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Our library gable. I


Our library gable. I MUSICAL AND PERSONAL EKCOLLBCTIONS DURING HALP-A-CKNTUR.Y. By Henry Phillips. Two vols. London: Charles J. Skeet, King Wiliam-atreet, Charing Cross. The writer of the volumes now before us is one of the English School of musicians who has done much to ad- vance its fame and sustain its character. For some years in the latter part of the first-half of the present century, the orchestra of no concert or musical festival was con- sidered complete, if Henry Phillips was not one of its principal vooaliits; and although he has now retired from that position, he is still vividly remembered by his sur- viving contemporaries, who who will read these "Recol- lections of the past with considerable interest. Oar great vocalist was born on the 31st of August, 1801; and is now, therefore, in his 63rd year. Born to a fortune," he was penniless before five years of age." His father, Richard Phillips, a barrister, preferred the stage to his profession; and married Miss Barnett, a handsome, bright-eyed little lady, of Hebrew and German extraction," in 1800, at St. Paul's, in Covent Garden; and soon after lost all his fortune, by venturing upon management. He purchased a circuit," says his IOU, in Wales, which included Swansea, Merthyr, Bre- con,Carmarthen, &c., where in a marvellously short space of time, he managed to run through all his property, even to some rows of houses in Euston Road, London. The "Adam and Eve," and a number of dwellings on each side, wouhl, but for this mishap, have belonged to me (until of late years they bore our name), but now the once rich heir was a houseless child." The loss of property led to the breaking up the circuit; and, in 1809, his father accepted an engagement at Harrogate, in Yorkshire: but not in the York Circuit," then held by the celebrated but eccentric Tate Wilkinson. At Harrogate young Phillips was instructed by his father in declamation, made to read Sterne and Milton and grounded in the rudiments of Latin." But he had scanty lessons and few opportunities of improvement. As money was needful,—instigated by the success of Young Betty, his parents appear to have entertained the idea of bringing Master Henry Phillips forward as a Roscius. But he would neither act, dance, nor tumble; he could, however, sing, having an excellent voice, very high, clear and flexible, and had sang many songs before he could speak plainly, which were taught him by his mo- ther," who had been an apprenticed pupil to Dr. Hook, the father of Theodore Hook, and the Dean of Worces- ter and the musical conductor and composer at Vanx- hall Gardens,—some years before the popularity of that ooce famed establishment sunk to the nadir. His sing- ing propensities settled the question; and it was arrang- ed that he should make his debut in." the Bay of Biscay," which he was to sing in character." Unfortunately there was no sailor's jacket in the wardrobe of the Company small enough for him and the ingenious tailor of the establishment, sewed up the little tail of his jacket behind, so as to make it into a round one; and as this constituted a hump, he was cautioned to be very careful not to turn round, and shew it to the audience. In this attire he made his debut; and he thus describes thid important event in his life,-lie being in his !)th year. The play over, there I stood in nervous excite- ment, paiuted and plumed for the task. The scene was set art open sen—painted on the back of some other scene, where the wood work was more prominent than the water, and an unmistakable evidence of a street door appeared in the middle of the oeean. All was ready tingle went the bell, up went the curtain, and the glorious orchestra, which consisted of two fiddles and a German flute, struck op the symphony. As I strutted on in the midst of a flash of lightning,—which electric effect was produced by a candle and a large pepper-pod, filled with the dangerous elements, while somebody tthook something behind the scenes with the intention of inducing weak-minded people to believe it was thun- der ;—my reception was very flattering, a storm of ap- plause before the curtain, seemed to strike awe into the storm behind, and I began my theme—' Loud roared the dreadful thunder; pointing my finger towards the left hand side of the stage, as if the storm came from that direction—which unfortunately it did iiot-it was a little oversight. At the termination I was again loudly applauded. The whole company shook hands with me, all the ladies kissed me, and, in fact, I was the great lion of the evening." Henry Phillips had many years of struggling,-first as a singer in choruses, for which he used to obtain 5s. a night; and this partially failing, he cultivated a taste he had for drawing and colouring. "My ambition ever soaring," he writes, ray brain never still, I visited all uorte of coach houses, stable yards, cow-houses, pig- styes, &c-, to make drawings of anything I could find, that had form and colour,, arranging little groups that bad something like originality about them and having got together a tolerable collection, I put my port-folio under my arm, and entering London