Word Count-50,051. (Aug. 20, 2019)

Before Lang founded The Cecilia, he conducted other Boston-area choral societies. The February issue of Dexter Smith’s noted that “The Boston Choral Union gave a concert at Wait’s Hall, Jan. 9th, assisted by Misses Ella M. Abbott, M. C. Hill, H. M. Haynes, Messrs. M. L. Ingalls, G. W. Dudley and G. W. Sumner; Mr. B. J. Lang, Director.” (Dexter Smith’s, February 1873, 36) The December 1873 issue of the Folio recorded that he had been re-elected as conductor of the Chelsea Choral Society (Folio, December 1873, 164). Earlier in the year the same magazine had recorded that “Mendelssohn’s Elijah was given April 17th, at Phillips Church, South Boston, B. J. Lang, conductor” with “Mrs. J. H. West, Mrs. H. E. Sawyer, Misses H. S. B. Dykes, and A. M. Culver, Messrs. W. J. Winch, J. F. Winch, principal vocalists, G. W. Sumner, organist, H. G. Tucker, pianists.” (Folio, June 1873, 171) Earlier still in the same year, “The South Boston Choral Union, B. J. Lang director, gave a concert Jan. 9th. at Wait’s Hall, assisted by Misses E. M. Abbot, M. C. Hill, H. M. Hayes, and Messrs. M. L. Ingalls, and G. W. Dudley, as soloists. The choruses were sung with marked precision, and good effect. Misses Abbot and Hill, and Mr. Ingalls sang finely, their several selections being vociferously applauded. Mr. Lang volunteered a piano solo, which was rendered in his usual artistic manner.” (Folio, February 1873, 43)

The Cecilia is also credited with the first Boston performances of major works by Beethoven, Brahms German Requiem, Bruch, Dvorak-Stabat Mater, Boylston Hall, January 15, 1885 (five numbers had been sung on January 24, 1884), Gade, Handel, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and various Boston composers. Elson said the “The Cecilia has given more first performances of great works in its own city than any other Boston musical society, and these have extended all the way from Bach’s B minor Mass, to Massenet’s Fall of Jericho and Wagner’s Parsifal”. (Elson, History American Music, 82) The group’s internet site states: “It all began when B. J. Lang founded the Cecilia Society. A man of great force of personality, Lang’s boldness set the tone for what Cecilia was to become. He had a passion for ‘firsts,’ and presented the Boston premieres of 105 works that have now become standard choral repertoire, including perennial favorites like Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem.”

Lang did much to elevate Boston’s musical tastes, but he was fortunate to be working in an area that had a history of interest in music.“Boston had long led the country in music. Concerts were nightly affairs even in 1830. The Handel and Haydn Society, founded in 1824, gave regular and well-attended concerts from the date of its organization. The Transcript of February 23, 1839, says that “Boston is to be distinguished among the cities of the Union as the musical as well as the literary emporium. Musical societies without number and of every possible description have sprung into existence in the past few years, and the lovers of harmony are favored with frequent opportunities of listening to the sublime compositions of Handel, Haydn, Mozart…[On] April 26, 1839, there were six concerts, all considered publicity worthwhile, on one night.” (Chamberlin, 203 and 204)

The Cecilia had been formed in 1874 as a 100 member mixed choir as an adjunct of the Harvard Musical Association so that its orchestra would have “a choral adjunct to strengthen its position musically and financially.” (Hill, 5) The first joint concert was held in The Music Hall on November 19, 1874 with Carl Zerrahn conducting (the choir had been prepared by Lang) and the second half of the concert was Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgus Night. Lang had conducted The Lark, a part-song by Mendelssohn and a six-part madrigal by Weelkes during the first half. Dwight wrote: “The introduction of the new Choral element and first appearance of ‘The Cecilia’ drew an immense audience to the Music Hall on Thursday afternoon at 3PM precisely, Nov. 19. This was the second concert of their tenth season. To give the hundred or more singers a fair chance on the stage, so that they could be massed together in the middle front, the orchestra were placed down in front, on a platform half the height of the stage, and stretching over its entire width…The arrangement was on the whole a good one for the singers, but not so altogether for the orchestra.” After the opening overture, the first sounds from the new choral group were that of an a cappella madrigal by Weelkes, and this was followed by a Mendelssohn part-song-both reviewed in a very positive manner. “The great event of the concert, and of the musical season so far, was the revival of Mendelssohn’s Walpurgis Night under the direction of Mr. Lang, who had first brought it out here in the small hall some ten years ago, giving it twice over in one evening. It was a success then; of course a much greater success now. Yet it was a bold undertaking, with only two orchestral rehearsals, only one for orchestra and chorus, to produce a work so difficult and so exacting… Dr. Langmaid sang the tenor solos with great sweetness and nobility of tone, and with consummate style and beauty of expression…We may find room to treat the theme with fuller justice should Walpurgis Night be repeated, which there is a fair prospect that it will be at an early date, as there has been much call for it; in that case, it will doubtless go still further and will be better understood.”(Dwight (Nov. 28, 1874): 343)

FIRST SEASON: took part in four of the Harvard Symphony Concerts and repeated Schumann”s Paradise and the Peri after the season closed. (Music, June 3, 1882) At the December 24, 1874 concert the First Walpurgis Night was indeed “Repeated by request” after its performance a month earlier Dwight’s review reported that “The day, a busy one for many so preoccupied with Christmas trees and presents, besides being stormy, was not very favorable, and yet the audience was large and it’s attention hearty and unflagging from the beginning to the end of the cheerful and attractive Programme…The repetition of the Walpurgis Night was decidedly an improvement on the first performance, gratifying as that was. [But there were no a capella pieces in this performance]. This was the fruit, partly, of renewed rehearsal by the singers, and partly of more self-possession and control of the orchestral forces acquired by Mr. Lang in the bringing out of the very trying prelude and accompaniments; nut it was also greatly owing to the better arrangement and chorus on the stage, the former being grouped behind the voices. The sopranos and altos were massed together on one wing of the front, the tenors and basses on the other, for the reason that the choruses in this work for the most part are alternating for male and female voices.” (Dwight (Jan. 9, 1875): 366) Two soloists were singled out for praise: “Mr. John Winch, whose grand voice and delivery, in the baritone solos of the Druid Priest, won him the chief honors; but the sweet tenor tones, the well-trained organ, the refined, expressive art of Dr. Langmaid, if not so telling in a great hall, deserve equal praise.”(Dwight (Jan. 9, 1875): 366)

1874cecilia-1                                               Johnston Collection.

       The eighth Symphony Concert of the 1874-1875 season was given at 3 PM on Thursday afternoon, February 18, 1875, and it “drew a great crowd to the Music Hall to hear the first Boston performance with orchestra, of Schumann’s wonderful cantata” Paradise and the Peri. “The vast crowd listened to it all-for nearly two hours-with almost absolute attention, and with abundant signs at first of wonder, then of steadily increasing interest and delight…. Mr. Lang conducted carefully, -perhaps a little mite too anxiously, -but in the main firmly, doing his best to keep down the noisier instruments so as to give the voice a chance. It is obvious, however, that the instruments of the orchestra are sometimes not entirely sure of his intentions, and that the baton does not always lead them in spite of themselves…The Cecilia had been very patiently and thoroughly trained in all the choruses; if there was any fault it was that possibly the drill had been too strict and careful, leaving not enough of spontaneity and freedom to the singers for the best effect sometimes…But they had entered into their work with enthusiasm; the voices of sopranos and altos especially, were delightfully fresh and telling, and the tenors and basses showed a vigorous reinforcement since the Walpurgis Night was sung.”Only two professional soloists were used with the other solos being sung by members of the choir.” There appears to be a pretty general desire to have Paradise and the Peri repeated. Such an effort does indeed seem too great to be spent upon only one performance; and doubtless, a second time. Both public and performers would come better prepared both for the appreciation and the rendering of so great a work.” (Dwight (March 6, 1875): 398 and 399) Among the eight soloists were Miss Ida Welsh (Alto), Mr. George L. Osgood (Tenor) and Mr. John F, Winch (Bass). There was enough public interest to warrant a second performance which Lang conducted on Wednesday, April 14 at Horticultural Hall with one change among the soloists: “The part of the Peri this time will be sung by Miss Henrietta Beebe, of New York; the other solos as before (Mrs. Gilbert, Miss Ita Welsh, Mr. George L. Osgood, Mr. John F. Winch, etc.)” (Dwight (April 3, 1875): 415) A less enthusiastic position was taken by the reviewer in the Gazette of February 20. “There was an immense audience present, the hall being literally crammed. We do not think that Schumann’s genius was quite fitted to deal with the theme of this particular quality. In other words, to transfer to music the airy grace and delicate fantasy and the tender brilliance of Moore’s music. The sweetness of the poem and the almost melancholy seriousness of the music to which Schumann had wedded it do not blend happily. The effect on the audience was, we think, disappointing. For the performance, we do not know what to say. It was good and bad in turn.” (Johnson, 331 and 332) The work had been presented in Boston eleven years earlier at a private performance at Chickering Hall on April 25, 1863 led by J. C. D. Parker and a “Club of amateurs” with the soloists, Mrs. Harwood, Miss Huntley, and Dr. Langmaid (Johnson, 331).



Johnston Collection. The full English translation was printed on pages two through four in very small type.

Just a month later the choir was part of a concert with the Harvard Musical Association Orchestra concert that included the Boston premiere of sections from Mendelssohn’s unfinished opera Loreley, Op. 98. Dwight’s review of this March 18, 1875 event at the Music Hall said: “The tenth and last concert of the tenth season called out a large audience on Thursday afternoon, March 18. The Cecilia, in full numbers, under Mr. Lang’s direction, again lent its valuable aid, and the Programme consisted of about equal halves of vocal and of purely instrumental music.” The concert opened with the second performance of the Magnificat by Durante for choir and orchestra with “the choral parts well sung by the Cecilia,” and also included two part-songs by J. C. D. Parker conducted by the composer which “were to many of the singers pleasing reminiscences of the old Parker Club…They were indeed exquisitely sung and were enjoyed as charming specimens of delicate, poetic harmony.” During the second half, three sections from Loreley were sung… “The ‘Finale’ is by far the most important of these fragments, and the most important contribution of the Cecilia to that closing concert…The whole was given with great spirit and with vivid coloring, the alternate passages of chorus and soprano keeping up a breathless interest. Miss Whinery in the earlier portions was a little weak and tremulous, but she rose to the full height of the long, impassioned climax, her voice coming out quite splendidly on the high notes, showing what dramatic fire and fervor she is capable.” (Dwight (April 3, 1875) 414 and 415)


SECOND SEASON: the choir took part in three of the Harvard Symphony Concerts. (Music, June 3, 1882) The sixth concert of the 1875-1876 season, “owing chiefly to the attraction of the Cecilia, under Mr. Lang, had the largest audience of the season. “The choir sang Gade’s cantata, Comala, text from Ossian; the complete text was printed in the program. “The performance was unequal; the male chorus of bards and warriors commencing rather timidly, partly because the time was taken too slow, and partly because they were too weak in number and too widely set apart upon the platform. The weakness was felt more than once. But the soprano and alto portion of the chorus was altogether beautiful and telling.” The second half of the concert had several shorter numbers including Schubert’s psalm setting of The Lord is My Shepherd, “repeated by request, confirmed the beautiful impression which it had made before, and must stand as so far the most successful effort of the Cecilia. The delicate piano part was nicely played by Mr. Arthur W. Foote, -A very spirited performance of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven brought the concert to a grand conclusion.” (Dwight (February 5, 1876): 174 and 175)

1876cecilia-smaller                                                         Johnston Collection

The tenth (and last) concert of the 1875-1876 season listed both Carl Zerrahn and B. J. Lang as the conductors, and the repertoire included in the second part Bach’s cantata Ich hatte veil Bekummerniss with George L. Osgood and John F. Winch among the soloists and G. W. Sumner as organist.


2nd-pagemarch1876cecilia                                                             Johnston Collection.

By the spring of 1876 it had been determined that the choir, in fact, did not add financially, and separation was suggested. Gould cites the reasons for the separation as being the “frustration at being overwhelmed by such a large orchestra and the difficulty experienced by singing businessmen in attending the afternoon rehearsals.” (Gould, Our History Part 1, 1) A two-page notice dated November 16, 1876 gave details of the new, independent organization – about one-hundred singers, SATB, which would give three programs per season (each repeated) at Horticultural Hall, “the music presented to be a lighter character and greater variety than that which is offered by the larger choral societies of this city.” To defray expenses, three-hundred Associate members, either ladies or gentlemen were assessed $10 for which they received two tickets for every performance- “No tickets are to be sold.” The notice also stated that solo pieces would be included and that members of the choir would be used as soloists.


The Cecilia was formally organized as an independent body with an active membership increased to 125 singers on April 20, 1876, and in November rehearsals began under Lang who conducted its first concert on January 11, 1877 in Horticultural Hall, which included the first Boston performance of


Horticultural Hall, c. 1877. BPL, Digitalcommonwealth.

Gade’s The Crusaders. Dwight’s review began: “The Cecilia, that fine chorus of mixed voices, which lent so much charm to the last two seasons of the Symphony Concerts, but which is now reorganized upon an independent footing, -many of its members feeling not quite at home in singing with an orchestra-gave its first concert to its associate members, in Horticultural hall, on Thursday evening, Jan. 11, and repeated the same Programme one week later [18th.]. The choir has been considerably strengthened, till it numbers about 120 sweet and effective voices, finely balanced, and very carefully trained under their old director, Mr. B. J. Lang. A more perfect body of sopranos we have not yet heard; they sing with one voice. The Contraltos, too, sound very rich and musical; and it is a rare thing indeed to hear so many pure, sweet tenors, singing so smoothly, with no harsh disturbing element. The Bass part only, needs more strength and substance, though the voices seem to be all good. Nine part-songs and solos filled the first part with the Gade cantata being the second half “Piece de resistance.” For the accompaniment “we had only the piano, with the aid of a cabinet organ, played by Mr. Foote, to strengthen the bass part and hold out the notes in the religious choruses and in the recitatives and airs of Peter the Hermit. The effect, on the whole, was quite effective.”Dwight noted that B. J. had heard this cantata at the Birmingham Festival” The soloists were Miss Clara Doria (Soprano), Dr. S. W. Langmaid (Tenor) and Dr. E. C. Bullard (Bass). Dwight seems to have attended both performances of this Programme, for he ends his review with: “In the second concert, the part-songs did not go quite so perfectly as in the first, but The Crusaders was sung even better.”(Dwight (February 3, 1877): 382 and 383) This performance no doubt inspired another performance of the work in June 1881, this time by the Schubert Club of Salem that was conducted by Lang’s friend, Mr. W. J. Winch. (Dwight (June 18, 1881): 101) An article in 1898 recorded that the club had proposed “to give six entertainments in Horticultural Hall (three concerts, each repeated),” and it noted that Mr. S. Lathrop Thorndike was the President. (763)

      The second concert(s) of the first independent season were given in Horticultural Hall on March 19 and 22, 1877, and Dwight’s review began “The Cecilia, our choicest and almost our youngest chorus of mixed voices,” certainly a refection of what B. J. had been able to achieve in a very short period.The review continued: “The high degree of perfection in their singing at their first concert surprised and delighted us; this time, though the Programme was hardly so interesting as the first one, execution seemed to us equally, if not even more successful.”It addition to conducting, Lang also served as accompanist. (Dwight (April 14, 1877): 7) Mr. Charles R. Hayden, the uncle of Lillian Bailey, was the soloist. After two seasons of a cappella concerts, the choir used an orchestra in one concert, and the norm became orchestral accompaniment for one or two in the three to four-concert season. B. J. continued to conduct the group for 33 years.” The Cecilia Society was not a rival of the Handel and Haydn. its membership numbered only one hundred twenty-five voices, and concerts were sung before small audiences of friends for the most part. They often sang a capella music, and there was a pleasant informality about the proceedings.

        The May 23 and 25, 1877 concerts by The Cecilia presented Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri, “with a small orchestra as could find room in a corner of Horticultural Hall. The choruses went very finely, particularly on the second evening, when the Hall was less hot and crowded…Miss Lillian Bailey, who had not quite recovered from a hoarse cold, but who sang the part in a fresh, charming voice and manner in the second performance…The performance as a whole was very much enjoyed, doing great honor to the Conductor, Mr. Lang, and to all concerned…We are curious to know what good work the Cecilia, now so happily established, will set itself about after the summer’s rest.” (Dwight (June 23, 1877): 47) Among the soloists were Miss Lillian Bailey and the Winch brothers. The Cecilia had previously performed this piece with the HMA on February 18, 1875. (see above)

        In June 1877 the President of the choir, S. Lothrop Thorndike, made his report at the Annual Meeting, where he reviewed the Club’s first two years (1874-76) as part of the Harvard Musical Association Concerts, the spring 1876 reorganization of the choir as an independent group, and then the repertoire presented in the 1876-77 Season. The ranks of Associate Members were oversubscribed: “We were obliged to limit the number to two hundred and fifty, for the reason that Horticultural Hall, in which we proposed to give our first series of concerts, would not allow to more than this number (in addition to our active members) the two seats to which they would be entitled to each performance.” That first season “embraced six entertainments (three concerts, each repeated), the music to be of a lighter character and greater variety than that which is offered by the larger choral societies…The music has been given with piano accompaniment, excepting the Paradise and the Peri, for which we had a small orchestra.” Thorndike noted that “the Club is no longer without rivals in its own particular field. Three years ago it took possession of an unoccupied ground…We are not alone. At least one other society in Boston has embarked upon the same mission. This is no reason for discouragement, but an added stimulus. There is work enough for all. Let us bid our rivals good-speed, and hope to receive from them alike greeting. By our friendly emulation the good cause will, in any event, be the gainer.” (Dwight (September 15, 1877): 93 and 94) he then went on to say: “The list of active members of the Club during the past year has comprised one hundred and thirty-one voices,-thirty-seven soprano, twenty-eight also, thirty-one tenor, and thirty-five bass. The real working force, however, has consisted of not more than one hundred singers. from these figures two things are apparent: first, that we still have some active members whose indifference renders them useless, who must be replaced by more valuable material; and secondly, that the balance of parts needs correction. The rectification of the Club in these respects will be the first duty of the coming season.” (Ibid) This report, in full, was printed by Dwight in his Journal of Music, obviously so that the choir members and the whole Boston choral community would know the direction of this choir. It would seem that Lang was intent upon doing the very best. A year later Thorndike repeated the same theme: “I am sure that you will join me in taking this occasion to pay our compliments to the Boylston Club, to whose admirable concerts most of us have listened with delight. We owe each other the debt due from everyone to an able rival. Each club has done better from having the other in the field. In such contests, both sides are the winners.” (Dwight (September 14, 1878): 303)

