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FRENCH ORPHEONISTS -FROM FAR AND NEAR. The Paris correspondent of The Times gives the following graphic account of the assemblage of French Orpheonists at the French Exhibition :— It had been announced for a long time past that there would be a grand concert of the Orpheons of France in the Palace of Industry last Friday that these Orpheons would number 8,000 voices, and that they would be accompanied by the hand of the Guard of Paris. A similar concert was also announced for Sunday. I went to this last concert, but found that instead of 8,000 choristers there were present no more than 2,000, and these were all men. About the per- formance of these 2,000 there is not much to be said, at least, not much that will interest you who have listened to larger and more complete choruses in the Palace at Sydenham. They sang a number of French compositions with a precision and with a feeling which drew loud applause from a rather numerous audience. The most novel characteristic of the concert appealed to the sense, not of hearing, but of sight. It was very curious to see these orpheonists, and to speculate upon their history. Here were hundreds of men who had come up from all parts of France, and who seemed to represent every grade in the middle and lower classes of society, down almost to the lowest. They stood up in their places in their common working dresses,—some in their blue smock-frocks, with rough brown hands, great mops of hair, and faces in which one could read a tale of much hardness of labour, much sweating of the brows, and much patient endurance under a fierce sun. Here were hundreds upon hundreds of men attuned to music. They have a fine sense of melody mixing with their lives and yet, when we look upon them, what do we see ? Here is a poor old man with a shrunken copper-coloured face; the struggle for existence marked in every wrinkle of it; here are the youthful scamps of some distant village—young fellows who in an English town would show no sign of ambition or of taste beyond that of carving a cherrystone, or of teaching a terrier to kill rats; here are small narrow-looking men— perhaps they are village magnates-but their lives are spent in a little round of paltry cares and mean aspirations here is a hard-looking tradesman of low degree; here is a dull-looking farmer's lad who seems as if he had not wit enough to scare away the crows, or to tend a flock of turkeys. Of course, there were faces full of intelligence and refine- ment in this great crowd of choristers. But I could not help being struck with the number I saw which seemed to have sprung out of a dull and painful existence to be barren of thought and affluent only of the signs of poverty to be connected with the weari- ''fI- iJ.u_- some routine of contracted lives. They had come from far and near. Some belonged to the valley of the Seme and lived in Paris or near it; but many came long journeys from the south, west, north, and east-from the high Pyrenees, from Vosges, from Savoy, even from Algeria. And with all their un- couthness of aspect they had music in them. If they had no other kind of liberal education, they were at least taught harmony. They seemed to have few graces, but they cultivated the supreme graceful- lies- of song and succeeded in it. One's thoughts could not but travel homewards. We, too, have our choral unions; but are they recruited from such a broad surface as are the choral unions here ? Here we are in a country where, in one form or another, an educa- tion in art seems to be universal. However we may instruct our Gileses and our Hodges at home, we don't expect to instruct him in any fine art. Here Giles and Hodge are artists in their way. Like our hard- working peasants, they may look stupid and awkward, but they can sing. The whole of France is organized into choral unions or Orpheons. They take all sorts of i: antes—sometimes they are Orpheons—sometimes choral unions-sometimes a cercle or club-sometimes amateurs—sometimes friends. One set call them- selves sons of Apello another the children of St. Denis; others again the H .pe of Paris, the Lyre of Roubaix, the St. Cecilia of some other place. I should fill more than a column of your smallest type if I gave you a list of the choral societies of h ranee. These dear Enfants, as they love to call themselves, have been going through their trials to-day, and will have to go through further trials on Monday. The only English Society that has come to contend with them is the Tonic-Sol-Fa Association. It is rather a serious business to adjudicate upon the claims of more than 200 choral unions, which are to be represented in Paris by 8,000 voices, all claiming the prize. The plan is to break them up into batches, and to hand each batch over to a separate jury. The first musical competition of the kind was held at Troyes in 1851, when nine choral unions took part in the contest. There was a similar competition in 1859, when 61 Orpheons contended. In 1864 there was a contest at Lyons in which 200 choral unions entered the lists. At Boulogne-sur-Seine in 1866 there was a contest of similar magnitude and now we have this enormous one in Paris. It is interesting as showing the musical activity of the people. Time was when the Orpheons attempted no more than to sing the simple choruses of the Wilhem School. Now they can attack any composition of any school-the most elaborate works of the greatest masters. As a matter of fact, what they chiefly attack are the compositions of French masters-Halevy, Adolphe Adam, Ambroise Thomas, Gounod, Felicien David, and Laurent de Rille. -==:-






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