by Piccadilly," (his father then lived in Chelsea Common), went into the first shop I came to, at the corner of Sackville-street, which looked a very likely place for my object." He, however, could find no purchasers; so he returned home: drew a mimlier of tapes across the sitting-room window, to which he pinned his pictures, varying from Is. to Id. each and soon effected sales. At that time, Rudolph Ackerman was publishing some of those coloured pano- ramas, which first made his fame in England, A person connected with his establishment was attracted by the youthful Henry's display, and offered biut an engagement to colour engravings. He accepted it; and, he lells IU, "iK tiut wlouriog he laboured eight and tea bouri a day, for nearly two years; and frequently earned from 30s. to ?2 a week, which not only contributed triweh M i the comfort and support of his family, but also e?MM him to purchase cheap copies of the songs of Haydn, and Mozart, from which he commenced his study of the great niastora.Ifi,.i was indeed a pursuit taf mu- sical knowledge under difficulties. He had been articled to several teachers, but had never had a good master; and had no instrument. A laundress, however, who had in her younger days been a dancer and chorus- singer at some of the London theatre made his ac- quaintance, through a really elaborate drawing of a laundress's drying-ground," which he had displayed in his window. She possessed a very consumptive piano- forte, with very thin legs, one pedal, and a register of nearly five octaves," to which she allowed him constant access. He then limited his colouring to six hours a day and passed all the rest at the piauo-forte. It is true," he confesses, he had not much voice, you might almost say, not any but there peeped, every now and then, a sort of evidence of its coming." He persevered, and it did come. We, who lived when he was in his youth, know how well. Mr. Broadhurst was his princi- pal teacher; and the first engagements at which he dis- tinguished himself, were dinner parties, lie shared his fees with his master, whilst the term for which he was articled to him continued; and he says-" I received from my first engagement, three guineas, £ 1 1 Is. 6d. of which was to be mine. I cannot express the joy I felt when I placed that sum in the Russell Savings Bank, at Bloomsbury; neither can I express the pride with which I strutted home, conscious of having tome money in the Bank. Mr. Phillips does not give us the year of this memorable event i and, indeed, the absence of dates is the great fault of his book. About this time, he had an interview with Charles Kemble, Sir Henry Bishop's Law of Java was brought out at Covent Garden, when Mr. Keinble was lessee and manager. It was opened with the celebrated gleo and chorus of Mynheer Vandunk," written for Mr. Goul- den, alto, Mr. l'yne, tenor, and Mr. Phillips, baritone,— the understanding of the latter with Mr Broadhurst he- ing, that he was to sing a few nights gratuitously, with the offer of an engagement, if he was approved. Time went on; no otrer came Broadhurst did not interfere, and losing all patience, Phillips resolved to set the ques- tion at rest himself. He then relates the result: The next morning I went to the theatre, and desired to speak to Mr. Charles Itemble. The theatrical Gold-stick-in- Waiting delivered my message, and, afer a due lapse of time, ushered me into the presence. There sat Mr. Kemble, in managerial pride, in a dingy, dusky, dark room, lolling in a great arm-char, behind a huge baiza-covered table, strewed with letters, play-bills, posters, all in seeming confusion. he ex- claimed, in a half-negligent tone, what may be your business 1' I wish to speak to you in reference to the ee I sing in the Opera.'—' Well,' he .tked, what do you want ?'An engagement,'I said.An engage- ment,' he echoed, laughingly; 'and what to do?'— I A nvthing,' I NY hat do expect to receive ?'— 'Anything,' was still my answer; 'say two gtlinta. a ueek.'—'What!' exclaimed his majesty; two guineas? Why, sir, you are not worth two shillings; they can't hear you over the third row in the pit.' Indeed!' I replied; then I wish you good morning. Stop hallooed Kemble you'll sing the glee to'nighti'No! If I do, I'm what you induced me to represent myself --a Dutchro-tn '-Away I hastened from the building, and never beheld his face again until a few years had passed, when he sought my services at £40 a week." Phillips's first engagement in which he distinguished himself, was at Bath—again the year omitted; and there he was fortunately engaged in a few representa- tions of Italian operas, for which arrangements had been made with Signor de Begnis, for which a second basB was required. This was, he says, a great opportunity for him, and raised him immensely in the musical world, in fact, placed him above all the young baritones of the day." Mr. John Loder,—apparently in the same year,-aIBo engaged him for one of his grand concerts, given at the Assembly Room, Bath, when M rs Salmon, Miss Stephens, and Mr. Braham were to sing. On that oc- casion, Braham listened unknown to the youthful aspi- rant, to his efforts, and at the close complimented him, saying, "if