         SECOND SEASON-INDEPENDENT:1877-1878. Within six months an example of this friendly rivalry was recorded by Dwight. The December 6 and 13, 1877 concerts held at Tremont Temple by The Cecilia had a first half of short works and piano pieces. Arthur Foote had arranged the Overture to Cantata # 28 by Bach which he played with Mr. J. A. Preston; they also performed the Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Trio from Piano Sonata, Op. 31, No. 3) by St. Saens. The second half was a cantata by Heinrich Hoffmann: The Fair Melusina. By coincidence, the Boylston Club’s December concert also included a cantata of a Mermaid/Watery Nymph subject, George Smart’s Bride of Dunkerron. Both choirs were praised by Dwight: The Cecilia “showed critical and careful training-indeed a marked improvement on the year before,” while the Boylston Club “was richer in numbers and in quality of voices than ever before, and sang with a precision, spirit, taste and nice light and shade, more honorable to themselves and their accomplished Conductor, Mr. Geo. L. Osgood.” (Dwight (January 19, 1878): 167) The Courier reviewer found the Hofmann cantata “dull and tiresome,” but he did find Foote’s Bach transcription to be “very fine,” as it brought “the public into a closer relation with great classic works.” The reviewer’s bias to older music is shown by his description of current composition as “of more or less chaotic music-writing.” However, the Gazette of December 8, 1877 found the Hofmann to be “the feature of the concert. It is a charming composition, abounding in poetic feeling and dramatic effect.” All in all “the entertainment was the most generally commendable the organization has given us.” This review has Foote and Lang playing the St. Saens. A third review, headed “The Vocal Clubs” praised the two pieces for two pianos, commented that the”choruses showed critical and careful training,-indeed a marked improvement on the year before,” but felt that the Hofmann had “little that is strikingly original, or much above innocent, agreeable commonplace.” The soloists “all sang creditably. Dr. Bullard truly like an artist.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

A year later Dwight reviewed the second performance of a program first given Feb. 8, 1878. Mr. Arthur Foote had conducted that performance as Lang “had the misfortune to be thrown from a sleigh, breaking the upper bone of his left arm.”(Dwight (February 16, 1878): 182) “Foote replaced him at the last minute and, among other things, conducted Mendelssohn’s Athalie. He was master of the situation, at ease with the music and the technical demands of conducting according to witnesses to the performance.” (Tara, Foote, 105) For this February 8th. performance, the Mozart “Overture” to Magic Flute was performed on two pianos, eight hands by Sumner, Tucker, Preston and Foote as was also the Mendelsohn “Overture” to Athalie and the Priests’ War March. Apthorp felt that the music in Athalie “cannot be mentioned in the same breath with his Antigone or Oedipus…It is unobtrusive, agreeable music, and, if rarely powerful, it is never dull and stupid. The performance was very fine, and reflected great credit both upon chorus and conductor.” The Gazette review noted that “Mr. Parker’s club brought out Athalie in Chickering Hall January 1, 1864, and repeated it in January, 1870. On the first occasion, Mr. Thomas B. Frothingham read the narrative portions of the text. The South Boston Choral Union also gave the work in Watt’s Hall some six or seven years ago.” The solos were “generally well sung. The choruses were, for the most part, also well done, the most notable defect being a tendency to fall from the pitch.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) Dwight reported: “Mr. Lang having happily recovered the use of his broken left arm, -sufficiently at least to conduct, with that arm in a sling, -the Club on Thursday evening, March 14, gave the promised repetition of their concert of Feb. 8.”The main point of the review was how much better the pieces sounded with their original orchestral accompaniment, the Feb. 8 concert having been done only with piano accompaniment.”Not only did the instruments lend color, vividness, intensity, to what some before found rather monotonous and tame; they also brought out many unnoticed points and features into the light.”The orchestra was of about 35 pieces who “played with care, the noisier instruments being well subdued under the conductor’s sway; so that the voices in that resonant hall (Tremont Temple) were heard to excellent advantage…The prejudice, hitherto existing in our vocal clubs, against singing with an orchestra, must now, we think, confess itself unfounded; and it will henceforth pass for granted that the production of a great composition in its integrity, vocal and instrumental, is of too much consequence to be sacrificed to the perhaps natural, but blind desire of singers to have all sounds kept aloof which might divide the attention claimed exclusively for their own precious voices.” (Dwight (March 30, 1878): 207) A review of this second performance noted that an “overflowing audience” heard the fruits of “Mr. Lang’s careful and studious direction [which] resulted in a splendid giving of all the numbers…The soloists sang, if possible, better than ever before…We are sure everyone enjoyed the concert greatly.” These February and March 1878 performances were probably the first given by the group in Tremont Temple-their previous concerts had been at Horticultural Hall. (BPL Lang prog., Vol. 2) The Apollo Club also began to use Tremont Temple as a concert site at this time with a concert on June 4, 1878. (Ibid)

For the Friday evening, May 17 and Wednesday evening May 22, 1878 concerts at Tremont Temple, Acis and Galatea by Handel was given. Dwight devoted a page and a half to a detailed comment on each of the sections, as this was a first complete performance in Boston. However, he lamented that only the piano was used for the accompaniment.” As it was, it had to be given with such meager piano accompaniment as is put beneath the sketchy score in the edition of the Handel-Gesellschaft. “As it is, well as the present accompaniment was played by Mr. Lang, with able assistant, Mr. Foote, many of the airs must have seemed thin, long-spun and full of repetition to many in the audience…It was a rare treat as it was, and two audiences came away upon the whole delighted, their minds enriched with ever fresh flowers of musical fancy which will haunt them a long while.”(Dwight (June 8, 1878): 246) The soloists included Lillian Bailey, Ita Welsh, Dr. Langmaid and John F. Winch. No reviews are preserved in the Cecila Program Collection, Vol. 1.

THIRD SEASON-INDEPENDENT: 1878-1879. Dwight printed in October of 1878 a short announcement of the upcoming season. “The Cecilia, B. J. Lang conducting, is earnestly engaged in its weekly rehearsals and will give six concerts, in the Tremont Temple, the first pair in November. The season’s Programme included: L’Allegro ed il Pensieroso, by Handel; Toggenburg, short cantata, by Rheinberger; Manfred, Schumann; The Crusaders (probably with orchestra) Gade; Miriam’s Song of Triumph, Schubert; Chorus of Reapers, etc., from Prometheus, Liszt; choice madrigals, glees, part-songs, etc. And better still, there is some chance that a short Cantata by Bach may be taken in hand, as well as a New Year’s Song by Schumann. (Dwight (October 26, 1878): 327) Certainly, Lang and The Cecilia were not alone in presenting this type of choral material. Dwight also gave space to other Boston choirs: “Of course the Boylston Club, under George L. Osgood’s direction, will not be behind with its rich offerings, of which we shall soon have a foretaste…And now a new society, the Mendelssohn Choral Union, with numerous voices of both sexes, has begun rehearsals in the spacious hall of the Young men’s Christian Association.Mr. Stephen Emery has been secured as conductor…We have not learned whether it is their intention this season to give public concerts.” (Ibid) This new choir had A. D. Turner as the accompanist and such Boston musical notables as S. B. Whitney, J. C. D. Parker and E. Tourjee as Board members. (Ditson-Musical Record (November 2, 1878): Vol. 1, No. 5)

A month later Dwight announced the program for the late November pair of concerts, November 25 and 29: two works for eight hands-“Allegro Vivace” from Mendelssohn”s Italian Symphony played by Sumner, Foote, Preston and Fenollosa and Les Contrastes by Moscheles played by Lang, Sumner, Foote and Preston with the major choral work being Toggenburg by Rheinberger. (Dwight (November 23, 1878): 342) The Rheinberger was an American premier. (Dwight (August 16, 1879): 134) One review noted:” The club has given much brighter entertainments. It is hoped it will never give a duller one.” The Mendelssohn was described as a piece which gives “more delight to the players than to the listeners,” but the Moscheles, because it was an original piece for eight hands, “was far more enjoyable than the symphony extract.” The Rheinberger “has a doleful plot…The pathos of the story is well expressed in the music, and that is about the only sentiment there is to be found there.” However, the soloists “did good service,” and “the choral execution throughout the concert was very fine.” Just the opposite attitude was expressed by another reviewer who felt that “a distinguishing feature of the Programme was the superior vocal character of the selections sung by the club.” Of the Rheinberger, “the music, as a whole is expressive, the pathetic portions being especially strong in this respect. Rheinberger is certainly one of the best vocal writers of the day.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

The Friday, February 7, 1879 concert at Tremont Temple was “the finest concert [given] thus far in the course of its three seasons.” Two contrasting cantatas were given-the second part of Bach’s Ich hatte viel Bekummerniss and Gade’s Crusaders; the Bach had been performed during the second season with the HMA (1875-1876) and the Gade had been performed during the choir’s first independent season (1876-1877). “An excellent orchestra was provided, with Mr. J. A. Preston at the organ, and the chorus of mixed voices was in fine condition.” In the Gade, which was its first local performance with instruments, the orchestra “put an entirely new life into it. Indeed, instrumentation is Gade’s strong side always, and to leave out the orchestra in such a work is to leave out the soul of it…Altogether it was a complete and signally successful performance. The concert was repeated on Monday evening, but unfortunately without the orchestra, it being impossible to procure one on that evening; so that the accompaniments were represented on the pianoforte (Mr. Tucker) and the organ (Mr. Preston),-very creditably, it must be said.” (Dwight (February ??, 1879): 30) The Choirs President mentioned in his Annual Report that this second performance with piano and organ accompaniment “had to be given, on the score of expense, and the contrast with the previous evening was depressing,-another occasion to point the moral that it will not answer to divorce works wedded to instruments from their lawful alliance, and a hopeful sign, in that the violence done was felt by everyone in the hall.” (Dwight (August 16, 1879): 134) the review in the Post began with the comment that this concert was given “in the presence of a large and fashionable audience, which gave frequent evidence of its appreciation during the evening…The chorus work was excellent throughout, and gave ample evidence of the careful instruction of Mr. Lang.” The review in the Advertiser mentioned that the Bach cantata had been given before on March 16, 1876 when the group was still part of the Harvard Musical Association and that the Gade had also been performed before, on January 11, 1877, but then, with only piano accompaniment. “Last night’s performance was the first in Boston with an orchestra. It is needless to say that the manifold beauties of the work were greatly increased in effect in consequence…The performances of all concerned were of a high order. The chorus did itself great credit, mainly to Mr. Lang’s skillful training and direction. The orchestra was large, and included many of the best resident musicians.” Another review said: “The orchestra deserves warm praise for its delicacy, unity and correctness.” This concert was repeated on Monday evening, February 10, but with no orchestra; instead, Mr. H. G. Tucker was at the piano and Mr. John A. Preston at the organ.

Handel was featured in the spring concert of 1879 when the first half of the April 21 concert “consisted of copious selections from Handel’ L”Allegro ed il Pensieroso, which were given with full orchestra and with fine effect.Mr. Sumner presided at the organ.” (Dwight (May 10, 1879): 79) In a display of professional cordiality, Mr. George L. Osgood, conductor of their rival choir, the Boylston Club, was one of the soloists as he was identified “with the production of this particular work on both sides of the water.” (Dwight (August 16, 1879): 134) As Osgood had sung this work in Germany, he decided to sing the “Trumpet Aria” in German which caused letters to the various papers. In a reply sent to the Transcript he defended this decision by saying that “the English vowels are mostly close and dull in this aria. The German vowels, on the other hand, are of the brightest description.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) based on the comments of another reviewer, Osgood should not have bothered. “The trumpets were, as usual, diabolically dissonant. If that was to represent ”mirth,” I would prefer to enjoy myself in some other manner.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1, article dated April 29, 1879, Boston, Mass) This same article did give high marks to the soprano section: “I noticed throughout the evening and especially in ”L’Allegro,” how easily the soprano voices gave their phrases, even when they were in alt. Every voice seemed to tell. It was not, as in some clubs., where, when a high passage occurs, a ”forlorn hope,” of perhaps twelve veterans, constitute the storming party, and make a desperate attack on the heights, while the remainder of the army stand quiet, and wait for them to ”come down,” before they resume singing. It is an exciting moment when these daring spirits scale the mount, or rather mount the scale.” (Op. cit.) The second half of the concert included part-songs, solos, “the clever comic glee of Humpty Dumpty by Caldicott, which was gleesomely received; and Gade”s cantata Spring Greeting, in which of course the orchestra was all-important.” The Courier review made reference to another Letter to its Editor from the aptly named “Deadhead” which took Lang to task for not encoreing Humpty Dumpty. The writer noted the persistent applause to which Lang dismissed their request “with a superior bow which reminded them that the name of the glee was Humpty Dumpty! that it was in English! that it was written only a short time ago, by a man who is not even dead yet, and if they liked it they were entirely wrong and certainly should not be encouraged.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) “The last concert [May 8] of the (third) season was on Thursday of this week when the music of the Midsummer Night’s Dream was given in full, with reading by Mr. George Riddle.” (Dwight, op. cit.) In Dwight’s next issue he gave more details: the text was read by “Mr. George Riddle, one of the teachers of elocution at Harvard University…the quality of Mr. Riddle’s voice seems naturally light, but clear, elastic, musical, and sympathetic, and his physique is slight; yet he somehow developed the volume and power enough in it to bring out the tearing tragedy and bombast of Nick Bottom in a most palpable and humorous manner…He read, too, with an evident appreciation of all the musical effects; and, as the orchestra was commonly quite up to the mark, and played with just light and shade and proper phrasing, the fitting together of the reading and the picturesque little snatches of ‘incidental music’ was really exquisite…These choruses were sung most charmingly, as were the song parts by Mrs. Hooper and Miss Gage. Of all the readings with the music of the Mendelssohn Shakespeare fairy play that we have had, this as a whole was much the most successful.” (Dwight (May 24, 1879): 85) President Thorndike agreed, saying: “The orchestra, under Mr. Lang’s able lead, gave their numbers better than they have ever been given in Boston.” (Dwight (August 16, 1879): 134)

The final concert of the season which was presented at Tremont Temple on May 8, 1879 was the complete music to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Nights Dream with orchestra, women’s choir, solos and “an admirable reading of the play by Mr. George Riddle, one of the teachers of elocution in Harvard University” who was lauded for his presentation which ranged from the roaring of Nick Bottom to the humor of Puck. (Dwight (May 24, 1879): 85) The choral contribution was only two choruses for women’s voices-the soloists were Mrs. Hooper and Miss Gage. “Of all the readings with the music of the Mendelssohn-Shakespeare fairy play that we have had, this as a whole was much the most successful.” (Ibid) All the other reviewers agreed: one called the concert “an entertainment of rare beauty,” while another wrote that “it may be fairly said that the Cecilia outdid themselves last evening.” Lang was praised for his “careful training,” and his “good taste and refined judgment [which] was everywhere made apparent.” Riddle was also praised for his “discrimination of the various characters,” while the orchestra generally played “with spirit and accuracy” except for “some slight inadvertencies” such as the “troublesome woodwind” who displayed their “chronic tendency to splatter.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

Dwight printed the report of the President of the Cecilia together with an introduction of four paragraphs. After tracing the early history of glee singing, German part-singing groups, and informal groups that met to sing masses and cantatas, he cites the new choral societies of mixed voices who have ”made it possible to bring out really important works by the best masters, and to do them justice…they (Cecilia and Boylston Club) do not sell tickets, they sing to invited audiences and in a friendly atmosphere; their treasury is kept full by subscribing ”associate members,” and sympathizing volunteers and backers, who delight to ”assist” at concerts and rehearsals..”He then congratulates the groups for using orchestras were appropriate.”In one or two instances a work has been given first with orchestra with triumphant effect, and then repeated (on grounds of economy) with nothing but pianoforte accompaniment, and the second performance fell so flat that everybody felt that the orchestra must be a sine qua non from this time forward.”The report itself by President S. Lothrop Thorndike covered the events of the group”s third season. (Dwight (August 16, 1879): 133 and 134)

“Since its first year the club had given its concerts in Tremont Temple, but during the summer of 1879 that hall was destroyed by fire and the Cecilia was driven for the next season to the Music Hall. It was felt to be a disadvantage. The Music Hall was too large for the club and the kind of work it had taken upon itself to do. But there was no help for it, and in the Music Hall were given the four concerts of the fourth season – and the number of active members was increased to 150 to partly compensate for the size of the Hall.” The original size of the choir when first organized was “about a hundred picked voices.” (Cecilia program clippings May 10, 1882 concert-BPL Collection) For the 1879-80 season the Annual Assessment for Associate members was raised to $15 and additional Associates were admitted-this was due to the added costs of performing in the Music Hall. (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

After beginning rehearsals on Thursday, October 2, on Monday, December 22, 1879, the choir presented the Boston premiere of Max Bruch’s Odysseus with Charles Adams as the soloist (Johnson, 96). “The performance of this remarkable work complete, with chorus, male and female solo voices, and orchestra, in the Music Hall, was a new feather in the cap of the Cecilia, and a notable event of our present musical season.It had been very thoroughly and critically rehearsed under Mr. B. J. Lang, and in all its length, with all its difficulties, it was in the main very satisfactorily done.” Dwight (January 3, 1880): 6) The Courier review thought the work “thoroughly interesting, from overture to finale-filled with melodic forms and sumptuous orchestral coloring,” but noted the “comparative coldness of the audience…The orchestra played fairly, and Mr. Lang directed the performance with his habitual ease and smoothness.” One member of the “cold audience” who singed himself “Growler” wrote to the Musical Editor of the Courier that in the Bruch he “had looked for bread, and they had given what to me was a stone.” His chief complaint was the lack of melody, and he noted that the Advertiser review “started out with the assertion that the chief characteristic of the work was its expressive melodiousness.”  “Is the gift of melody utterly lost, and must we for the future be satisfied with the Wagnerian Endless Melody.” The Musical Editor’s reply was to hear the work again, and he noted that Berlioz “declared that absolute beauty would never be positively determined.” The Musical Herald review noted that Miss Louie Homer “met with fine success in the very taxing solos assigned to Penelope, although nervousness led her once or twice into false intonation…She has a fine voice, and it has evidently been well trained…The Cecilia ought certainly to repeat a work of such importance.”(Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

The second concert of the season was given on Friday, February 27, 1880, and “had the usual eager audience, filling the Music Hall.”The first work (its Boston premiere) was Bachs cantata Bleib bei uns (Bide With Us) with solos by Clara Poole, Dr. Langmaid, and Frank Young, and the accompaniment by George W. Sumner, piano and John A. Preston, organ. (Johnson, 12) In 1899, almost twenty years later Apthrop remembered that “the critics were singlemindedly bored. One critic naively confessed himself thus: ”We again feel compelled to say that Bach’s cantatas do not belong to the genre of compositions in which one takes a sensuous delight.” (803) That was followed by Mendelssohn’s setting Judge Me O God, and then selections from Athalia. The second part “was secular and composed of choice part-songs and glees…All these pieces were sung to a charm.” The Courier reviewer noted that the Bach cantata “gave very little satisfaction to the audience,” but that “the second part of the Programme was of a secular character, and was all, being of a high order, worth listening to.” Included were Gade’s Spring Song for female voices and Stewarts glee, The Bells of St. Michael’s Tower. Lang did not repeat his mistake of now allowing encores in this program. “The part-song by Gade was repeated in answer to an uncertain demand and the glee by Stewart in response to an unquestionable wish.” Another reviewer found the Bach “a bit hard to understand and enjoy.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) Dwight finished his review with a plug for the next concert: “The main feature of the next concert, April 12, will be Schumann’s Manfred music, with orchestra, and a reading of portions of Byron”s text.” (Dwight (March 13, 1880): 47) Five weeks later his review appeared. The concert had been postponed from April 12th. due to Lang’s illness. “The first performance here of Schumann’s Manfred Music, in the third concert of the season (Saturday April 24, 1880), intrinsically considered, was a musical event second to no other of the year past.” The orchestral numbers “were finely executed by the orchestra, obedient to the baton of Mr. Lang, whose re-appearance after a severe attack of illness was the signal for hearty congratulations…We must congratulate Mr. Lang and the Cecilia, and Mr. Ticknor (narrator), upon the excellent presentation of so difficult a work…Whatever of gloom and depression the poetry and music of the Manfred left upon the audience was happily relieved by the short, and for the most part hopeful, joyful music of Max Bruch’s cantata Fair Ellen, of which the chorus work was rich and euphonious, and the solos were well sung by Miss Abbott and Dr. Bullard.”(Dwight (May 8, 1880): 78) The entire work was also performed four years later by the BSO under Henschel. (Johnson, 334) Apthorp, in a three-page review in The Bostonian of April 29, 1880 wrote that “It is not often that one can so thoroughly enjoy a great work at the first hearing, as we did the Manfred.” He noted that some numbers had been heard before, “but the greater part of the work was wholly new.” The music consisted of the overture and fifteen sections; “some melodramatic, some regularly musical in form…The performance by the Cecilia of the few choral numbers was admirable for its precision and vigor. The solos were less satisfactory. The orchestra, albeit small in numbers, and not always sure of its cues, did, in general, extremely well, notably in the overture…Max Bruch’s Fair Ellen was capitally given…Mr. Lang, who was warmly greeted by audience, chorus and orchestra in this, his first appearance in public since his illness, can congratulate himself upon the artistic success of the concert. Recent suffering seemed to have no power to diminish the healthy verve of his baton.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

