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Quotations on Music & Art

Frances Ridley Havergal

A Vision of the Christian Life

"To me the overture to the Lobgesang is a vision of Christian life, with its own peculiar struggles and sorrows as well as joys. It is the sixth, seventh, and eighth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans in essence. The mingling of twilight yearnings, ever pressing onward, with calm and trustful praise, ever pressing upward, is an almost unbearably true echo of the heart, especially in the Allegretto agitato; then the Andante religioso is the still, mellow glow of "light at eventide," to which one looks forward; then I go just one step farther, and find a fore-echo of the eternal song in the burst of vocal praise, after the long tension of the voiceless overture."

True Pitch and the Fall

"Is not the tendency of the human voice to fall from the true pitch, one of the results of "the Fall"? Adam and Eve must have sung in tune, like the birds. How wonderful it is, that the birds not only sing their own songs in tune, but all the songs always seem in tune with each other, except the cuckoo, when passing from his major third in May to his minor third (or even second) in June!

May not one apply this to the dissonances within, that stun and bewilder and weary us, and believe that if we are indeed God's chosen praise-harps, all that is not as yet tune is but the tuning, which is not in itself beautiful."

Nothing So Healing as Music

"Next after prayer, nothing is so healing and calming as pouring out oneself in music. Not in singing; there, one is limited by words, but playing, it restores the balance marvellously. Conventionality would forbid this "antidote of medicated music" in some sorrow*, but in such one can have the outlet of words and the balm of human sympathy; music seems an especial medicine, for all things in which this is not to be had, or could not be sought."

Handel's Overwhelmingness "Messiah"

"Of the chorus "And the glory of the Lord" (Handel's "Messiah") I shall never forget the impression of its first bars at the Birmingham Festival, 1867; it gave such a sense of clear sunny grandeur, massive open-browed stateliness, and fearless, glorious, overwhelmingness; a musical expression of one's ideal personification of TRUTH, majestically going forth conquering and to conquer."

Music is the First Translation of Feeling

"Poetry is a second translation of the soul's feeling; it must be rendered into thought, and thought must change its nebulous robe of semi-wording into definite language, before it reaches another heart. Music is a first translation of feeling, needing no second, but entering the heart direct."

Music is the Universal Language

"Music seems the only universal language understood by men of every tongue and age, and by the angels too. It is an alphabet of the language of heaven, not any more equal to it than an A B C book is to Milton. Why should such a mysteriously subtle and unaccountable gratification have been provided for us? Verily He is Love!"

Gigantic Orchestra's Sometimes Needed

"The magnificent massive choruses in the "Israel in Egypt" need a gigantic orchestra to give scope for their great swing of grandeur. The mighty flinging of sound from side to side, in some of the double choruses, is what might be carried out if Handel had Salisbury Plain for his concert room, cannon for his basses, an army for his tenors, and angelic legions for his sopranos."

Sacred Art

"Rubens' sacred paintings impress one with his wonderful art, Vandyke's with the reverent love he betrays for the subject itself."