he were industrious he would be sure to rise." At the same time taking him aside, he imparted to him in the kindest manner, the theory and secret of musical declamation: which," adds Mr. Phillips, I need scarcely say, I never forgot." Soon after, he was engaged as one of the principal singers in the Messiah," performed at the opening of a new church at Clifton, Sir George Smart was the conductor, and he was very reluctant to engage a young man as principal bass." H owever, after hearing him in private, he consented- saying: he had been much pleased and surprised, and would be his [Phillips's] friend, as long as he lived." This he has been and the Recollections" are dedicat- ed to the worthy veteran. The vocalist's career, however, was far from plain sailing. His voice was not fully formed, he was ner- vous, and sometimes forgot himself. He had also to en- counter opposition, as Braham had forewarned him. In London,—a^ain no date-he won laurels in Sir John Stephenson's oratorio of the Thanksgiving," which led to an offer of an engagement from Charles Kemble, at Covent Garden, to play Artabanei, with Miss Paton, Madame Vestris, and Mr. Braham. He accepted it: his weak voice, and his nervousness were prejudicial; he was hooted, hissed, and groaned at, in his first song; and the next morning, in the placards of the newspapers was this dreadful announcement:—' Mr. H. Phillips's total failure at Covent Garden, last night. However, he fulfilled his engagement, and soon after made a hit, in the Drinking Song in the Der Freyschutz," at the Lyceum; though in that Opera, be was hissed at first. He ultimately made the song, however, one of the great features of the Opera, being nightly and enthusiastically encored. His engagement, a year or two after, at the Ancient Concerts," at ten guineas a night, was the crowning point of his career. My position was now," he writes, (with health) firm as a rock; all my thanks, and gratitude are due to Sir George Smart; for had I lacked the sound judgment of his wise experience, I should, probably, never have risen, as, by his aid, I did." A few years after this period, Mr. Phillips's fame de- clined; and although he always maintained a fair posi- tion, he failed to hold the first. He was induced to make a musical tour to the United States and Canada; which though successful in some towns, was, on the whole a failure. After his return to England, with that excellent English musician, J. W. Hobbs, he sang for several years at the feasts and festivals of the London companies, and with Mr. Land, Hobbs, Francis, Lockey, Mrs. Endershon and Miss Martha Williams, formed the English Glee and Madrigal Union," which only continued through two or three seasons. His voice failing, he gave up public singing; and closed his ca- reer as a vocalist, at a farewell concert, given at St. James's Hall, London, on the 25th of July, 1863; at which his musical brethren and sisters rallied round him with more than ordinary kindness. At this concert, he tells us, he first introduced his daughters Florence and Alice,—the only allusion we have to his family. The former has retired from the profession; the latter has a pure and extraordinary contralto voice and he hopes she will preserve his name in the annals of the musical world. Air. Phillips teaches the art in which he once so much excelled, residing at Birmingham, and travelling weekly between that town and the metropolis, to attend to his pupils at both places. He closes his Recollec- tions,"with a slight tribute to some of those brother and sister artistes he has known in his career; and we close our notice of his volumes, with what he says of the legi- timate heir to Braham's glorious throne—the present inimitable tenor, Sims Reeves," He is, says Mr. Phillips, An artist, who has seen much of the vicissitudes of his profession, much of its difficulties and annoyances, strugglesanddisappointments: butwho, havingheroically suffered them all, now stands the greatest tenor of the day. In criticising the merits of a vocalist, nothing is to me more unfair or invidious than comparisons with others let each artist rest upon his own merits, and not be condemned because he has possibly not the power or the liking to execute some one particular piece of music as well, as grandly, or as clearly as his predecessor. That Mr. Ileeves is far superior in many things, to those who have gone before him, I have no hesitation in say- ing. I would merely instance two things, which I have heard Mr. Reeves siug, far superior in tone, style, and declamation to any one who has preceded him in my tiuie,-viz.; 'WafCher, angels, to the skies,' and liow vain is man.' Mr. Sims Reeves is a great artist; but in expressing my humble opinion of one man, it must not, for a moment be thought, that I am condemning others. We have many tenors, and as many peculiar qualities in each, some having a gift for one style of song, others for another, and all in their way exceedingly effective." Books and Periodicals for Review to be sent to W. C. Stafford, Esq., No. 79, (late No. 4) York Road, Lam- beth, S., our London agent for the literary department of the ChronicU.



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