For the fourth and final concert of the season, Bruch’s Odysseus was repeated. Whereas the work was a “failure at the beginning of the season, this time, with almost the same artists, it was a success.” However, “Miss Homer who, although she may bear the poet’s name, is by no means Homeric in her treatment of Penelope.” The chorus was praised, and this review ended with: “We congratulate the club on so finely redeeming themselves from the failure of eight months ago.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) The Courier began with: “At the risk of exciting the ire of our correspondent Growler, we again feel compelled to express our admiration for the work and to reiterate the judgment expressed five months ago-namely, that the cantata is ”melodious” and ”expressive.”” (Ibid)

        The President of the choir presented his yearly report in June of 1880 that made this reference to the Odysseus performance: “The work is tuneful throughout, and contains many distinct melodies which linger in the memory. It is by no means an easy thing to sing. The success of the Club in coping with its difficulties at the first concert, on December 22, may be best judges by the general demand for another performance. We have probably never produced a work which excited such interest at the first hearing…On May 24 [1880] the Odysseus was repeated and was found to realize all the favorable impressions of the first hearing. It ought to become a stock piece with vocal clubs.” (Dwight (October 9, 1880): 163) The review in the July issue of the Score was not so enthusiastic- it referred to the December performance as a “failure.” However the May repetition “although the thermometer registered high in the eighties, few left the hall before the glorious final chorus.” (Cecilia program clippings) Another reviewer of this second performance noted that “Mr. Adams astonished us by the poetic feeling with which he imbued his part…We have only to find fault with Miss Pierce, who sang very frequently in keys Bruch never intended.” (Ibid) The Courier reviewer also noted of the second performance that among the eight soloists, “Some were too sharp, others too flat, and the result was distressing.” This review described Miss Pierce’s voice as “bright and fresh,” but her performance was marred by nerves. (Ibid) Other points mentioned by the Club’s President included the problem created by the fire that destroyed Tremont Temple which forced the choir to move to the Music Hall which, it was felt, was too large for their use. Their original use of Horticultural Hall was no longer possible, as it was too small for the repertoire that they were now performing. “To give a Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Gade, or Bruch, with our present vocal force [c. 150 voices] and a full orchestra, in a place no larger than that in which we sang four years ago, would certainly be an exquisite pleasure. But here comes the dreadful question of expense. We require the support of a larger number of associates than can be accommodated in Horticultural Hall…The greater expense of singing in Music Hall, and our determination, which has every year become firmer, to employ an orchestra as often as possible, rendered it necessary at the commencement of the past season to raise our assessments. Our associates generously acceded to this change, and have provided all the money we have really needed.” (Dwight (October 8, 1880): 163) The President went on to say that he expected “a certain amount of pure instrumental music to relieve the otherwise continuous flow of vocal sound. The monotony of an evening of male part-singing has been frequently remarked. The ear craves the variety of voice and pitch which mixed part-singing affords. In like manner, uninterrupted vocal music, though for mixed voices, after a while palls upon the senses.” (Ibid)

In his June 1880 President’s Annual Report, Thorndike also noted that the additional cost of renting the Music Hall versus Tremont Temple (which had burned) plus the desire “to employ an orchestra as often as possible resulted in the need to raise the yearly assessments. Our associates generously acceded to this change, and have provided all the money we have really needed.” (Dwight (October 9, 1880): 163) He also noted that the Music Hall was “too large to present the Club and the music which it desires to sing, to the best advantage…The list of singers has been fuller than ever before. Indeed, the pressure for admission has been such that the number of active members has constantly exceeded the prescribed limit of one hundred and fifty. The balance of vocal parts has also been improved, and the regularity and punctuality of attendance have been better than in any previous year.” (Ibid) Thorndike then mentioned that the success of the Bruch Odysseus performance in December 1879 had been so great that the Associates demanded a repeat, which was done on May 24, 1880. “We have probably never produced a work which excited such interest at the first hearing.” This second performance “was found to realize all the favorable impressions of the first hearing. It ought to become a stock piece with vocal clubs.” (Ibid) It seems not to have been taken up by many, and the only recent CD of the work, made at a live performance, is now (August 2011) fetching $74.96 used and $249.99 new on Amazon, and in Germany the Amazon.de price for a new copy is E143.42!

Another first Boston performance of a Bach cantata was performed at the end of 1880-# 106 Actus Tragicus (God”s Time Is the Best) was sung at Tremont Temple on December 13, 1880. One review mentioned: “Bach’ cantata was received with a lukewarm admiration, at which we do not wonder. The taste for Bach is one that requires special cultivation.” The concert ended with a glee by Caldicott Little Jack Horner which was thought to be “a good bit of brightness to end a concert.” (Cecilia program, clippings)

The second concert of its fifth season was given at Tremont Temple on January 24, 1881 included “liberal and splendid” excerpts from Beethoven”s Ruins of Athens, a duet by Grieg, and the Boston premiere of Dudley Buck’s cantata The Golden Legend based on a poem by Longfellow. Buck’s work had won over twenty-four others for the $1,000 prize offered by the Cincinnati Festival of 1880. The Courier review noted that: “the orchestration throughout was extremely interesting; skillful, varied, richly and even gorgeously colored.” (Cecilia program, clippings) Dwight felt that Buck”s work suffered in being in the same program with the Beethoven.” By itself, it would have commanded closer attention and have been more appreciated.” (Dwight (February 26, 1881): 36) Overall Dwight’s opinion was that “If with all his talent, learning, savoir-faire, and power of clever workmanship, the multifarious composer could only burst the bonds of commonplace.” (Ibid) Often reviewers remarked on various orchestral problems. For this concert, one reviewer noted: “The orchestra, Under Mr. Lang, played finely, the wood [sic] being better than usual, though an occasional wheeze and faulty attack in the brass gave a grotesque effect.” (Cecilia program, “Sunday Times” clipping) Apthorp also commented on the orchestra: “The orchestral work in the Ruins of Athens was hardly respectable, in Grieg’s work it was good, and in Mr. Buck’s cantata it was of a superior order.” In a “Letter” from Boston, the author called this concert “excellent,” giving special praise to the sopranos in the Beethoven who sang their part that “even soloists might find it hard to satisfy…it was an unexpected pleasure to hear this number given without screechiness.” The tenors and basses were “full of manly power and vigor.” Of Buck’s cantata the writer “found musicianly ability in every bar of this work, but not always dramatic power…The chorus did well throughout the evening, and Mr. Lang’s work was apparent in this and the orchestral departments.” The writer of this “Letter” had begun with a comment about a Berlioz Damnation of Faust performance given by Theodore Thomas and his orchestra: “The chorus was poorer than under Lang, the orchestra better, and the possession of two harpists, gave the final number a better color than the substitution of pianos did in the previous representations” in Boston. (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) The writer in the Transcript described Buck”s cantata as “neither empty nor dull, but without a pleasurable surprise in it. Unimpeachable as it all was and very strong in parts, there was not a turn or ending that might not have been anticipated. It was very finely rendered by the chorus and soloists. Among the latter, Mr. Charles R. Hayden especially distinguished himself for the power and beauty of his voice and the taste of his expression.”

March 28, 1881 saw the American premiere of Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust at the Tremont Temple with Miss Gertrude Franklin and Mr. George W. Dudley, with Mr. Charles R. Adams and Mr. George Henschel as the principal soloists together with a “full orchestra.” There were eight other soloists, who were members of the choir. “The impression was deep and more general than we dared hope considering the mystical and philosophical character of a great portion of the text as well as the necessarily undramatic nature of the music in which it finds expression. The frequent absence of mere surface beauty, the reflective brooding, subtle, involved crowed harmonies almost cloy the sense with fullness. But at the same time it abounds in exquisite melodic inspirations, it is at times wonderfully graphic and it rises in power and splendor with the grandeur of the theme, reaching the sublime and therefore sustaining itself at the close.” (Dwight’s Journal of May 7 in Johnson, 334) Of Miss Franklin’s part, Dwight noted: “All this was sung in sympathetic, pure soprano tones, and with earnest, true expression.” His review ended with: “The conjunction of two such thorough vocal artists as Mr. Adams and Mr. Henschel was an experience not to be forgotten.” (Dwight (May 7, 1881): 75 and 76) The  Transcript called the concert “an event of capital importance in the local annals of music,” and the reviewer compared this work with the Berlioz Damnation of Faust, which was based on the “same theme…The spectacle” of the Berlioz compared to the “intellectual and spiritual music” of Schumann. The orchestra was called “rather thin,” but the solo work of Miss Franklin and Mr. Henschel was praised. “The Cecilia chorus, too, sang very finely, better, probably, than ever…Only the orchestra was unequal, and it is so new a thing to expect an orchestra at all with these singing-club entertainments, that it is ungracious to mention that a pianoforte is a fatal substitution for a harp in an orchestra.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) This last comment shows the level of expectation that Lang was trying so hard to raise. The demand for tickets for this concert was so great that the concert had to be repeated on April 4th. at Tremont Temple with half of the tickets given to members and the other half to be sold to the public. The Courier review of this second performance noted that only half of the seats offered to the general public had sold. The program had an opening Argument” [synopsis] of a page and one-half, followed by the full text which took twenty-four pages. (Program, Johnston Collection)

The last concert of the 1880-1881 season (Fifth Season-Fifth Concert) was held at the Tremont Temple, on May 31st., “(which, we confess, the temptation of the country after a hard, hot day’s work caused us to forget)…It was without orchestra, and consisted of for the most part of short, but really choice and favorite selections.” After listing the contents of the program, Dwight offered no critical comment. The assisting artists were Mr. John A. Preston, organ, Mr. J. Phippen, piano, and vocalists Miss Ella M. Abbott, Miss Gertrude Franklin, Dr. S. W. Langmaid, and Mr. A. F. Arnold with Mr. George W. Sumner as the choir accompanist. (Dwight (June 4, 1881): 92) Maybe Dwight’s lack of comments reflected that the choir was having an off night-one reviewer said that the Widor piano and organ duets received the most applause with one being encored. The Folio review written by Louis C. Elson referred to these pieces as “bonbons,” and complimented Mr. Preston for his selection of stops, choosing chiefly “the gamba, flute and clarinet, making the large organ, as much as possible, like a cabinet organ, and not using the too-tempting tremolo.” This refers to the two Widor Duets, Canzona and Serenade played by Preston and Phippen at the piano.  Another reviewer noted: “Of course, the audience was large, but a more apathetic array of people hardly can be imagined.” (Cecilia program-clippings) This concert had other distractions besides the heat. “At the Cecilia concert on Tuesday evening, the Baptist prayer meeting in the Meionaon [the basement auditorium within Tremont Temple] filled in the rests in Mendelssohn’s 95th. Psalm with a Moody and Sanky hymn. This is no uncommon occurrence, though the responsive style on that occasion was rather more apropos than usual.” Another clipping noted: “…An operatic chorus and the name of Auber on the Cecilia Programme, last evening, must have been something of a shock to the sensibilities of those who think no music is worth hearing if not written in Vaterland.” (Cecilia program, clippings) The Courier felt that “the efforts of the chorus were the best shown by them this season, the elements of light and shade and promptness in attack, together with more freedom and volume of tone, being particularly apparent.” It also noted the accompaniments for the solo songs by Miss Abbott and Miss Franklin “were played by Mr. Lang in his most exquisite manner.” With the Auber and the Widor Duets and John A. Preston’s opening organ solo of St. Saens’ Rhapsodie, we begin to see Lang’s interest in French composers reflected.

Not everyone was a Lang supporter. A “Letter to the Editor of the Musical Bulletin” dated June 1, 1881 rated the Boylston Club better than Cecilia, and explained this, as both groups were about the same size, as due to the fact that “Mr. G. L. Osgood is a born musician and an artist by instinct, while Mr. Lang possesses the mere attribute of a skilled artisan, accompanied by a refined sense of taste and an adequate amount of ambition and energetic force.” The writer also was very critical of the two soloists-Miss Abbott and Miss Franklin, finding fault with the “methods of instruction,” but saying that “this, however is not to be wondered at, since it is well nigh impossible to find one teacher that is capable and trustworthy, among the hundreds in this city who follow voice culture as a profession.” (Cecilia Program Clippings for the May 31, 1881 concert)

The opening concert of the CECILIA’S Sixth Season-first concert was given at Tremont Temple on Wednesday, November 30, 1881. There was just one work on the program, a first Boston performance of Cinderella by Heinrich Hofmann (the American premier had been in Milwaukee on December 4, 1879-another example of Lang being on top of new works). The “Assisting Artists” were Dr. E. H. Bullard who sang the role of the “King,” and Mr. John A. Preston and Mr. J. Phippen who probably played the accompaniment on two pianos. The other soloists were: Miss Annie Louise Gage (Cinderella), Miss Gertrude Edmands (Fairy Queen), and Mr. Frank L. Young (A Servant). The English translation was printed, but no program notes of any kind were provided. The Herald noted that the work was given without orchestra, and that while it “abounds in pleasing, flowing melodies, it has little variety, and the absence of any strong dramatic elements makes it, on the whole, rather a spiritless production…Mr. Lang’s thorough work was plainly shown in the success attending the numbers for chorus.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) The back page advertised the group’s next concert: the Berlioz Requiem to be given Sunday Evening February 12, 1882 at the Music Hall. (Program, Johnston Collection) This performance, with Charles Adams as the main soloist, was another Boston first. (Johnson, First, 69) The first American performance had been in New York just the year before. (Op. cit., 68)

 On Sunday evening February 12, 1882 at the Music Hall, Cecilia presented the first Boston performance of the Requiem by Berlioz. The Post review noted: “Although written in 1836 and performed in the Church of the Invalides, Paris, in 1837, yet no attempt was made to produce it in this country until last May [led by Dr. Damrosch] when it was made a special attraction at the festival in New York. The effort then made, though creditable, was not satisfactory, and the Cecilia determined to produce it in Boston during the present season…The club numbered some 300 voices…To produce the orchestral effects required by the composer, the full orchestra was supplemented by a grand array of trumpets, trombones, horns and kettle drums, which were located in the first balcony on either side of the extended platform.” At the end of the final section “the audience remained quiet and cheerfully accorded their careful attention, and at proper intervals expressed their appreciation of the great success attained.” A short notice mounted just after this review noted: “The ladies in the Cecilia chorus…all appeared in black.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) The review in the Transcript began by calling the performance “a triumph” led by “its progressive leader” to which the audience paid “closest attention…Chorus and orchestra performed their respective tasks with commendable enthusiasm and devotion. The execution was not free from error, but these were few, and were in no case glaringly offensive.” (Ibid) However, another review, noting that Berlioz called for 210 voices in the chorus felt that “the members of the Cecilia failed to supply the desired volume of tone, and, consequently, the presentation of the mass partook something of the character of a performance of ”Hamlet” with Hamlet left out. The full schedule of individual instruments was filled out by the orchestra players engaged, but in such a reduced numerical strength that all the grand effects were dwarfed and the composer’s ideas merely shadowed forth in the presentation of the instrumental score…However much the New York performance fell short of an ideal production of the work, it certainly gave a far more vivid realization of the great composition than that conveyed by last evening’s presentation.” (Ibid)

The Boston premiere of Schumann’s Requiem for Mignon, Op. 98b was given at Tremont Temple on Wednesday, April 12, 1882-its American premier had been in Cincinnati in 1864, and the first American performance with orchestral accompaniment was in Providence in 1884. (Johnson, First, 333) The violinist Mr. Gustav Dannreuther played two solos, the Romance, Opus 27 for piano,(Mr. J. Phippen) organ (Mr. John A. Preston) and violin, and the solo violin part in the Preludium and Benedictus from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. (Program, Johnston Collection) The work most cited by the reviewers was Lang’s own song, The Chase, a hunting song sung by Mr. J. F. Winch “with spirit, but without any especial shading. It is a bright, dashing composition, with the usual empty fifths, etc.,” but it produced the only call for an encore that evening. Another review described Lang’s song as “full of the oxygen of out-door life as intensified and concentrated by exciting sport. The piano accompaniment (played by Mr. Lang) pictures brilliantly the dash and impetuous rush of the riders to be ”in at the death.” Mr. Winch’s singing of the song was most effective, and he was compelled by the applause to repeat its closing lines.” A third review called the song “a grand piece, of strong, vigorous writing, full of life and onward rush; it was stirringly sung.” However, a fourth reviewer wrote: “The chief fault of his work was that there was no lightness in the repetition of the opening phrase.”(Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)  well, a critic has to be critical it seems even if it refers to only one phrase.

