From the President (Oct. 18, 2009)

Dear Colleagues,

I have always been a collector of sayings about music, and thought I would share some of them with you this week. At the very least you might find them interesting, and at best, maybe useful in some way in your own work. Be that as it may, here they are:

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. (Aldous Huxley)

If you think you’ve hit a false note, sing loud. When in doubt, sing loud. (Robert Merrill)

One understands that song sometimes can do much towards working a vital transformation in the lives of men. (Howard Swan)

Music is the best way we have of digesting time. (W.H. Auden)

It is sobering to consider that when Mozart was my age he had been dead a year. (Tom Lehrer)

Brass bands are all very well in their place-outdoors and several miles away. (Sir. Thomas Beecham)

If music of merit is heard in a dignified, reverent service of worship, its contribution can be great. If, instead of a device which is supposed to send our congregations away from the church “feeling good,” our Sunday services become sacrificial in character–become the means by which we praise the creator–our sacred music once more can render an artistic and lasting contribution to effective corporate worship. (Howard Swan “What Shall We Do With Church Music?” 1956)

The Detroit Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost. (Anon critic)

Music does not excite until it is performed. (Benjamin Britten)

A true music lover is one who, when hearing a soprano singing in a bathtub, puts his ear to the keyhole. (Anon)

An oboe is an ill wind that nobody blows good. (Bennett Cerf, “Laughing Stock” 1952)

Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and quits the memory with difficulty. Magical music never quite leaves the memory. (Sir Thomas Beecham quoted Lord Boothby, “My Yesterday, Your

I occasionally play works by contemporary composers, and for two reasons. First, to discourage the composer from writing anymore, and secondly to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven. (Jascha Heifetz)

My arias made me take off as if I were on a trampoline. (Jessye Norman, Radio Times, October 24, 1981)

There are three degrees of comparison: stupido, stupidissimo, and tenore. (Pietro Mascagni)

All the intelligence and talent in the world can’t make a singer. The voice is a wild thing. It can’t be bred in captivity. (Willa Cather)

Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings! (Ed Gardner)

God tells me how he wants this music played–and you get in his way. (Arturo Toscanini in rehearsal)

Our responsibilities as choral musicians does not stop with the teaching of music. We must find time and energy for thought and study so that we can help teach people how to live. (Howard Swan)

Sunshine can burn you, food can poison you, words can condemn you, pictures can insult you; music cannot punish-only bless (Artur Schnabel, “Music and the Line of Most Resistance” 1942)

The notes I handle no better than most pianists. But the pauses between the notes–ah, that is where the art resides! (Artur Schnabel)

Men profess to be lovers of music but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it. It would not leave them narrow-minded and bigoted. (Thoreau, Journal)

How wonderful opera would be if there were no singers. (Gioacchino Antonio Rossini)

We are probably aware that all is not well with music. But, unless we are foolish enough to believe that music as an art form has lost its appeal, we must accept the grim fact that the fault lies with those of us who teach, perform, and guide musical thinking, learning and activity for people of all ages and levels of experience. (Howard Swan)

Have a great week!

Frank Whitcomb

One thought

  1. Dear Frank,

    How about printing up some of these sayings that are relevant for the Colchester Chorus, and passing them out sometime?

    Keep adding to your file!


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