read of the preface reveals its origins – none other than Rauzzini’s 1808 publication with several alterations to make it more appealing to a ‘beginner’ consumer. This had never been Rauzzini’s intended clientele having written his original for more advanced students.
So what was the relationship between copyright and the education manual? I have to admit prior to this Stationer’s Hall project, I had not thought very much of it. Then again, treatises were being churned out at such a rapid rate with every teacher claiming a unique or original method of teaching perhaps it is an area that begs for further research.
Burney, Charles. 1775. The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces, second ed. London: T. Becket, J. Robson and G. Robinson
Rauzzini, Venanzio. 1808. Twelve Solfeggi or Exercises for the Voice to be Vocalised, London: Goulding and D’Almaine
Rice, Paul 2015. Venanzio Rauzzini in Britain. Castrato, Composer and Cultural Leader, New York: University of Rochester Press
Brianna is Lecturer in Music (Historical Musicology) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and Course Convenor (MCLNC) and Performance Course Facilitator at the University of Glasgow.