The fourth and final concert of the season was on Wednesday evening, May 10, 1882 at Tremont Temple with full orchestra and Georg Henschel as the primary soloist in Odysseus by Max Bruch. The Advertiser noted that the choir has previously performed this work “on two or three occasions, but this “performance of the cantata was undoubtedly the best that the club has yet given…Mr. Henschel, it is almost unnecessary to say, sang grandly well…The chorus sang with generally admirable power and expression, but often with hesitation of attack that evidently gave Mr. Lang some anxiety and him to an unusual vehemence in his calisthenics of conductorship. Some of the more sudden and vigorous passages were nearly ruined by this uncertainty of attack. The orchestral work was so good in almost every particular that it would be hard to suggest how it could been bettered. The balance between orchestra and singers was planned with excellent judgment and maintained unswervingly.” The Journal also lauded Henschel and faulted the choir: “The weakest part of the performance was the chorus singing, which was generally weak, often uncertain, and occasionally discordant…The orchestra gave efficient service and played most excellently the music of the introduction. The general effect of the performance seemed to show a lack of sufficient preparation.” But, the Courier found the Bruch performance to be “eminently satisfactory in all its details…the work was almost flawless. Mr. Henschel has never done finer work than he did in the part of Odysseus…The choruses were of the finest character throughout, and deserve only praise in every detail. This performance, as a whole, was a red-letter one, which can only be compared to the great performances of Gade’s Crusaders some years ago.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

President S. Lothrop Thorndike’s Report at the Cecilia Annual meeting on June 8, 1882 noted how much the group had grown artistically in the last five years. “Five years ago we were distrustful of our own voices, afraid of being overcrowded by an orchestra, unacquainted with each other, and therefore lacking the unity and clearness only acquired by long singing together. We were feeble in some parts and unbalanced. In short, we were beginners,” whereas in 1882 the choir “have no apology to make” in any of these areas, and this was due to the dedication of the singing members, the support of the associate members, and “last, but not least, to the unfailing energy, judgment, taste, and skill of our leader.” At the end of his report, Thorndike noted that the new system of reserved seats had not worked well, but that the choir Secretary had devised a new system for the next season which he thought would address all the problems of the previous arrangement. It is interesting to note that Thorndike was not a singing member, and thus his comments were based on the impression gained by someone from the audience. (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

By 1882, membership in the choir was a privilege: “No one can be admitted to its ranks who does not pledge unintermittent attendance upon rehearsals. These conditions secure very choice gratification to the aristocratic clique who sustain the enterprise,” and serve as a testament to the talents of its conductor. (HMA Program Clippings, Musical American, June 3, 1882)

The Berlioz Requiem was repeated to open the Seventh Season on Sunday evening November 26, 1882. “The performance last evening was far beyond that given last season.” (Cecilia Program Clippings, November 27, Transcript) The Herald wrote: “The work is a tone picture, at once impressive, imposing and weird,” and said of the chorus that “it was evident that the music had been thoroughly rehearsed; but on account of the great difficulties, there was some hesitation in taking the leads, and bad intonation, and in the more dramatic places there was a lack of power-all of which would seem to be consequent upon attempting a work of such immense proportions, with a small chorus, in a large hall.” The Transcript wrote: “It were [?] hard to praise too highly the energy of the Cecilia in repeating a work which is so fatiguing to prepare, and, as ‘the largest orchestra score in existence,’ so expensive to give…The performance last evening was far beyond that given last season. The basses of the chorus were really superb, while doubling of the first tenors by the altos gave the tenor part a rich volume and distinctness of tone which the dearth of high tenor voices in this country makes vert rare in our choruses…We have never heard any chorus in this city enunciate so distinctly, and often elegantly…Boston can now say that it has heard a really intelligible performance of a work to which but few cities in the world have had the privilege of listening.” The Advertiser called the work “Requiem stupendous.” This time the Gazette said after noting that the performance was “a marked improvement upon the earlier performance,” ended with: “But what was good in the performance was very good, and what was bad was by no means horrid; and even after taking the shortcomings into consideration, the interpretation, as a whole, afforded an interesting and intelligent idea of the work.” (Ibid, Gazette undated) Choir President Thorndike felt that “the whole concert passed with hardly a blemish, and it was noticeable that the over-wise newspaper criticisms which were expended upon our first presentation of this great work were not repeated.” (Cecilia Programs. Vol. 1)

The second concert of the season was performed on Thursday evening, January 18, 1883 at Tremont Temple with the Boston premiere of Gade’s Psyche, Op. 60 with piano (Joshua Phippen) and organ (Frank Lynes) as the accompaniment. [No reviews?] Choir President Thorndike confessed to “a feeling of disappointment in the cantata itself during all the rehearsals, a feeling not entirely dissipated by the performance…I do not think the fault was in myself, for I find that more able critics agree with me. I am sure the fault was not in the soloists or the chorus, whose whole work was excellently done. The sense of something wanting may be partly but not wholly accounted for by the absence of orchestra. The real lack seemed to be of strong and salient points in the composition, of any mark of genius.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

The third concert was on Monday evening, April 2, 1883 at Tremont Temple with a full orchestra and J. A. Preston at the organ and Georg Henschel as the major soloist. The works performed were selections from Part 6 of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night. The Transcript said of the Mendelssohn that “here we have the composer at his best,” and then went on to rank his choral works: “Putting the Oedipus music first, and the Antigone second, the Walpurgis Night must rank easily as third…The performance last night was markedly a fine one. The overture made little effect, from the smallness of the orchestra…Now that our ears have become habituated to a full-grown orchestra, anything under ten first violins sounds feeble; two double basses sound like no bass at all….Dr. Langmaid sang the tenor music excellently (it may be remembered that he was the first to sing it in Boston, years ago, under Mr. Lang”s baton in the Music Hall)…Mr. Lang, too, is highly to be complimented upon the singing of his choir; never have the Cecilia sung with greater freedom and vigor.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1) Choir President’s comment on the Bach was: “The Bach selection consisted of the sixth part of the oratorio with some omissions. As a whole, it was well performed, to the interest of all, the satisfaction of many, the delight of a few…I hope that we shall all live to know the Passions, the Christmas Oratorio, the great Mass, the Magnificat, the principal motettes and cantatas, as well as we know the oratorios and psalms of Mendelssohn.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

The fourth and final concert for the season held on May 16, 1883 at the Music hall “in the presence of a very large audience” and using  “an orchestra of considerable size” featured Bruch’s Lay of the Bell, Op. 46 conducted by the composer-Lang played the organ. The Journal found the piece “an important and graceful work, if less powerful than some of his other compositions notably the Arminius whose first performance in this country he [Bruch] conducted at the recent festival of the Handel and Haydn Society…One of its most promising defects is a sameness which at times becomes monotony…It has many moments of dullness.” The chorus was not able to save the work: “There was often, however, a lack of power, and, still more, a want of that fine shading and expression which can only come from strong intellectual appreciation of a composer’s thought and purpose-in short, much of the chorus singing seemed dry and perfunctory.” (Cecilia Programs. Vol. 1) Even though Lang had the foresight to hire Bruch to appear with his group, the Cecilia, when he was in Boston conducting the Handel and Haydn Society, even the composer’s touch in preparing and leading the performance did not bring the work to life, at least in the view of some reviewers. However, this position was refuted by the Cecilia president in his Report of June 1883. He called it “a greater work than the Arminius which attracted so much attention at the Handel and Haydn festival. Of the excellence of the performance, there was no question. The voice of praise [for the choir] was unanimous.” He did note that “the criticisms which appeared the next day upon the work itself were curiously diverse in their tone. All the reporters confessed the great interest of the occasion. But some avoided committing themselves.” The female soloists had been members of the choir, and their performances had been “most creditable and interesting. The choir clothed itself with glory as with a garland.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 1)

President Thorndike’s annual report of June 14, 1883 (his seventh) noted that the ranks of the choir had remained full and that there had “always been abundant reserves on the waiting list to supply the places of any who might fall out. The attendance has been excellent, the discipline, enthusiasm and vocal training better than ever,” and he credited Lang’s ‘master-hand’ in whatever the Club has achieved.” He then added: “I beg also here to tender our thanks to Mr. Preston for various valuable services.” He also noted that the club had used an orchestra for 3 of their 4 concerts, and that all concerts next season would be presented at the Music Hall. (Cecilia Programs. Vol. 1)

EIGHTH SEASON. The first concert was on Monday evening, November 19, 1883 at the Music Hall with full orchestra and B. L. Whelpley as organist. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Parts One and Two and Gade’s Crusaders were presented. “Wicked fate had given [one reviewer] seats back of the solo singers, and right beside the bassoon and clarinet players, and I banqueted almost wholly on woodwind. The soloists were, to me, inaudible. Under these circumstances criticism would be somewhat biased, and I content myself with saying that my neighbor, the bassoon, seemed to play well.” The Transcript review was critical of the orchestra, especially in the Bach, but allowed that they were better in the Gade, although “again left much to be desired.” This reviewer noted that the choir had sung the Gade “at least four times before, but that the piece “wears well.” The Courier writer seems to also be the writer of the first notice as he also mentions his seat position “behind the woodwind,” but in this review he did mention that “The shading of the chorales in the Bach work and the orchestral work throughout the latter part of the evening was excellent.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2) In an article written sixteen years later, December 1899, it was recalled that “the papers acclaimed Mr. E. M. Bagley the hero of the hour; he played the first trumpet part exactly as Bach wrote it, by having a D crook put to a small E-flat cornet, thus playing almost without a flaw Bach’s part for a D trumpet, high C’s and all. Mr. Bagley would have his Bach ‘straight,’ by hook or by crook.” (804)

Dvorak’s Stabat Mater had its world premiere in Prague in 1880 followed by first performances in Berlin in 1881 and London 1883. The Cecilia performed five numbers from the work on Thursday evening, January 24, 1884 with full orchestra, J. Phippen (organist) at the Music Hall, while the American premiere of the complete work was given by Theodore Thomas and the New York Chorus Society on April 3, the same year.(Cecilia program-clippings) President Thordike’s Annual Report made mention of “the floods which poured from the sky and through the streets.” He also wrote of the Dvorak: “Genius is visible throughout, in the orchestration, the vocal treatment, the development of themes, the simple but grand musical effects. The choir sang con amore, and the hearers listened with increasing delight. The demand for a performance of the entire work at an early date was universal.” The Transcript notice of Friday, January 25, 1884 mentioned: “The Cecilia has followed suit to the Apollo Club in placing the orchestra behind the chorus, and with equally gratifying results. Indeed, the effect was so incomparably finer than that of the old arrangement, that one could not help wishing that the club would repeat the great Berlioz Requiem…so that the chorus could be heard to better advantage in it than before.” (Ibid) The second half of the concert was Mendelssohn’s unfinished music for The Loreley, and there were two orchestral works: Mendelssohn’s St. Paul Overture and his Overture to Melusina. The Transcript closed with: “Mr. Lang conducted, and the performance constantly showed his taste and training, which had not, however, been able to prevail on the male chorus to pronounce ”mountain” and ”fountain” correctly.” The January 1884 partial performance inspired a letter to the Editor of the Transcript critical of only being given sections of the work. “It was like asking a man to shake hands with a new acquaintance around a corner, and to form an estimate of his character from the warmth and pressure of the hand.” It was signed by “S. B. W.” and created so much comment that S. B. Whitney wrote to the Editor saying it was not he who had written the first letter. A third writer supported the original “S. B. W.,” but went on to point out “even a Boston audience (musical as it is)” needed a balanced program of new and old pieces at each concert. He further pointed to the many “repetitions of The Messiah, Elijah, and the Passion Music by the Handel and Haydn Society,” and that “we almost always find an old friend or two among the numbers on our Apollo Programme, while the Boylston Club is beginning to be associated with The Desert and some old part-songs which it has sung many times…Boston vocal societies have certainly a hard task before them in striving to be truly musical in the highest sense of the world and at the same time to keep the wolf from the door.” The reviews of this concert reflected the extremes in the Boston critical fraternity: “Mention should also be made of the spirited rendering of the Vintagers Song from The Loreley” (Folio) verses “The Vintage Chorus was deserving of better success, but it was so tamely sung that it seemed to contain more water than wine.” (Courier-January 27, 1884). Perhaps these Letters to the Editor gave the group the will to present the Boston premiere of the complete work, which it did a year later at the Music Hall on January 15, 1885 with full orchestra and Mr. Arthur Foote as the organist. The work was again repeated four years later on Thursday evening March 28, 1889 at the Boston Music Hall with an orchestra and two organists: Mr. E. Cutter, Jr., and Mr. Hiram Hall.

The third concert of the season was given on Thursday evening, March 27, 1884 at the Music Hall. “It began with an organ sonata by Mendelssohn, admirably played by Mr. Arthur Foote, but in which the fact that the organ was out of tune was lamentably noticeable. The flute stops, especially disagreed with the rest of the organ. If it is defiling to touch pitch, they ran no danger of contamination for they never came near it.” [Was this neglect of the organ part of Higginson’s plan to have it remove from the hall?] The reviewer noted that “the club are [?] making good artistic advancement, and have improved in the matter of refined shading.” The writer also noted that the size of the group seemed larger than ever before. This review seemed to be in a magazine as it covered a number of different types of concerts and it was signed by L. C. E. (Louis C. Elson). The second half of the concert was The Fair Melusina by Hofmann which did not seem to create much excitement in any of the reviews, especially as the accompaniment was only by piano. Another wrote: “One sees no valid reason why Heinrich Hofmann should have a claim upon the charity of Boston music-lovers…We have yet to discover the interesting or charming side of Hofmann’s cantatas…The solo parts, especially are kill-joys of the most baleful description.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2) However, the choir had earlier sung other works of this composer-was Hofmann a friend of the conductor? Even President Thorndike admitted that the Hofmann “was too solemn by half-not in the rendering, for the choir is said never to have sung better, but in the story and the composition….We had hoped that the prettiness of the music would have given relief, instead of adding another mortification to Lent…Mr. Foote accompanied the piece, (there was no orchestra), as well as everything else in the concert needing accompaniment, with his unfailing taste and discretion.” Foote’s playing of the Mendelssohn was one of the “last utterances” of organ before it was banished from the Music Hall.

 The fourth concert of the season was held on Thursday evening, May 15, 1884 at the Music Hall with full orchestra. It was described as “A concert of highest character, educational for the masses, yet thoroughly enjoyable to musician and non-musician alike…It presented Mendelssohn’s Athalia [not given by the Club since 1878] and the third part of Schumann’s Faust. The later work, or rather its fragment, was heard to better advantage than on the occasion of its presentation by the society last season.” Interestingly, whereas in some cases the club was rebuked for only giving parts of a work, this reviewer felt that “The presentation of a single part and that part the culmination of the whole work, was just suited to awakening the public’s interest and sustaining it…A complete performance of this masterpiece is rather too heavy a dose at one time for the coi polloi, even if they are an especial kind and attend club concerts…of the choruses we can only speak in the highest terms. The sweetness of tone, the solidity in the stronger passages, the excellent ensemble throughout, made this one of the best concerts that the club has given-worthy to be ranked with the greatest performance of the Crusaders years ago.” The reviewer than complained about the piano being used for the harp, but he did remark on how well Mr. Tucker had played it which “was largely due to the careful touch of the artist.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

President Thorndike’s Annual Report of June 1884 reviewed the first ten years of the choir; the first two as part of the Harvard Musical Association, and then eight as an independent organization. “The conductor was appointed who has ever since led us so faithfully and well. Now and at all times it is our duty and our pleasure to express the debt of gratitude which we owe to Mr. B. J. Lang.” In addition to maturing as a singing group, Thorndike wrote: “We have arrived at a more perfect understanding of our real sphere-the performance of cantatas of some magnitude and importance. Our miscellaneous programmes are not favorites with either singers or audience.” He then listed the various first performances, both Boston and American, and then addressed the subject of soloists: “We have neither the money nor the inclination to procure expensive soloists. We propose that our club shall be chiefly made up of amateurs, and that our solos shall be chiefly sung by members.” He ended his report with details of the following season, “a large and brilliant plan, requiring an orchestra for every performance”-a first for the choir. (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

NINTH SEASON 1884-85. The first concert was on Monday evening, November 17, 1884 at the Music Hall with full orchestra. Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri [possibly given three times before] was presented with Clarence E. Hay, bass and George J. Parker, tenor as the main soloists. Here the problem of using soloists from the group became noticed; the Herald review wrote that the performance “suffered somewhat in having an array of light-voiced soloists in almost all of the solo numbers. As this work consists of an almost unbroken string of solos, it is hazardous to give it with any but the best of artists…Even when given at its best, Paradise and the Peri suffers from too much solo.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2) Woolf in the Evening Gazette wrote an extensive review calling the performance “dull and inadequate as an interpretation” which then led to an extensive critique of Lang as an orchestral conductor. “It has long been our conviction that Mr. Lang is a mistake whenever he takes the baton in hand to interpret an important work or to lead an orchestra…His peculiar leaning towards mechanical literalness leads him constantly to present the cold body of a work without its soul…His jerky and eccentric beating of time is always confusing.” Woolf then refers to the Frog of fable fame which probably inspired the following printed in a different newspaper:

                            The Wolf and the Lang-A Fable.

                  A peaceful Lang was one day teaching a little band of tadpoles to follow their leader through an orchestral stream. A savage wolf, who occupied by chance a slightly elevated position hard by, was so much affected at the sight that, to conceal his own emotions, he sprang upon the defenceless Lang and tore him to pieces with his cruel pen.

                  Moral: 1. Everybody does not always know how to conduct himself.  2. It is often harder to play upon two pianos than upon a harp with one string.

Woolf then continued in another article to savage Lang in response to words written by William Foster Apthorp. Woolf saw the Cecilia Club as “simply a ramification of a small and tyrannical clique that has for years attempted to establish a dictatorship over musical affairs in Boston…The Cecilia Club is but another name for the head of this clique, and the Apollo also is one of its pseudonyms.” Then Lang’s career as a piano teacher was attacked. “They are not particularly good players, for they have absorbed all the faults,and, they are many, of Mr. Lang’s method…Whenever any of these pupils appear in public, the mouthpiece of the clique [Apthorp], also one of Lang’s pupils, expatiates to the extent of half a column upon their merits, their poetic feeling, their deep artistic sentiment and their earnestness of style; in fact, everything but their playing, all of which is indirectly a laudation of Mr. Lang…There is too much of Lang and of Langification in our musical affairs.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

The second concert was given on January 15, 1885 with full orchestra and Arthur Foote as organist. Dvorak’s Stabat Mater was given in full, and the Advertiser review spend much time on the soloists, saying, in effect, that they were not really up to the task. “Last night the quartette was composed of Mrs. J. E. Tippett, whose slender, sweet voice is also as cool as it is clear; Mr. W. J. Winch, who never lacks manly, earnest directness and energy, but who is not emotional, to use a much perverted word; Dr. Bullard, whose pleasant and cultivated organ has not the depth and massiveness the music ought to find, and Miss Mary H. How, who alone of all the four sang as if she felt the composer’s spirit and was seeking to convey it. Add to this that the volumes and timbres of the four voices were widely different, and it will easily be understood that, carefully and well in their respective manners as the vocalists sang, there could be no real ensemble in their union.” The Gazette, while finding the choir’s singing to be “creditable and characterized generally by smoothness and promptness,” used a final paragraph of twenty-one lines to fault Lang’s conducting. “The nervous unsteadiness of his beat frequently created an indecision among the performers that seemed to foretell impending disaster, from which, however, escape was always made,” which must have disappointed the critic, Mr. Woolf. (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

The third concert was held on Thursday evening, March 19, 1885 at the Music Hall and consisted of Mendelssohn”s operetta Camacho’s Wedding: “Mr. [H. G.] Tucker left his triumphs in pianoforte music and became Camacho for the occasion.” The Advertiser wrote: “Mr. Tucker, after his first nervousness wore off, made the small part quite telling, although it must be confessed that he is more happy as a pianist than as a vocalist.” It was advertised as the first performance since its Berlin premiere in 1827, but the Home Journal felt that it should never have been revived, in fact the writer thought that “it would be unfair to presume that the esteemed conductor of The Cecilia entertains a very high opinion of the work.” The accompaniment was by two pianos with Lang playing the solo and recit. accompaniments with Mr. Sumner and Mr. Preston “at a second piano and accompanied the choruses where Mr. Lang took up the conductor’s baton.” The Transcript noted: “Of the duet-playing of the overture, it  can only be said that the two pianists owed it to their reputation (if to nothing else) not to attempt to play with the instruments so far apart that it was physically impossible they should keep together.” The Courier recorded the eight different soloists involved, but noted: “Their ensembles generally were vert ragged and insecure. The chorus did better, and some numbers were very pleasing, but, the whole performance lagged because there was little in the music and nothing in the libretto to interest…This was one of Mendelssohn’s earliest attempts at opera.”

