THE ARTISTIC INFLUENCES OF A CATHEDRAL with a good organist and a capable choir in any town cannot be questioned; and so it is that the concerts which take place with some frequency in Broad-minster and the neighbourhood are usually quite good. The members of the choir are always ready to sing for the many deserving objects that occur to the active minds of the organisers of amateur concerts. One of these ladies, however, made up her mind that people were getting tired of the local tenors, and resolved to introduce a new amateur, whom she had heard sing at Brindlington, for a concert she was getting up for the Ophthalmic Hospital. This gentleman's name was Barton, and he was said to be a very promising tenor of a light quality. He certainly behaved as such when he came to Broadminster to rehearse on the afternoon of the day preceding the entertainment. Dr. Brailey, the organist of the Minster, had kindly consented to play the accompaniments as usual, though his best tenor was to be superseded by the gentleman from Brindlington, and he attended the rehearsal.

Before he had got through the first stanza of the stranger's contribution—a song that the musician had accompanied hundreds of times—he found himself being instructed by Mr. Barton how to play the introduction to the second stanza. Then he found himself told that he was playing too loud: “Keep it down, my dear sir, keep it down—this is not a pianoforte solo,” said the amateur petulently, to the horror of everyone present, with the exception, apparently, of the musician; for Dr. Brailey only smiled and remarked that he hoped he would with practice be able to give the gentleman satisfaction. But even this course of suavity did not seem to produce a good impression upon the amateur: he continued grumbling, winding up by saying—

“Oh, well, I suppose that will have to do,” while he turned his back upon the musician.

But the musician did not seem in the least hurt. He smiled.

He was in his seat at the piano the next evening when the new tenor came forward to sing his song. It occupied, of course, the best place in the programme, and the first stanza came off very well: the high note a bar or two from the close was in itself a feat, but the singer produced it correctly and hung on to it as long as he could, and Dr. Brailey gave him every latitude, not proceeding with the accompaniment until he had quite finished with it.

And then Dr. Brailey did a thing which he alone in the town could do: he raised the key a tone in attacking the second stanza without the singer being aware of it; it was only when he approached the same high note to which he had clung in the first stanza that he began to feel that he was not so much at his ease in forcing it again. He pulled himself together, however, and just managed to touch it—there was no thought of clinging to it now; he touched it and then hurried away from it down the scale, and under covert of the encouraging applause which the singer received the accompanist unostentatiously raised the key again as he dashed into the third stanza. Gratified by his previous success, the tenor went gallantly onward; again he realised that the high note would tax him to the uttermost—he felt that he was straining his voice to touch even a lower note. But what could he do? The copy of the song which he held trembled in his fingers; then he took a quick breath and made a dash for the high note.

He never reached it—his voice broke upon it with the usual comical effect, and the young people in the audience yelled with laughter. A boy scout or two at the back of the hall thought the moment a propitious one for showing how accomplished they were in imitating the everyday sounds of the farmyard; and under such a volley, mingling with the laughter of the choir-boys, one of whom simulated the tremolo of a cat unable to fulfil its engagements in good time, and attempting to produce Chopin's Funeral March from the beginning with a far too meagre orchestra, the singer turned and almost fled from the platform.

It was Dr. Brailey who had to announce to the audience at the start of the second part of the concert that Mr. Barton, owing to a sudden indisposition, would be unable to sing “Let me like a Soldier fall”—the other song that was opposite his name on the programme—but that their old friend, Mr. Stamford, had kindly stepped into the breach and would do his best with that number.

“Loud and prolonged applause,” the Gazette stated, followed the announcement; for Mr. Stamford was the leading tenor of the Minster choir.

Mr. Barton, carrying with him his three encore songs—he had come fully prepared to meet the preposterous demands of an enthusiastic audience—left Broadminster by the night train. And up to this day I believe that he does not know by what diabolic trick on the part of some one he made such a fiasco. He has been heard to declare that no persuasion will ever induce him to sing again in Broadminster, and, so far as I can gather, there is no likelihood of any machinery being set in motion to cause him to break his vow.

I think that the claim which the musical fraternity of Broadminster advance respecting the moral tone of their performances, whether given under the patronage of the Church or not, can certainly be maintained. The Kreutzer Sonata has been placed on the Index Expurgatorius of the Concert Committee ever since Tolstoi wrote a foolish book pointing out whither that composition was likely to lead young people with a tendency toward voluptuousness; and when a lady of a sensitive nature but an open mind submitted to them a song which she had been advised to sing at a forthcoming concert, pointing out where in one line the writer of the words had, she thought, gone a little too far, they considered the matter with closed doors and all females excluded, and decided that her suspicions were but too well founded, and that the offensive line should be altered. This was done, and the honour of Broadminster was preserved intact.

The name of the song was, “It was a Dream,” and the line objected to was—

“We kiss'd beneath the moon's cold beam.”

The shock of this shameless confession was mitigated by the substitution of the word “met” for “kiss'd”—

“We met beneath the moon's cold beam—

It was a dream—it was a dream!”

“Nothing could be happier than the change,” said Lady Birnam. “It left so much to the imagination.”

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