The final concert on Thursday evening, May 14, 1885 at the Music Hall with full orchestra was of the Damnation of Faust by Berlioz. The principal soloists were Mrs. E. Humphrey Allen, Mr. George J. Parker (Tenor) and Mr. Clarence E. Hay (Bass), and “The Male Chorus of the Club is enlarged for this occasion by sixty gentlemen, who have kindly volunteered their services.” [Apollo Club?] The review in Key Notes of May 1885 by Louis C. Elson noted: “The soloists were not great enough for the inordinate demands of the work.” Elson then remembered “the absolutely great performance given by Mr. Henschel.” However he ended with: “The general excellence of the choruses, and the steadiness of the orchestra combined to make the concert one worth going two miles in a rainstorm to see;

Frederick Childe Hassam-Rainy Day.

therefore there will be no more vitriol thrown upon it this week from the pen of L. C. E.” The Advertiser felt that the addition of sixty male voices “added greatly in fulness and richness of tone, the bass being particularly smooth and strong,” but the reviewer felt that “the contraltos were sometimes lost [don’t altos sing with tenors in the traditional Berlioz three-part texture?]…The chorus singing was generally most creditable in accuracy of time and tune, but not always nice in finish or positive in accent…The orchestra was made up of the very cream of local players, and as a consequence, most of the instrumental work was finely done…In spite of the tempestuous night, the audience was large, very few desirable seats being left vacant.” The Courier mentioned repeated previous performances of this work by the Club, “nevertheless the repeated performances have resulted in a choral performance that is almost beyond criticism. All of the chorus work was of a character that calls only for praise…The orchestral work, also, calls for much commendation. The Rakoscky march was given in a very brilliant manner, and won and deserved an imperative encore.” This reviewer also found the soloists not up to the task and the memory of Henschel’s “glorious performance of some five years ago” was again mentioned. “The Cecilia may add this occasion as one of the many triumphs which have graced their history.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

Dated October 20, 1885, the Cecilia sent out a letter outlining the coming season. “An increase in the number of Associate members is necessary to enable the Society to carry out its plans as it desires.” Four concerts on Thursday evenings were advertised with the two major works being a repeat of Bruch’s Odysseus to be given with “full orchestra and competent solo singers” (Advertiser)(last given by the Society in May 1882) and Dvorak’s Spectre”s Bride “the most conspicuous success of the recent festival at Birmingham. England.” The yearly fee was $15 for which you got four tickets to each performance. “The chorus of the Society is as large and efficient as ever; the best orchestral and solo talent possible will be employed; and the concerts will be given under the direction of the conductor of the Society, Mr. B. J. Lang.” (BPL Lang Prog.) The Advertiser article referenced above also mentioned that: “The Cecilia does not ask eleemosynary help…It is ready able to give a good return for the money entrusted to it by its subscribers, and it cannot do all of which it is artistically capable unless it has more pecuniary means.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2). At the June Annual meeting Mr. S. L. Thorndike, President since the choir’s formation declined re-election, and Mr. A. Parker Browne was elected to the post.

The “early months of autumn [1885] were rather anxious times” wrote the CECILIA’S new President (a year later in his Annual report of 1886) as the President for the past nine years had declined re-election, “and it seemed to many that the Club could not well get along without him. The expenses of the [previous] season had used up both income and surplus, and there was no certainty that our income for the new year would enable us to continue in the way we had been going.” However, by the fall, the associate members had made their contributions, and with only two of the concerts using orchestra, the Club finished the season “without debt.”

Singing with the Boston Symphony: “In Boston it [the Cecilia Society] has rarely sung except to its own associates, the most notable instance being in 1885 when it joined with the Symphony Orchestra in doing honor to the memory of John [sic] Sebastian Bach.” (613-100th. Concert Program)

TENTH SEASON. 1885-1886. The first concert was on Thursday evening, December 10, 1885 at the Music Hall performing Bruch’s Odysseus with full orchestra as promised and with most of the solos taken by chorus members. The Transcript noted the previous performances of this cantata by the Cecilia calling the work: “one of the finest; one of those which best repay repetition. The performance last evening, in so far as the work of the chorus is concerned, was very fine indeed…In a word, the singing of the chorus was admirable.” The orchestral work was also praised, but the soloists were found lacking: “Mr. Adams, who was cast for the title role, had the ill-luck to be completely out of voice.” the other main soloists had various problems, and “the other solo parts were acceptably filled.” So much for the promise of “competent solo singers.”

Two of George Whitefield Chadwick’s recently composed songs were part of the February 4, 1886 Music Hall concert. Sweet Wind That Blows and Before the Dawn were sung by the tenor Mr. James H. Ricketson (a member of the Club)(Yearbook, Vol. 3, 52) with Lang as the accompanist. A review in the Transcript of February 5, 1886 stated: “Mr. Chadwick’s songs…were heard with manifest interest, if not delight.” (Faucett, 194 and 195) Another member of the Club, Miss Bockus sang songs by Schubert, Hiller and B. J. Lang’s Sing, Maiden, Sing. (Yearbook, Vol. 3, 52) “This was an unusual Programme for the Cecilia, the chorus giving all their numbers, except ‘The Nixie,’ without accompaniment. The pleasure our audience manifested on this occasion would seem to indicate that though our field is confessedly that of Cantata, with orchestral accompaniment, we shall hazard no loss of support if we occasionally present such a Programme as this.” (President’s Report, June 1886)

The third concert, a miscellaneous program, was held on Thursday evening, March 25, 1886 at the Music Hall and included excerpts from Handel’s Acis and Galatea [this was the second time that the Club had done excerpts from this work which led the Club’s new President to “hope we may soon give it with orchestra”] with the soloists, Miss Brockus, Mr. Webber, and Mr. J. F. Winch. Lang and the accompanist for the evening, Mr. J. A. Preston played Homage a Handel for two pianos by Moscheles which the Courier found “rather tame and uninteresting,” while the Traveler found that the work “added zest and contrast,” but a third reviewer found the performance of this work “rather dry, but that may have been the fault of the work itself, certainly the ensemble was good.” Mr. Winch “was excellent in Mr. Lang’s spirited song The Chase, giving it with hearty abandon and fire…The concert was evidently thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.” Another reviewer wrote that the concert “may be classed as one of the successes of the club, particularly in the chorus work which was resolute and of good volume.” So much for President Thorndike’s recent comments about how neither the audience nor the choir enjoyed a miscellaneous program. Another review mentioned Lang’s song noting that it had been sung “with real brio and splendid voice. He was enthusiastically recalled, and certainly deserved it.” This review also mentioned that Winch had come to grief in his Handel “Oh ruddier than the cherry,” and had been saved by Lang “who at the piano, skipped over all breaks with the vocalists, and covered his retreat with courage and ability. It would have been a total shipwreck, and the singer never would have reached a port of safety, had it not been firm the calmness of Mr. B. J. Lang.” The Courier also had noted Lang’s “admirable presence of mind. It is not the first time that we have admired this quality in Mr. Lang; and we can add that the important accompaniments, in his hands, became as elastic and effective as public, or singer, could desire.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

The fourth concert was held on Thursday evening, May 13, 1886 at the Music Hall with “a small but excellent orchestra assisted”: The Spectre’s Bride by Dvorak with Miss Kehew (The Maiden), Mr. George J. Parker (The Spectre), and Mr. Max Heinrich (The Narrator). In fact, Miss Kehew became ill, and Mrs. J. R. Tippett “very kindly assumed [the part] at a day’s notice.” The Traveler review ended with: “Mr. Lang got a good grip on everything during the performance, and the success of the work is mainly due to his relentless rehearsing of the chorus through the few weeks given to a study of the work. No audience at a Cecilia concert in Boston ever received a new work with so many evidences of appreciation, and in adding it to their repertoire the Cecilia has put the town under obligations,” while a second reviewer began:” I am still enthusiastic over the work and the glorious manner in which the choruses were sung. The Society surpassed itself in this concert.” The soloists were also praised; of Parker: “I have never heard him sing so resolutely and effectively. He was letter-perfect in his part, and that in itself was much.” Of Heinrich: “He sang with electrifying fervor, and gave the terrific details of the narration with tremendous effect.” Of Tippet: “She sang the tender solos with much sweetness.” The reviewer returned later in his piece to again say: “Of the chorus, we cannot say enough in praise.” This review ended with: “This work made a profound impression, and we trust will be repeated next season.” A third review began: “Last Thursday was a red-letter night with the Cecilia Club, and a more successful performance than that given to Dvorak’s new work could not be desired, save by the hypercritical.” This reviewer also described Parker as singing “so resolutely,” also praised Heinrich, and wrote that “the chorus did more than well. Their precision” was perfection. The final comment made reference to a problem noted by many earlier reviewers-audience members leaving before the end of the final number. “Not a person, so far as we saw, left before the final pizzicato notes had brought the cantata to its impressive end, and after that, the applause burst forth with a vehemence unusual in a club concert. We thank Mr. Lang and the club for giving such a work in such a manner, and believe that concerts such as these give a true educational aim to the work of the Cecilia Society.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

ELEVENTH SEASON. 1886-1887. The Boston premiere of Liszt’s oratorio Legend of St. Elizabeth, Opus 153 was presented on November 18, 1886 at Boylston Hall. (Johnson, First, 220) An orchestra accompanied, Arthur Foote was the organist and there were six soloists, none of whom were chorus members. A. Parker Browne, President of the choir, in his “Eleventh Annual Report” of June 1887 praised Lang: “Mr. Lang has been throughout this season the same hard-working, thoughtful, reliable man we have known him to be since we were a club. His capacity for work was never better shown than in the preparation of the St. Elizabeth at the beginning of the season, and the Damnation of Faust at its close, each being prepared in surprisingly short time. Let us all show him that we fully appreciate his value to us, and hope for an indefinite continuance of his services.” (Page 3 of the Report, BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 5) The American premier had been given in New York the previous year by Theodore Thomas and the Philharmonic Society (Johnson, First, 219), and the piece had been first published in Leipzig in 1867. The Transcript said: “The performance was one of the finest the Cecilia has yet given. The chorus sang grandly…and the music presents many difficulties both of the technical and of the highest artistic sort… But they were triumphantly overcome, with apparent ease, with precision and grace.” The reviewer said of the two soloists, Miss Louise Elliott and Mr. Gio. B. Ronconi: “We cannot remember when the Cecilia has had two such good and satisfying leading solo singers…The orchestra, although small, played capitally. A word of hearty commendation should also be given the new sounding-board; it doubled the effectiveness of the performance.” The Journal noted: “The work offers choruses [which] are limited in number and the bulk of the entire evening’s singing falls on the soloists, especially on those who render the words of Elizabeth and her husband, Ludwig.” The Home Journal also commended the choir and the two main soloists. “Miss Elliott did excellently well in a very trying and elaborate part,” while Sig. Ronconi “sang the taxing and intricate part of Ludwig in a manner that deserves great commendation for his most self-forgetting devotion to his music.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

January 27, 1887 heard the Boston premier with orchestral accompaniment of Mendelssohn’s Music to Racine’s Athalia, Op. 74 given at the Music Hall with Bernhard Listemann’s Boston Orchestra Club [a group of amateur players] with Howard M. Ticknor as the narrator (Johnson, First, 254). In an extensive, positive review the Advertiser praised the choir, the soloists, and then spend some time on the Boston Orchestral Club. “It was an odd sight for Music Hall, that of the many young ladies who were among the string players of the Orchestral Club, and it was a good deal to expect of young players that they should hold their attention and their strength through the strain of so long and responsible a performance…Mr. Listermann led the first violins and Mr. Van Raalte the seconds…Mr. Listemann conducted the overture, Mr. Lang taking the harp part at the piano; but Mr. Lang led the Priests’ march, which was played with all the nervous energy and elan of a lot of young players who have not begun to lose anything of their enthusiasm…altogether, then, last evening deserves to be brilliantly entered on the register of local musical annals.” The Post also noted that the Orchestral Club was taking part “in an effort somewhat more ambitious and more important than anything heretofore essayed by it. The result must certainly have been very satisfactory to the club and its friends, and to all who are interested in the cause of good music.” this seems to be painting a very positive picture fo a decision that was most probably made on financial grounds, rather than artistic grounds…The soloists were weak. Mrs. Whitney was quite inadequate to the task assigned her.  She showed neither voice nor method adequate for the best rendering of the music…Mrs. Ipsen and Miss McLain were more acceptable, and sang sweetly and tunefully, if not forcibly.” Mr. Ticknor’s contribution was praised. The Traveler questioned the use of an amateur orchestra, saying that by doing so, “the Cecilia immediately lowers its standard of performance.” However, The Transcript wrote: “The performance last evening was very good on the part of the orchestra, absolutely superb on the part of the chorus…The orchestra, composed for the most part of amateurs, did very well; indeed, we have not heard such steady good playing from the Orchestral Club at any of its own concerts…The solo parts were excellently sung, Mrs. Whitney renewing the fine impression she has made on the few occasions has been heard in public here. She was well seconded, too, by Mrs. Ipsen and Miss McLain.” Did these reviewers attend the same concert? (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

The third concert of the season was on Thursday evening March 17, 1887 at the Music Hall with full orchestra performing a repeat of the Spectre’s Bride by Dvorak. The Advertiser wrote: “The public was indebted for its hearing of this original, romantic and fascinating work to the enterprise of the Cecilia, and again the presentation was adequate, delightful and honorable…The performance can be commended very highly.” The choir, orchestra and soloists were all praised, and it was noted that the soprano, Miss Kehew, who had been ill and not able to sing the part last year, had her chance at this concert. “Her unusually full and noble voice is always heard with pleasure for its own sake, and we were further gratified to hear her sing with purer and warmer style than usual, although she was not always exact in intonation.” The Transcript felt this second performance of the work showed it to be “finer and more full of genius than ever. No more thoroughly original work has been given here for years.” This review also praised the choir and soloists, also noting that Miss Kehew’s “intonation is still not always unimpeachable.” Some fault was found with the orchestra whose contribution ranged from playing “fairly well” to “at times very well.” The writer hoped that the time would come when “they can afford to have more orchestral rehearsals and larger orchestras” so that the orchestral playing would be “on a level with the work done by the choir. When that time comes there will be little left to wish for, except great solo singers, and these do not grow on every bush.” The Post also recorded that this performance was “a marked improvement over that of a year ago,” and praised the two male soloists while finding that “Miss Kehew’s effort was well-intentioned, but her voice and her method are not calculated to fully meet the demands of the part.” The review ended with the announcement that Mr. and Mrs. Georg Henschel would be the soloists at the next concert, on May 5. (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

A “special supplementary” performance of the Damnation was given at the Music hall on Wednesday evening, May 25, 1887 “with the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. Georg Henschel and other artists and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Male Chorus will be enlarged for this Concert to the number of one hundred and fifty. Tickets, with Reserved Seats, at $1.50 and $1.00, will be for sale at the box office of Music Hall on and after Monday, May 16.” On the night Mr. Henschel was ill and his part sung by Mr. Clarence E. Hay who had done the part at the first Cecilia performance of this piece. The Journal noted: “The hall was completely filled, while in spite of the sultriness indoors, as well as out, there was the closest attention throughout the evening…The club sang with excellent effect, earnestly and vigorously, and with confidence from the first…Mrs. Georg Henschel”s pure, sweet voice served admirably to sustain the part of Marguerite, and her singing was charming…Mr. Lang conducted, while the instrumental music was given by the Symphony Orchestra.” The lengthy review in the Transcript noted that this was only the second time that the Cecilia had sold tickets to one of their concerts directly to the public, “the first occasion being a performance of Schumann’s Faust in Tremont Temple some years ago.” The choral work was praised for its “unbounded enthusiasm. The result was admirable, the chorus singing with a finish, accuracy and fire that left little to be desired.” The soloists were also praised in this review, “and the heart of the whole performance was Mr. Lang himself; his magnetic influence was everywhere felt. It was a superb piece of conducting from beginning to end.” Howard Malcolm Ticknor spent three-quarters of his review noting that the availability of this concert to the general public was very unusual. In his last paragraph, he complimented the orchestra but didn’t mention the soloists. He ended: “Mr. Lang conducted steadily and controllingly, as usual, and a magnificent audience filled the house almost to overflowing.” [Ticknor had been a singing member of the Apollo Club since 1880] The Courier began its review saying that the choir and orchestra “did splendidly, but the soloists were not of the broad style demanded by the composition.” Some praise was offered to the soloists, and then the choir was again mentioned: “And now one can praise unreservedly, for the choral numbers did credit to the club and its leader. The Amen fugue was splendidly given, so was the chorus of sylphs and the Sancta Maria during the ‘Ride to Hades.’ The demoniacal laughter during the Satanic serenade was very prompt in the second verse.” However, “The orchestra was of course, not up to the numerical standard required by Berlioz, but that is never to be expected anywhere.” The review did end positively: “Boston owes an incalculable debt to this society and we cordially return our thanks for this fiery subject, given during the hot weather.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 2)

TWELFTH SEASON. 1887-1888. The first concert was given on Thursday evening, December 1, 1887 at the Music Hall with full orchestra; it was the group’s 65th. concert, and the repertoire was Scenes from Faust by Schumann and Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night. For the Schumann, the main soloists were Miss Alice Wentworth and Mr. Max Heinrich “Other Solos” given by four sopranos, two altos (including Mrs. Ita Welsh-Donovan), one tenor (Mr. J. H. Ricketson) and one bass (Mr. A. F. Arnold). Richard Heard in the Post noted how Schumann’s instrumental character of writing made it difficult for the chorus to do their parts, and this led to “a veiled, cloudy tone, or by a deviation from the pitch.” The two main soloists were praised, but no mention was made of the other eight soloists. The performance by the choir of the Mendelssohn was praised saying: “The singing was smoother and much surer and the body of tone was much larger; in fact, in many places, it was more than double in volume to what it was in the ”Faust” music, and established for the first time a true balance between itself and the orchestra.” The Gazette found the Schumann “dull and dreary. In addition, but little of this music is well adapted to the voice, and it is exceedingly trying to artists who may undertake to interpret it.” This reviewer also noted lapses in intonation and also noted: “The second part of the Programme presented Mendelssohn’s Walpurgis Night, in which the chorus achieved so much better results than attended its singing in ”Faust” that it was not easy to believe it was the same body. The intonation was purer, and there were better spirit, precision, smoothness and steadiness in its work generally.” The Herald echoed the same sentiments saying of the Schumann: “The work failed to arouse any interest in the audience, and it was evidently a relief to both singers and listeners when it was ended…An orchestra of limited numbers but of excellent material assisted, and Mr. Lang directed the performance with his usual skill.” The Traveler noted that the tenor soloist in both works, Mr. Ricketson, “a young singer whose style is yet unformed…his singing shows a distinct gain in two years. Mr. Ricketson is no doubt destined to do finely in the best paths of his profession.” It also noted: “Mrs. Donovan [formerly Miss Ita Welsh] is seldom heard outside Cecilia circles; she sings well and her voice is sympathetic.” (Cecilia Programs, Vol. 3)

On Thursday evening, January 26, 1888 the choir sang the world premiere of Arthur Foote’s The Wreck of the Hesperus, Op. 17 with text by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It “was performed with piano accompaniment [the orchestration not being finished]…It was [not] given with orchestra until 27 March 1890.” (Cipolla, Foote Catalog, xix) A modern performance was given at the Newport [R. I.] Music Festival in August 1972. After being published in America by Schmidt in 1888, it was published in England by Curwen in two editions: “The vocal score and a tonic sol-fa edition (Cipolla, Foote, 46). One critic wrote: “The work made a most favorable showing,” but added: “Perhaps the treatment is held too much in reserve in the crucial moments…Mr. Foote evidently adheres to the old classic models and keeps himself at all times within moderate limits…Mr. Foote was his own accompanist and gave to his rendering a composer’s enthusiasm. His accompaniment throughout the evening was delightfully intelligent and sympathetic.” (337) Another critic expressed somewhat the same feeling: “The cantata is perhaps lacking in marked individuality, but it is always thoughtful and refined in style. The choruses show some excellent writing for the voices, which are often massed with marked skill.” However, he thought that the solos were poorly written, using melodies that “zig-zag up and down the staff.” Finally Boston seemed to have a resident harpist and “an attractive and well-appreciated feature of the concert was the masterly harp playing of Mr. H. Schnecker.” (338) The Courier review devoted almost half of its extensive notice to Foote’s work, beginning: “We are sorry to have to say that Mr. Arthur Foote’s setting of The Wreck of the Hesperus, was not dramatic enough for the subject, though a clear and skillful piece of writing…To hear a sweet tenor voice give forth the bluff sailor’s warning, ‘I pray thee put in yonder port for I fear a hurricane,’ is odd, to say the least…The work was admirably sung by soloists and chorus.” The young harpist was also mentioned here: “All Boston has come to know what a great virtuoso and thorough artist this young man is. That he won the heartiest of applause is understood, for such playing could not fail to arouse enthusiasm.” (339-341)

The third concert fo the season was given on Thursday evening, March 22, 1888 at the Music Hall with orchestra. The first Boston performance of eight sections of Beethoven’s The Praise of Music (1814) began the program followed by A Patriotic Hymn by Dvorak, then Gade’s Spring Fantasy for piano, orchestra and four soloists, and ending with Bruch’s Fair Ellen for choir and orchestra. The Herald review began: “The club has seldom given its subscribing members a more enjoyable entertainment than that furnished on this occasion, and the hard work done by the singers under Mr. Lang’s drill in the rehearsals was well rewarded by the generally excellent results attending the performance.” The Bruch was the only piece that the club had sung before. A recent addition to the BSO was praised: “Loeffler’s violin was heard with great satisfaction,” and “Mr. Tucker gave excellent aid in the performance of the piano” part in the Gade…The Fair Ellen of Bruch loses none of its attractiveness from frequent hearings, and the chorus and soloists entered into the spirit of the brilliant occasion that it met with the most appreciation from the audience. Miss Kehew has made many successes in this work, but her voice has never been heard to better advantage in it than last evening, and much of the spirited performance was due to her efforts…The orchestral work of the evening was generally excellent, and Mr. Lang is certainly to be congratulated upon the success attending this concert.” (342-244) The Gazette found the Beethoven “monotonous and dull…It is little more than routine work…The voices throughout are treated after the most brutal fashion, the soprano solos wanting a throat of brass and the lungs of an elephant to do them full justice.” Other comments echoed those of the Herald reviewer. Positive mention was made by both reviewers of a new, young tenor, Mr. Ivan Morawski who had also joined the Apollo Club that year. There were a total of eight reviews for this concert, many of which were quite long and detailed. (345-346)

The fourth concert was given at the Music Hall on Thursday evening, May 10, 1888 and included Margaret Ruthven Lang’s first appearance as a composer at the Cecilia Concerts. The four songs given (in order of the program) were: My Lady Jacqueminot, Sing, Birdling, Sing!, Nameless Pain, and Songs in the Twilight. The Boston Home Journal review dated May 11, 1888 began: “To the Cecilia Club belongs the verdict of having made at its concert in the Music Hall Thursday evening, some of the best effects of light and shade, of nicely proportioned diminuendi and crescendi, that any vocal club has made in Boston this season.” It continued: “the songs by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, that Mr. Parker rendered religiously well, are uncommonly good examples of vocal writing…Miss Lang’s songs are all marked by a tender sentiment, are founded each upon a clearly musical idea, and are alike treated with special elaboration and freedom in the accompaniment…My Lady Jacqueminot seemed to us the most pleasing of the four. (353)…Margaret Ruthven Lang should easily take rank with some of our very best songwriters.” For this concert, Mr. Harry Fay was the pianist and Mr. Arthur Foote the organist. One review ended: “Mr. Lang should feel additional pride in The Cecilia; at the close of its 12th. season it is a better singing club than at any previous time.” (356) Another review noted: “Mr. Parker also sang the songs by Miss Lang (some of which were new). Miss Lang writes sympathetically for a tenor voice, and in a style which is rare enough to be called original. The accompaniments were played by Mr. Lang, beautifully it need not be said.” (355) These same sentiments were written in another paper: “Mr. Parker sang the songs by Miss Lang exquisitely; of the songs themselves we have already expressed our high opinion on a previous occasion. Suffice now to say that they wear well, and their beauty is in no wise dimmed by repetition.”(357) Louis Elson in the Advertiser of May 11 felt that “The first two of the set seemed the best. My Lady Jacqueminot was both grace and pathos personified, while Sing Birdling Sing was appropriately brilliant in its opening, although the central section was conventional. Miss Lang imitates Jensen in the difficulty of her accompaniments. It is fortunate that she has a father who can accompany more easily and gracefully than anyone we know of.” The reviewer of the Herald on May 11 had a different opinion-“Mr. Parker gave his best efforts to the singing of Miss Lang’s songs, but the compositions offered a thankless task to the singer, the writing being strictly in the modern German school, which, save to those who have the acquired taste, offer little that is pleasing or interesting. Mr. Lang’s accompaniments went far to redeem the songs from failure, however, and the singer was heartily applauded for his efforts.”(358)A more positive position was taken by the review in the Post of May 11.“Miss Lang’s songs are all marked by a tender sentiment, are founded each upon a clearly musical idea, and are alike treated with special elaboration and freedom in the accompaniment. Mr. Parker sang them with appreciation and the proper feeling. My Lady Jacqueminot seemed to us the most pleasing of the four.” (Scrapbook 1887-1906) One final review listed the four songs, and described them as “charming little fancies, delicately artistic in treatment,” and that Mr. Parker performed them “with rare finish of style and tenderness of sentiment, winning for his really beautiful interpretations, some of the heartiest plaudits of the evening.” (361)

THIRTEENTH SEASON. 1888-1889. At their December 3, 1888 Music Hall concert the choir sang the first Boston performance of the German Requiem by Brahms as the first half of the concert, with a repetition of the Patriotic Hymn by Dvorak as the second part…The soloists were Miss Elizabeth Hamlin and Mr. Eliot Hubbard with Arthur Foote as the organist and full orchestra accompaniment. The Transcript December 5th. review written by William F. Apthorp noted: “Here is a composition to find the like of which we must go back to the soulful conventionality of the oratorios of Handel and Haydn, back to the inspired technique of Mozart’s Masses and Requiem and search among the works of the preacher of the musical gospel, Sebastian Bach.” The review in the Herald recorded: “The merits…failed to fully appear, the composer having apparently a somewhat indefinite idea of an idea not readily grasped by the forces engaged in its presentation. While it shows the hand of a skilled musician, its vagueness and fragmentary themes do not offer much satisfaction. The soloist[s], chorus, and orchestra appeared to be alike in doubt as to a full understanding of the score, and the ill success attending its presentation was about evenly shared by all participants. (Boston Herald, February 12).” (Johnson, First, 87) Johnson lists the first American complete performance as one given by the Oratorio Society of New York, conducted by Leopold Damrosch on March 15, 1877 in Steinway Hall. The New York Times of March 16 noted: “It is exceedingly scholarly, but its length and its monotonousness are such that it is scarcely likely to impress any but students.” (Johnson, Op. cit., 86) Warren Davenport writing in the June issue of the Folio noted: “Brahm’s [many made this mistake] Requiem proved to be a work of great contrapuntal value exhibiting this learned composer in a most classically scientific light. At one hearing it seemed to lack in spontaneity and as it proceeded became monotonous in its effect upon the listener. The chorus parts are quite difficult and consequently, the singers had a hard struggle with the work and had it not been for the happy thought of Mr. Lang to put a piano among the singers to assist in taking up the leads it is doubtful what might otherwise have been the result. The Club deserves credit for the general effectiveness of the effort. Mr. Lang conducted with his usual care and held the forces well together…Dvorak’s Patriotic Hymn, a warm, effective composition, brilliantly scored, was finely rendered by the Club and brought a strange dull concert to a pleasant conclusion.” (362-363) Davenport had been a bass in the Apollo Club in the early 1800s but was no longer a member in 1891. The Traveler review felt that “The eminently sympathetic results of the initial presentation of the Brahms Requiem is due in a large measure to Mr. Lang’s intelligent rehearsing of the work in private, and to his splendid hold upon his forces through its performance. The orchestra, made up of Symphony players, was excellent; but its unfamiliarity with the music was apparent more than once.” (364-365) This review also noted that there was only one rehearsal with orchestra! The headline of the Globe’s review by Howard Malcolm Ticknor was: “SUPERB CHORAL WORK,” with smaller headlines of: “First Acquaintance of Bostonians with This Charming Piece” and “Large Audience is Delighted by the Performance…It is only just and reasonable to say [that this work] could not have been heard but for this society…The performance was a triumphantly successful one, and it was but rarely that there was anything like reluctance in taking up the leads or uncertainty in following the.” This review also mentioned the piano among the singers to provide “unobtrusive help.” Other reviews had mentioned various problems of the soprano soloist, and Ticknor finished his piece by saying: “One fundamental thing she has yet to learn, however [she had just returned from study in Europe], before she can be accepted for a first-place among singers, and that is enunciation; I caught some single syllables, but not one solitary entire word reached me in an intelligible form.” (366-369) The Journal noted how difficult the piece was, but wrote: “Mr. Lang was evidently not to be staggered by the intricacies of harmony or the difficulties in the way of its rendition, and the result is a triumph for Mr. Lang and the club, and a critical and intelligent musical audience heard this work for the first time.” (370) The Transcript also noted the difficulties of the work: “To undertake a performance of it is no light matter for any choral society; its difficulty is so exceptional that none save the finest choral forces can dare to face it…Of the composition itself, one can speak only in reverent admiration. If ever Brahms has shown himself to be truly great, it is here, in this stupendous work…Dvorak’s Patriotic Hymn was superbly given, and outdid even the fine impression it made when the Cecilia first sang it here.” (371-374) The choir never sang this piece again until its performance on March 16, 2003, at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory. (Cecilia program Note by Steven Ledbetter) In President Coale’s Report of June 1889, he quoted a review by “a well-known critic” who called the choir “fine, vigorous, and wonderfully impressive” in a work “many pages of which can be hopefully met by only two classes of singers,-the professional choristers of England and the Continent; or such intelligent, earnest, and well-equipped amateurs as the Cecilia can boast.” (393)

The Thursday evening, January 31, 1889 concert at the Music Hall included Margaret’s In a Meadow sung as a quartet by Mrs. Galvin, Miss Mary H. How, Mr. G. W. Want and Mr. A. W. Wellington [probably all of whom were from the choir-How and Wellington are listed in the 1884-85 list of members]. (MYB, 1888-89, 16) Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. and Mr. G. W. Sumner were the accompanists. (385) This was the second time that her works had been performed by the group. One review noted: “Miss Lang’s piece, a good deal developed in form, is new evidence of a gift for composition from which something of real moment is likely to come. She handles the voices with certainty, considers their range like a sympathetic craftsman, while she infuses a charming melodic manner in a form which is harmonically pure.” (377) Another review called Margaret piece one of two “prominent successes of the evening,” (378) and another described the piece as “a pretty, graceful and effective piece of writing, with some interesting harmonies and a charming piano accompaniment.” (379) “Much commendation must be given to a quartet by our young composer Margaret R. Lang. It is entitled In a Meadow and, although some of the solo phrases sound thin, it has moments of high power.” But then the reviewer continued: “It is melodious in an unwonted degree, and its grace and daintiness (admirably suited to the words) together with the excellence of its execution, by Mrs. Galvin, Miss How, and Messrs. Want and Wellington, made it one of the best-appreciated numbers of a Programme which, as will be seen, was rich in good things.” (381) Another review made about the same comment. “Miss Lang’s new composition, In a Meadow, proved to be a very graceful and refined vocal quartet, which was only weak in some of its solo phrases” (386) Possibly both were written by the same pen-one for the daily press and the other for a music periodical. The poet was Mr. Stoll Higginson who provided “tempting words.” (385) “Miss Lang’s quartette was enthusiastically received by the audience. It is extremely well written both in voice and piano parts, and one only misses the logic and richness of construction which thought and experience will bring.” (382) It was noted “that with fatherly care Mr. Lang played the piano accompaniment” of Margaret’s piece. (385)

The third concert was on Thursday evening, March 28, 1889 at the Music Hall with orchestra and Mr. E. Cutter Jr. and Hiram Hall as organists. The featured work was the Stabat Mater by Dvorak which one reviewer describes as “undoubtedly a very great one” but monotonous due to “adherence to minor keys…The performance, though creditable in some respects, was rough and crude in many essentials.” Other problems were cited and traced to the reviewer’s view that all the problems were traced to shortcomings of the conductor. “The soloists were scarcely efficient to do the highest justice to their tasks,” but then Mr. Parker’s major solo “was sung by him with fine grace and tenderness,” and “the best solo work, however, was done by Mr. Babcock, who may be commended unstintingly for the largeness, the nobility and the clearness of his singing throughout. His rich, warm voice was used with splendid effect in his solos and afforded steady and strong support in the concerted numbers…A large audience was present, and, though not over-cordial, it was appreciative.” (388) This review may be the work of Benjamin Woolf in the Evening Gazette. The Post also found the work gloomy, but noted: “The excellent work of the orchestra should not be passed over, which, under the careful leadership of Mr. Lang, was in every way commendable.” (389) The Transcript noted that this was the third time that the Cecilia had presented this work: first, some selections in January 1884 (394), “and afterward, the entire work, several years ago.” [January 15, 1885] The reviewer mentioned that after the concert he consulted what he had written about these two earlier performances which had “left a very strong and fine impression upon” him while the current performance he found “upon the whole, rather dreary. All we can say is that we are rather thunderstruck at finding ourselves half bored, half nonplussed, by a composition which once filled us with delight. The performance certainly could not have been at fault, for it was one of the very finest the Cecilia has ever given. The chorus sang admirably from beginning to end, and in some passages of the final chorus, gave out the most superb volume of choral tone we have yet heard in the Music Hall. The solo singers, too, did excellently well…The orchestra was adequate, and Mr. Lang may well feel proud of achieving so fine a performance of a work, the difficulties of which are both many and serious.” (390 and 391) This reviewer was probably William F. Apthorp-he never did give an answer to his opening question of why this performance didn’t move him. The Home Journal singled out one of the soloists-“On the whole, we are inclined to regard the most laudable achievement of the performance as unquestionably with Miss How. She was not only in her best voice but throughout she sang in a noble sympathetic style that was simply charming in its relation to the music of her part. Mr. Lang was fully master of the difficulties the work presented to his lead, and the honors of the CECILIA’S success with the choruses belong largely with him.” (392) The first reviewer had found Miss How’s voice too small for the part and Lang’s conducting skills inadequate.

The season ended on May 16 with a miscellaneous program that President Coale called “more successful than previous” such concerts. The most interesting part of the concert was “a new set of Gipsy songs by Brahms” performed by the Brahms Quartet-Mrs. Allen, Miss Edmands, Mr. Parker, and Mr. W. L. Whitney with Lang as accompanist. This was a Boston first performance, and “Mr. Lang’s playing of the piano-forte part will long be remembered for its beauty and delicacy. It was a real treat in itself. The members of the Brahms Quartet deserve our thanks for their kindness in singing at this concert in a work which required so much study as this book of songs.” (395) This concert was the 68th. given by the club and ended its 13th. Season. But, just before the final concert, the club received a letter from the BSO conductor Wilhelm Gericke asking it they would sing at his May 23rd. Farewell Concert selections from Wagner’s Parsifal. They did, and then received a very kind letter of thanks calling them “so splendid a chorus.” (395)

The Annual Report of the President for June 1889 noted: “only six members” had withdrawn during the previous summer leaving “an unprecedentedly small number of vacancies” for new members. He described the Brahms Requiem concert as “one of the important, if not the most important, of the musical events of the year,” and noted that two other Boston choirs had previously scheduled the work but not brought it to performance. The  President noted the death of Dr. E. C. Bullard “one of the organizers of the Club.” (397)

The Cecilia, prepared by Lang, performed with the BSO during the ’89, ‘2, ’94, ‘9, ’00, ’09, ’10 and ’11 Seasons. Prepared by Malcolm Lang, they appeared in the ‘5, ”26, ’27, ’28 and ’29 Seasons, and prepared by Arthur Fiedler, they sang in the ’30 and ’31 Seasons. Other choral groups also appeared during this period- a BSO Chorus appeared in the ’86, ’92 and ’93 Seasons, and prepared by Stephen Townsend they appeared in the ’18, ’19 and ’20 Seasons, and also in the ‘1 and ’22 Seasons. (Howe, BSO, 246) The Boston Singers Society appeared once during the ’91 Season as did the Boston Choral Art Society who appeared once in the ’03 Season. The Handel and Haydn Society sang once in ’04 prepared by Emil Mollenhauer while the Thursday Morning Musical Art Club appeared once in each of the ’03, ’06, ‘1 and ’16 Seasons. Lang-prepared choruses supplied most of the voices for the BSO during Lang’s connection with the groups and even beyond. (Howe, BSO, 246-260)

FOURTEENTH SEASON. 1889-1890. The season opened on Monday, December 2, 1889 at the Music Hall. Dvorak’s Spectre’s Bride was presented with full orchestra-it was the third time the choir had programmed this work. The Advertiser noted: “From the very start the chorus brought to bear an immense amount of enthusiasm that bespoke success, and sustained throughout the reputation they have so well and honestly earned in the past.” The soprano soloist was “Madame Sophie Zela, whose romantic entrance to Boston’s musical circles has been but so recently noticed.” [What story this?] Mr. Parker’s contribution was praised: “His beautiful voice is always listened to with great pleasure,” and the return to the Music Hall stage of Mr. J. F. Rudolphsen was noted but no critical comment made. “Mr. Lang kept the orchestra and chorus under good control for the most part, and with the exception of too much prominence being given to the accompaniments in some places, can be congratulated upon having given a very satisfactory reading of one of the principal works of this Slavonic composer.” (398 and 399) Another review recorded the “large audience,” and that the “full orchestra including two harps, assisting.” This was certainly a step forward from the usual use of piano for harp parts. This review praised the chorus, but felt that the “orchestra, though composed of admirable material, acquitted itself with a ragged, noisy effect, and too often with a woeful lack of precision.” Mme. Zela “who was heard here for the first time, has a soprano voice of rather uneven and throaty quality,” while “Mr. Rudolphsen, whose voice is remarkably well preserved, manifested all of his old fire and musicianly taste, and much of the efficiency that characterized his work here years ago.” This reviewer found the work as a whole “monotonous and dreary…It was listened to apathetically, and there was no enthusiasm and but little applause.” (400) A third review described Mme. Zela’s as having “a high soprano voice of some power, of excellent quality in its upper range-she took her high C with great ease-but wanting in timbre in its lower part…Of Mr. Rudolphsen’s singing of the part of the Narrator, one would rather say nothing; let us try to forget it, and remember, instead, the admirable work he used to do here twenty years ago.” (402) The Post reviewed previous performances of this work by the Cecilia. “The club sang this work as a novelty at their spring concert the year after it was first produced at the Birmingham festival and repeated it the following March.” Of this third performance, “The Cecilia has never sung better than last night…and the addition of two harps lent peculiar charm to the two choruses where they had before been replaced by the piano…Mr. J. F. Rudolphsen suffered most unfortunately as the narrator by comparison with Max Heinrich, who sang the part at both previous renderings of the work.” (403 and 404)

The second concert was held Thursday evening, January 23, 1890 at the Music Hall with the Boston Orchestral Club. Selections from Haydn’s The Seasons (about ninety minutes of music) were presented with the soloists Miss Gertrude Franklin, Mr. G. J. Parker and Mr. C. E. Hay. Louis C. Elson in the Advertiser wrote of Franklin: she “deserves great praise for the intelligence she displayed in every part of her work. ‘O, How Pleasing to the Senses’ was commendable, the cadenza at the close, artistic and embellished with well-executed trills.” The orchestra was described as “generally excellent and often more than that. Mr. Sabin was concertmeister, with Miss Lillian Shattuck at the second desk and a liberal sprinkling of Mr. Julius Eichberg’s advanced students in the ranks.” Elson noted that the final chorus from the ”Spring” section closed the work, “and as Haydn was never over-proud of the actual finale of this work, one may let the transference pass unchallenged, but it would be a hazardous thing to do with any other masterpiece.” (407 and 408) Arthur  Weld wrote that “the cuts which were made were very injudicious, and some of the most celebrated numbers were omitted. Very little good can be done by presenting classical works in so insufficient and incomplete a manner, and they would be better left on the shelf, dead and forgotten.” Weld also did not like Lang’s conducting technique. “The chorus sang very roughly and were particularly at fault with regard to rhythmic precision, and the orchestra, which does so well under Mr. Chadwick was apparently dazed and confused by Mr. Lang’s different methods, and played in a very wooden and mechanical style.” (409 and 410) Another review noted that selections were presented, “but this mattered little, as the pure musical treatment of any and every scene is apparent whatever the context.” This review also noted how moved the audience was: “expressions of approval during last night”s performance were numerous and deserved.” It was also commented upon that “The Cecilia found no difficulty in doing ample justice to the choruses…Mr. Lang held his combined forces under good control.” Maybe Weld and this reviewer sat in very different places in the Music Hall. Philip Hale in the Home Journal began with: “Improper liberties were taken with the body of this sturdy child of Haydn’s old age,” but he was very positive about Miss Franklin. “It is a pleasure to pay tribute to ” her art, and he also described the cadenza as ‘musical in itself.'” The two male soloists were also praised, but the orchestra “played roughly and without rhythm. Often it apparently groped its way from measure to measure,” and the fault was laid upon Lang. “However versatile and accomplished a musician Mr. Lang may be, it is plain that when he takes his stick in hand to lead a chorus or orchestra, his beat is indecisive and perplexing.” (413-415) The reviewer in the Times also noted the incomplete performance: “The entire work was not given by the Cecilia, but excellent taste was shown in the selections that were made; and by the substitution of the ”God of light” chorus with its free fugue for a finale instead of the last chorus of ”Winter” with its ”drunken fugue,” as Haydn called it, the work gained an effective climax…The choruses [were] all sung with an integrity and heartiness that none present could have failed to appreciate [well, a couple did fail to appreciate].” Miss Franklin’s performance was singled out was praised for a whole paragraph ending with: In brief, she sang in a wonderfully finished and flawless manner.” The review ended: “Despite the inclement weather the concert was attended by a large audience.” (416 and 417) Another review praised Lang for presenting only parts of the Haydn work: “The last time a performance of the cantata complete was attempted-Handel and Haydn Society Festival, May 1875-it was found that the excess of sweetness was cloying.” The choir was praised: “the choruses were sung with animation, accuracy and expression.” The soloists were praised, and to end the review it was noted: “The performance was directed by Mr. B. J. Lang, who, it may be remembered, was the first to present the cantata complete in this city. That interesting event occurred in 1865.” (419 and 420)

Arthur Weld wrote a piece, probably for a music periodical in which he noted the fact “that Mr. Osgood has started a new [singing] society,” and that he hoped that a rivalry would not develop between it and the Cecilia. “Not only is our city amply large enough for two such institutions, but it would be extremely detrimental to either should the other cease to exist.” This new choir, the Boston Singers, was to fill the place of the recently “defunct Boylston Club.” Weld then went on to Catalog the many important premiers that the Cecilia had given, calling it a “remarkable list…Mr. Lang is sure to offer good work and excellent programmes to the public, and it would be gross ingratitude on the part of the musical world if they should fail to support him.” (405 and 406)

On Thursday evening, March 27, 1890 at the Music Hall the choir gave the Boston premiere of Massanet’s Eve with orchestra. Also on the program were The Wreck of the Hesperus by Arthur Foote and The Song of Fate by Brahms. Johnson quotes Hale’s review from the Post of March 28: “Dubois’ idea of the Fall in which we sinned all was spectacular and erotic. Massanet, in his Eve, is more than erotic, he is pornographic.” (Johnson, First, 230) The premiere of this work had been on March 18, 1875 in Paris. This was the second oratorio or Drame Sacre or Mystere or Trilogie Sacre by the composer who “quickly made an excellent name for himself in Paris, and from a motive unknown suddenly wrote an oratorio in 1873: Marie Magdeleine. With this religious work, Massenet entered a terrain that captivated him forever.” (Eve CD booklet) G. Schirmer published an undated edition in English which was probably the one used in Lang’s performance. Louis C. Elson began his review in the Advertiser: “Another red-letter night for the Cecilia!” However, of the Foote work he wrote: it “does not make a better impression on a second hearing.” The second work in the concert, “Brahms’ noble Song of Fate was sung in a manner that did honor to director and chorus, every difficult detail, even the sforzando effects and the staccato passages being given as a single voice…Then came a work new to Boston, and exciting enough to be classed as ”extra hazardous.” It is a mystery how Eve, a mystery, could have been transplanted to cold-blooded Boston. It is as erotic and ecstatic as the most passionate of French composers-Massenet-could make it and the chorus sang it as if inspired. Never have the Cecilians surpassed their work of last night.” The soprano soloist, Mrs. Jennie P. Walker was praised for her “charming, shading expression, and intonation even in alt passages.” The review ended: “We must have this work again and soon…I doubt whether any Parisian vocal society can excel the work of the Cecilia in it.” (421-425) G. H. W. [George H. Wilson. editor of the Boston Musical Yearbook] wrote that he was only mildly enthusiastic about the Foote cantata. Of the Brahms, he felt that it “was splendidly sung by the chorus,” and he made the same comment concerning the Massenet. “The performance of the chorus portions of Massenet’s work was of a high order, and in places, notably the unaccompanied writing which introduces part two, very fine. Excellent attention was paid to Mr. Lang, who gave to the work his best pains.” Some fault was found with the orchestra and this was linked to the limited funds available. “The town should see to it that a society like the Cecilia should have a plethoric, not a fading treasury.” The soprano soloist was also praised in this review. “Mrs. Walker is no less an artist because she is a Boston church singer and Boston taught…The singer is musical and has advanced in her art by normal, honest and conscientious labor.” The review ended with extra praise: “We must add a word about the sopranos of the Cecilia chorus; these voices are angelic.” (426-429) By far the longest review (probably for the Home Journal) was that by Philip Hale who began with the history of the French ”Mystery Play” beginning in the 12th. Century. He then continued with various bits of information such as a reference to a long essay that promoted the idea that “the apple was not really a citron,” and the claim of Dr, Adam Clarke that “Satan was an ape and not a serpent.” Then Hale considered what type of Eve Massenet presented-was this a woman who “after the fall” clothed herself “at the Bon Marche.” Finally, the music was mentioned: “It is extremely well written both for voices and for orchestra; in fact, the instrumentation is often of exquisite fancy,” and examples followed. “The performance was upon the whole a very creditable one.” Then came the usual Lang slam. “It is true that Mr. Lang did not seem to have a keen sense of the proper tempo of several numbers; nor has he apparently the true idea of the andante, which he invariably takes at too slow a pace. The work of the chorus in Eve, and throughout the program, was a marked improvement over that shown at former concerts of this season. The body of tone was fuller and better balanced.” Of Mrs. Walker, he wrote: she “sang well the difficult part of Eve. One could have here wished a little more passion, there more breadth; but it was an admirable performance of a difficult task.” Hale also referred to the orchestra: “There should be money enough raised to insure a finished performance of the orchestra score.” The Brahms work received only one line ending with: the work “was sung with accuracy,” while the Foote was dismissed with “it is not a musical work. The passages given to the soloists are not dramatic. They are indeed feeble.” (430-435) The Transcript [William F. Apthorp] noted the problem facing a composer when the text is “a simple, homely ballad in a very catchy and quite unvarying rhythm.” The reviewer felt that the orchestration helped to overcome this basic problem. Of the Brahms: “Here we have ”the real Brahms,” who is not content with a fine plan, but must carry out that plan in a fine and noble way. The music is not only suggestive and appealing; it is solidly satisfying. You feel that you could hear the work again and again, with ever-growing delight and edification.” This was certainly a progressive opinion in Boston of this time. Of the Massenet: “It shows the composer fairly at his best in every respect…the performance of all three works was admirable. Not only did the chorus sing with all their usual firmness, purity of tone and perfection of ensemble, but the orchestra did its work most excellently, with precision, brilliancy and nicety of finish, and the solo singers were more than adequate…Mr. Lang is highly to be congratulated upon the success of this concert, which was not only brilliant artistically, but called forth enthusiastic applause from the large audience.” (436-438) Another review had high praise for the Foote cantata: “It is a work which might be claimed with pride by any of the elder nationalities. It was finely sung by the soloists and chorus, and heartily applauded.” Of the Massenet: “The work is one of fascinating beauty throughout, and bears the stamp of inspiration and genius in every measure…To the chorus and orchestra, no words of praise can be too excessive, for better work could not be desired than that given in the performance of the many beauties of the work.” This review ended as the first review had begun: “The concert was a red-letter event in the history of the club.” An extra paragraph was added urging the repetition of the work.” (439-441) A shorter review (possibly from the Courier) called the Programme “both novel and delightful…Foote’s ballad is in his most interesting vein. The music is tuneful, singable and well adapted to the sense of the words. The orchestration, while not pretentious, is appropriate and often dramatically effective. It was well performed.” The review recorded that the Brahms “was coldly received” by the audience. Eve was described as being “sensuousness, indeed, in melody, harmony, and orchestration…As a whole, the work was well given. Mrs. Walker sang with great warmth and brilliancy…The concert was the best the club has given for sometime past.” (442) One final, short review ended: “It is a credit to Mr. B. J. Lang, the director of the club, that the skillful efforts of the club, and the disciplinary effects exhibited, were first-class in every respect so that tokens of approval were freely bestowed by the audience.” (443)

The fourth concert of the season was given on Thursday evening, May 22, 1890 at the Music Hall with Foote as pianist and Cutter and Nevin as organists. “Variety programmes without orchestra are not precisely the things one looks forward to with most pleasure, in the way of choral club concerts. But this one of last evening provided a delightful exception to the rule; it was well balanced, well-diversified, and nothing in it was dull.” (449) The novelties of the program included three songs composed by B. J. Lang: Aladdin”s Lamp (James Russell Lowell), Sing, Maiden, Sing (Barry Cornwall), and Cradle Song (Words from the German by Charles T. Brooks).(444-446) [Sing, Maiden, Sing had been sung at the Cecilia concert of February 4, 1886 by Miss Bockus, a member of the choir] “Mr. Lang’ three songs seem to us to reach about the high-water mark in American songwriting. They show such genial melodic invention, such easy command of style, and are withal so essentially lyrical in character…Both in form and expression, they are songs pure and simple; the lyrical element always predominates. In a word, they are charming. They were capitally sung, with great expressiveness, by Mr. Winch.” The program also included a first public performance of a MacDowell choral piece, his Barcarole which was encored, and Nevin”s Wynken, Blynken and Nod along with instrumental pieces by the cellist Mr. Griese which were well received. (450) The Post (Weld or Hale) review called the Barcarolle “a very satisfactory number” while the Nevin “was one of the most delightful parts of the Programme.” The Lang songs “all of them charming in color and particularly melodious, although the first two are somewhat overweighed by the too florid accompaniment. Mr. Winch sang them all in a most artistic manner and with his usual elegance and finish of phrasing.” (451) Another review noted that Mr. Winch “was loudly applauded after the three songs written by Mr. Lang, the first two of which perhaps suffer from exuberant piano accompaniment, though in the setting of the poem of Lowell the richness of the piano part seems not out of place.” (452) A review entitled “Musical Notes” also approved of the two pieces contributed by Boston composers. Of the MacDowell, it “is a very graceful and melodious work, that was received with much-deserved favor, and the Nevin “is clever and well written, artistic in style and treatment, and is delightfully melodious. its pretty soprano solo was appreciatively sung by Miss Isabel Dodd. The work pleased greatly and was heartily encored.” Of Lang’s songs, they were described as “graceful and pleasing in style, though conventional in character. the first two suffered from too elaborate accompaniments, which imparted to them the effect of piano studies with vocal interpolations. Mr. Winch sang them very beautifully.” (453) This reviewer would seem to be the writer of 451. In this review Mr. Griese’s Serenade Fantasie by Servais for cello “was stormily recalled.” (453) Another review wrote: “Mr. Lang’s group of songs got a well-merited round of applause, and those styled Aladdin’s Lamp and Cradle Song were in this composer’s best vein. Mr. Winch sang the songs with charming effect.” (456) The Traveler praised the MacDowell: “Certainly few if any of the American school could write more lovely music than that which marks the climax of the piece, at the words, ”Ah, loved one.”” On Lang’s songs: “Mr. Winch sang with the purest musical feeling and with a freer emission of tone than he sometimes uses. The three songs by Mr. Lang, all new, are simply gems; we wish they might be published. Mr. Lang was Mr. Winch’s accompanist.” (447-448) MacDowell’s Barcarole is available on the Library of Congress-American Choral Music site. It is scored for SSAATTBB choir and piano, four-hand accompaniment. “One could easily imagine MacDowell playing the piano part alongside his wife Marian.” (LC Site) Nevin’s Wynken, Blynken and Nod was published by Boston Music (then at 28 West Street) but copyrighted by G. Schirmer in 1889 in arrangements for Mixed, Female and Male voices-each 40 cents per copy. “Orchestra parts may be had of the publisher.” (Copy in Johnston collection)

FIFTEENTH SEASON. 1890-1891. The first concert was on Thursday evening, November 20, 1890 at the Music Hall with Franz Kneisel as concertmaster and Cutter at the organ. After the success of Eve the previous March, Lang turned again to Massenet and gave the first Boston performance of his Mary Magdalen. Lang had written to the New York magazine, American Musician: “I have secured Massenet’s new oratorio, Mary Magdalen, now in manuscript, and commenced rehearsing it with the Cecilia Club and will give it February 20, 1891.” This caused the magazine to note: “This is another proof of Mr. Lang’s enterprise in bringing out new works.” However, Clement Tetedoux replied to the magazine on November 10, 1890 that the work had been premiered at the Paris Odeon Theatre in 1873 and also at the opera Comique a year later. He also mentioned that he owned a published copy of the work which was about ten years old, and “three or four years ago, a performance of it was given at Chickering Hall [NYC], Mrs. Martinez singing the title part.” (466) Johnson has no entry for this work in his First Performances in America. The Herald notice mentioned a “new departure made this season by this organization,” and this was “throwing open its subscription books to the public.” It also noted that the officers of the choir “recognize the necessity of securing competent professional singers in appealing to the general public for support.” The review also asked why “an organization, which has shown so much enterprise in the production of novelties of all schools” was just getting around to present this work which had its world premiere in 1873.” (458 and 459) Hale’s extensive review in the Post gave a detailed description of the plot, but then called the work a “very unequal composition.” Of the performance, he wrote: “The best work was done by the chorus…The female voices, especially the altos, were beyond reproach…As a whole the performance of the Cecilia chorus was a marked advance upon the work of last year.” The work of the orchestra “was not what it should have been…There was a general lack of precision and observance of dynamic marks. The audience heartily applauded solo singers and chorus.” The opening work was an unpublished overture by Raff which none of the critics thought much off. Hale ended with his usual slam of Lang’s conducting: “It would be unfair to judge of it [Raff] by one hearing, for Mr. Lang is more at home when leading a chorus than in orchestral instruments.” (460-464) Another review praised the chorus and soloists, but panned the orchestra. (465) Elson in the Advertiser described the Raff overture in some detail, but in the end decided that it was “by no means the greatest of Raff’s orchestral legacy.” Of the Massenet, he wrote: “It is altogether too sensational for an oratorio, and too ambitious for a cantata…It has al least one merit-it is oriental in many of its touches…As to the performance, very much praise can be spoken; the club is to be congratulated on having had excellent soloists…the chorus sang well; the shading and delicacy of all the ”choruses of women” cannot be overpraised…The orchestra played roughly.” Elson’s final paragraph sounds very reactionary: “Everyone should be grateful to the Cecilia for such an important concert, and even if one does not approve [!] of the theatrical style of the chief work given, it is none the less a valuable lesson to hear specimens of such a school, and we may learn to appreciate the works of Bach and Handel, or even Mendelssohn, better, for this experience of the sacred side of the music of Massenet.” (467-470) It was not such a bitter pill for much of the audience, as Hale reported, “The audience heartily applauded.” (464) Woolf in the Gazette found the Raff uninteresting and “dry in effect. It is true that it was read and conducted by Mr. Lang in a rigid and colorless manner, but it is to be doubted if any interpretation could win for it a favorable consideration.” Woolf liked the instrumental portions of the Massenet. “The instrumental preludes are the best portions of the score, the introduction to the second part being of rare beauty.” Following this was an extensive description of the various parts of the work, and then another Lang slam. “The work made no very profound impression, and the audience evidently became weary of it long before it was over. It is true it was heard under some disadvantage. Mr. Lang is never quite at ease when at the head of an orchestra…The uncertainty of Mr. Lang’s beating time placed the orchestra frequently at odds with the singers. The chorus work was, as a rule, very well done. In fact, its efforts were the best feature in the performance. The female voices were particularly good, and in one of the choruses for these voices alone, were heard with charming results, notably the altos.” The final sentence of the review-“There was much applause for both soloists and chorus”-contradicted the earlier statement-“The audience evidently became weary of it long before it was over.” (473-476) Hale’s second review (probably for the Home Journal) was much like his first. The Massenet work was uneven: “Some of it is of exquisite beauty; some of it is commonplace, and portions of it are positively ugly, as the trio.” The chorus sang well, especially the women; “the playing of the orchestra was slovenly.” (471-472)

The second concert was given on Thursday evening, January 22, 1891 at the Music Hall with Cutter as organist. The weather was very bad, but

Frederick Childe Hassam. Street Scene.

then that did not keep “the patrons of the Cecilia from rallying in good force at Music Hall” to hear such favorites as Schubert’s The Lord Is My Shepherd (for women’s voices), the Song of the Vikings by Eaton Fanning and It was a Lass by the Scotsman, Hamish MacCann. (Herald (January 23, 1891): 6, GB) The Herald felt that the mixed program “was a strong attraction to both singers and patrons, as its numbers were alike enjoyable to those on and off the platform.” The major piece was Mendelssohn’s Judge Me O God which came last, but before that, there were a number of Boston composers represented-Clayton John, Ethelbert Nevin, J. C. D. Parker, and G. W. Chadwick. Of the two vocal soloists, Miss Mary Howe, the “fair singer from Brattleboro captivated her audience as she never had done before [which] gained her the most enthusiastic applause.” (Ibid)

Xaver Scharwenka, Internet, accessed August 20, 2019.

The choir “and other musical organizations tendered an informal reception” at their Thursday evening rehearsal for the “famous pianist, Xaver Scharwenka.” [1850-1924] In addition “Many prominent in the city’s musical life have extended social courtesies to this eminent pianist and composer.” (Herald (February 3, 1891): 8) The pianist was in Boston to make his first appearance in the city, and it was to be with Nikisch and the BSO on February 6 and 7, and the work, the Boston premiere of his own Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 32. It was also announced that he would be a guest after the concert at the St. Botolph Club on Newbury Street. (Journal (February 3, 1891): 3) Based on how well Frances organized other events like this, she probably just thought of it as just one more in a long line.

On April 2, 1891 (their 75th. concert) at the Music Hall the choir sang the world premiere of George Whitefield Chadwick’s The Pilgrims based on the poem “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England” originally published in Edinburgh in 1828, written by Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans (1793-1835). The singers were: Gertrude Edmands, William Ludwig, George J. Parker and Joshua Phippen. The composer conducted. (Faucett, p. 143) Chadwick noted in his “Diary” that “I had been teaching counterpoint eight years, during which time I learned more myself that I should have taught my pupils. This accounted for [the] next work I tackled which was the Pilgrims. The final fugue with two subjects in that work I had started as an example for my class at the conservatory and the middle part I worked out as an example of a choral concerted piece. Several anthems (trios) were preliminary studies for this piece. When this piece was done by the Cecilia a year or two afterward L. C. Elson remarked that I had used the trumpets at the line ”Not with the roll of the stirring drum and the trumpet that sings of fame” to show that the Pilgrims did not come! This shows that even a critic may have an occasional gleam of humor.” (6435) “I never had any great affection for this piece and never made another in the academic style. But singularly enough this piece has been performed more times than any other of my choral works. Probably on account of the words which are dear to the populous heart.” (6436) “I was not very proud of it – except as good voice writing.” But Chadwick added a footnote noting that we was writing this comment on January 20, 1920, and that “The Pilgrims is being performed this very night in Lowell, Mass.” (6451) Hale, in his Post review, devoted one-half of his space to the Chadwick work, saying: “The composer has been very successful in his treatment of this poem. It is descriptive without being extravagant: it is melodious without being trivial; it is scholarly without being dull. There are many harmonic effects that are so happily invented that they seem spontaneous and inevitable…The Pilgrims is an effective and pleasing composition, and it well deserves a second hearing.” Very little was said about the performance. Hale noted that only sections of Bruch’s Odysseus were given saying that this was done to keep the concert “of reasonable length…The choruses, in general, were admirably sung, and with a steadiness and precision, a volume and purity that left little to be desired…The playing of the orchestra cannot be as highly praised…Such scores as that of Odysseus cannot be properly played with one or two rehearsals, even when the players are the skilled musicians who were last evening under Mr. Lang’s direction…The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the different numbers, and the applause was frequent and hearty.” (482-485) Hale’s review in the Home Journal described the Chadwick work as “a sincere, honest work, and it is a credit to the composer.” Of the choir: “The chorus singing, upon the whole, calls for words of warm praise.” Want of sufficient rehearsal for the orchestra was also cited here.” (481) Elson in the Advertiser gave an extensive description of various parts of the work including the humorous comment referred to by Chadwick above. “The execution of the choruses [of the Chadwick] as up to the Cecilia standard, which is praise enough for anything. The same high compliment can be paid to the performance of Bruch’s Odysseus, a work which the Cecilia has made peculiarly its own, and one which never seems to lose its savor, either for the singers or the public…To the chorus here belongs the lion’s share of admiration and praise, for they sang the work as if they loved it…When a chorus can take B flat in soprano and A in tenor parts and do it sweetly and without screaming, when the altos become a really melodic part and not merely interior padding, when the basses are sturdy, the soloists zealous and the orchestra (with just a few mental reservations here as to ensemble) fiery and dashing, the critic can surely suspend their fault-finding side of his occupation and join in the general plaudits.” (477-480) well, some critics can! Another review also praised the choir: “The chorus work in the Odysseus was excellently done. It was admirably shaded, was steady, faultless in precision, and fine in the volume and just balance of tone obtained. The orchestra was not as satisfying…The fault, of course, is with the conductor, who should compel obedience to the dynamic marks placed by the composer in his score; but it is strange that skilled musicians accustomed to a discipline which insists steadily upon a strict observance of these marks, should neglect them under any conditions.” (486) T. P. Currier noted that only parts of the Bruch were given, but he felt that “on the whole, this was not to be regretted; for some of the music is not inspiring, and, moreover without cuts, the concert would have been much too long…The singers gave forth an uncommonly full volume of tone, and the fine quality of the women’s voices was especially noticeable…Mr. Lang fully maintained his reputation as a conductor.” Currier also noted the poor performance of the orchestra and added: “The orchestral work at this concert was neither better nor worse than is usual at most of the society concerts in this city.” he went on to say that the city now had a symphony and chamber groups which gave “performances of the highest class,” and that this should also be the case for choral performances. (487-488)

The fourth concert was given at the Music Hall on Thursday evening, May 14, 1891 with accompanists Foote, Nevin and Cutter. Three songs by Margaret were sung by Miss Gertrude Franklin: My Lady Jacqueminot, In a Garden, and Night. (words:489-492) This was the third time that her works had been part of this group’s concerts-the first was May 10, 1888 and the second January 31, 1889. The first review made no comment about the Lang songs, felt that the choir “was good, but not the best of which the Cecilia is capable,” and hoped that the group would return to its “true mission…a return to the secular and sacred cantata, with orchestra.” (493) Hale, in the Post, wrote a rave review, at least for him, (though shorter than usual) praising the choir, the soloists, Miss Franklin and Mr. Winch, who stood in on short notice for Mr. Dunham who was ill. Hale also mentioned Mr. Nevin whose piano solos were praised, as was “his setting of Eugene Field’s poem” which was encored repeatedly. He also mentioned that Nevin was making his last appearance in Boston before leaving for Paris “where he proposes to study composition for three or four years.” Hale then recalled the highlights of the season: “These concerts have been of a high order of merit, so far as the work of the singers was concerned. The society also gave an admirable performance of Eve in aid of a charity,[see next paragraph] and it supplied the chorus in Mr. Lang’s private performance of Parsifal. The concerts of next season will be looked forward to with genuine interest.” (494-495) The Herald review began by calling the concert “full of attractive features…Mr. Lang’s careful work in rehearsals brought forth admirable results.” Whereas Hale had found Schubert’s Miriam’s Song dull, this reviewer called the performance a “grand interpretation. Margaret’s songs were called “graceful,” and Nevin’s piano pieces “won him the hearty commendation of the audience.” (496-498) The review under the heading “Music and Drama” noted the “large audience” in attendance. Nevin’s Eugene Field setting was praised: “There is more humor, more music, more esprit in a little thing like that than in a whole opera bouffe by Offenbach…Miss Franklin did full justice to the songs by Miss Lang and Mr. Foote, [Love’s Philosophy] and they were much applauded, especially In a Garden (”Baby, see the flowers”)…All the accompaniments were artistically played on the pianoforte by Mr. Arthur Foote.” (499-502) T. P. Currier in the Courier also disliked the Schubert, but “it may be remarked here that it was sung well by the chorus, and that Miss Gertrude Franklin sustained the solo part with power and brilliancy…The solos comprised a group of charming songs by Foote and Margaret Ruthven Lang, which were sung by Miss Franklin to Mr. Foote’s accompaniments, with all her grace of style and artistic finish…The club deserves hearty words of encouragement for the generally high excellence of its work this season, and the faithfulness of its members and conductor should be substantially remembered when another season opens.” (510-511)   Another short review wrote: “The “singing of the club was excellent throughout in its tunefulness and steadiness…Miss Franklin, who was in perfect voice…was heard with delightful artistic results in the group of songs by Mr. Foote and Miss Lang.” (513) An extensive article (nine paragraphs) reviewed the Annual meeting as presented by its President George O. G. Coale. Most paragraphs were devoted to the orchestral accompaniment problem, noting that all Boston choral groups suffered, no matter who was conducting-“Whether it is Mr. Lang, or Mr. Zerrahn, or Mr. Nikisch, this orchestra…plays loosely and at random in the accompaniment of chorus or singer.” Coale then made a very interesting observation that countered the recurring comments of some critics concerning Lang’s conducting style. “The players from New York who did such excellent work in the private performance of Parsifal were unfamiliar with Mr. Lang’s methods, but their respect for the music itself was such and the esprit de corps was so great that they played as though Mr. Lang had been their sole conductor, and in so doing they gave an object lesson.” He then mentioned that for an orchestra of 40 players, each rehearsal would cost $160. “If some of them continually talk and laugh and show a disposition to treat the performance as a colossal joke, would even ten such rehearsals prove to be of benefit?… Accompanying choral numbers is not a task unworthy of their skill. For two years at least oratorios and cantatas have met with shabby treatment at their hands.” (503-509)

On Monday evening, May 16, 1891 at the Music Hall, the choir was part of a “Concert to benefit the Aural Department of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.” The members of the BSO gave their services, as did their conductor, Arthur Nikisch and his wife. The concert opened with the orchestra playing Beethoven’s Leonore Overture #3, after which Mrs. Nikisch sang three songs. The final part of the concert was a repeat of Massenet’s Eve by the Cecilia and the orchestra. There were no reviews preserved in the Cecilia program book.

SIXTEENTH SEASON: 1891-1892. The headline in the Transcript was: “CECILIA AS AN EDUCATOR.” This season presented “Wage-Earners Concerts,” held the night before the regular concert with ticket prices of 15 and 25 cents. The idea had first been tried in Chicago, to great success, and in Boston, “judging by the size of the gathering and the warm interest of the listeners the first trial of the plan was a complete success.” (516) The Herald headline was in three parts: “THE BEST MUSIC—LOW PRICES. The new Departure of the Cecilia Outlined. A Repetition of the Club Concerts at Low Prices-Plans for Distributing the Tickets for Sale to Wage-Earners-A Worthy Effort in the Right Direction.” This paper reminded their readers that it had reported on the efforts of the Apollo Club of Chicago when they first began: “The Herald was very anxious that steps should be taken to establish a similar course of concerts in this city, but at the time, for various reasons, it seemed to be impossible…During the last few weeks, a gentleman representing the club has visited substantially all the large employers of labor throughout the city with a view of interesting them in this enterprise…The Cecilia must be congratulated on the enterprise they have shown and the unselfishness with which their singers have gladly given their services.” (518-521) Another paper also had an extensive headline: “MUSIC FOR THE MILLIONS. CECILIA’S NEW SERIES. Her Brave Effort to Play to Boston’s Wage Earners Has a Measure of Success. THROUGH MANY BIG SALARIES GOT IN.” (523)

The first concerts of the season were presented on Sunday evening, November 29 (Wage-Earner Concert) and Monday evening, November 30, 1891, both at the Music Hall, both with orchestra with concertmaster Kneisel, and both with the same repertoire: Dvorak-Patriotic Hymn, Bruch-Fair Ellen, and Berlioz-The Fifth of May whose text had been translated from the French by Margaret Ruthven Lang. The Musical Herald said: “Miss Lang is to complimented for her translation…Mr. Lang has a great troop of workers under him this year…An admirable orchestra, led by Mr. Kneisel, assisted at this concert.” (525)

The second concerts were held on Tuesday evening, January 26 and Wednesday evening, January 27, 1892 at the Music Hall with B. L. Whelpley as organist and Mrs. Arthur Nikisch singing two groups of songs which included Margaret’s In a Garden-this was the fourth time that her works had been part of Cecilia concerts. The Advertiser noted that the club “never sang before a more attentive, decorous audience than that which filled the big hall on the occasion of the second in the ”Wage-Earners” series…Mrs. Nikisch found favor with the audience, and was given applause and recalls.” (528)

The third concerts were given on Wednesday evening, March 30 and Thursday evening March 31, 1892 at the Music Hall with orchestra with the work being Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri. The Transcript reviewed the earlier Boston performances of this work beginning with one given by the Parker Club in the early 1860s. It was then given by the Harvard Musical Association when the Cecilia was part of that group, and then again ten years later when the Cecilia was an independent chorus. “The performance last evening, in so far as chorus and orchestra were concerned, was very fine indeed; the chorus, in especial, sang with noble firmness, vigor, and vitality, and also with the nicest attention to effects of light and shade. Better chorus singing could not be asked for.” The comments about orchestral accompaniment may have had some effect. “The orchestra, too, played with far more care and attention to their parts, and to the conductor, than they have done of late, outside of the symphony concerts, thus doing much to wipe off the stigmas which they have, on more than one occasion, brought upon themselves.” (529-530) The Herald also recorded: “The work of the chorus was especially good throughout the evening, and showed the body of singers to the best advantage, evidences of the thorough study given under Mr. Lang’s direction being evident in all their leading numbers…The orchestra was from the ranks of the Symphony men, and, under Mr. Lang’s baton, the many beauties of the instrumental score were most happily interpreted.” (531-532) Woolf, in the Gazette, did his usual pan. Of the work itself: it is “dull, monotonous, and unimpressive,” and of the performance: it was “as a whole, far from praiseworthy, and showed in many directions the result of careless and inadequate rehearsing, and had a distressing go-as-you-please aspect, generally.” (533) However, another reviewer, H. G. Hopper in the Times wrote: “Especially commendable was the performance in every detail and the whole work was a brilliant success, due, of course, to the care of the conductor, Mr. B. J. Lang, in the numberless rehearsals which must have taken place to produce such completeness…Of course every seat in the great hall was filled and the audience most attentive and enthusiastic.” (534)

The fourth concerts were given Wednesday evening May 11 and Thursday evening May 12, 1892 at the Music Hall with a miscellaneous program which included Mrs. H. H. A. Beach playing two groups of piano solos, one of which included her own work, Fireflies. Under the heading MUSIC AND THE DRAMA Hale wrote another positive review. “It is a pleasure to hear the Cecilia in such concerts, for the balance and the march of the parts are more clearly observed, and the quality of tone and the observance of dynamics carry greater authority than when the singers are drowned in orchestral floods…Last evening the concert was thoroughly enjoyed by many who at the end of the season, stunned and dazed by orchestral crashes and pianoforte pyrotechnics, realize that, after all, the human voice is still the noblest, the most potent of all instruments. The singing of the society was generally excellent.” (535-536) Warren Davenport praised Lang as an accompanist. “Mr. Lang played the accompaniments to the vocal solos in his own charming manner, an accomplishment that few possess.” He also noted the effect of having assigned seats-after the first piece latecomers were admitted, “and all along, for a half-hour or more after the performance began, the listeners were disturbed by people going to their reserved seats” including a music critic, whose arrival was noted at 8:20. (537) One final review (possibly from the Gazette) was also very positive. “In fact, the Cecilia has not acquitted itself more satisfactorily this season than it did on this occasion. The pleasure it afforded the audience was frequently manifested in the hearty and fairly earned applause that rewarded the singing.” Mrs. Beach “was also cordially applauded and recalled” as was the soprano soloist, Mrs. Wyman who was “recalled three times” after her songs. (538)

The success of the Wage-Earner Concerts is reflected in a letter from “J. L. C.” written after their first season where he noted: “My daily or weekly wage is not low enough to fall into the one class benefited by the generosity of this singing club, nor high enough to enable me to afford and associate membership. Is this unfortunate middle class to be always shut out from the enjoyment of these concerts.” He then suggested a third [!] performance with tickets prices of “say 50 cents or even 75 cents…Give the unfortunate middle class a chance.” (547)

SEVENTEENTH SEASON 1892-1893. The opening concert of this season presented the Requiem of Dvorak, conducted by the composer at the Music Hall on Monday evening, November 28 and Wednesday evening, November 30, 1892 with orchestra and B. L. Whelpley at the organ. Dvorak had conducted the world premiere at the English Birmingham Festival on October 9, 1891. Hale, now writing for the Boston Journal used this three-sectioned headline: ” THE CECILIA. Antonin Dvorak Directs his Requiem Mass. Thoughts Suggested by the performance.” Hale began by writing: “It is now safe to say that he is a man of great musical talent, and it is possible that posterity will recognize him as a genius.” But, he then wrote that the composer wrote for the voice as though it were an instrumental instrument. “When the voice is treated as an orchestral instrument the composer suffers as well as the singer, for his intention is rarely carried into effect..” Of the performance itself: “The performance of the chorus was in the main excellent, an honor to the Cecilia  and the city. It was evident that the chorus had been carefully and intelligently drilled by Mr. Lang, for in attack and in observance of the nuances there was little to be desired.” The soloists were praised, and “Mr. Dvorak was welcomed with warmth, frequently applauded, and at the end recalled with enthusiasm. It was a pleasure to see this simple. modest, kindly man of great talent directing his own music…The man, as well as his music, made a profound impression. (548-550) Under the banner DRAMA AND MUSIC, this review called the performance a “gathering of social and artistic significance…The vocal scoring is rich and ”singable,” that is, it does not require a voice of phenomenal range for any of the parts. But the original treatment of the accompaniments by the instruments strews difficulties in the vocal pathway, which the quartet were quite successful in surmounting, and the same may be said of the choristers…The choruses were finely given, especially the parts allotted to the basses, and the orchestra played very smoothly.” (551-553) Apthorp’s extensive review in the Transcript included: “We may be wrong, but our present impression is that the Requiem is a stronger work than the composer’s Stabat Mater,” but it would rank behind the Spectre’s Bride and the Patriotic Hymn. “The requiem is a succession of brilliant, impressive and glowing pictures…One feels the work to be a great feat, powerfully performed. At least this is the first impression it produces-and beyond this we naturally cannot go now…The performance was exceedingly fine: never [!] have the Cecilia sung with more vigor and vitality of style… Although not accustomed to Dr. Dvorak’s beat, the singers followed him admirably, and responded to his every sign immediately and vigorously…The orchestra played with fire and spirit, if not always with the greatest nicety. But few such immensely difficult choral works have had so fine a performance in this city.” (554-556) The Herald noted “with gratitude” the many first performances given by the Cecilia. “The singers of the Cecilia are to be heartily commended for their faithful work in preparing this difficult work,” and the choir was also praised following Dvorak, who as a conductor, “is almost entirely lacking in personal magnetism, [and] has little force to control either singers or musicians, and withal is not a graceful man in either repose or motion.” (557-558) Elson, also in an extensive review in the Advertiser called the Requiem “one of the most important and elaborate master-works that has been produced here for many years…The manner in which the Cecilia sang the choruses was extraordinarily able, under the circumstances. It was made clear that they had been industriously and intelligently rehearsed, and they sang with steadiness, a precision and a fidelity to the composer’s indications in respect to the marks of expression that left little if anything to be asked for. Now and then there was false intonation, but if a composer insists on writing ear-baffling, and voice-trying intervals, he must take the consequences if they cannot be sung readily.” Dvorak’s conducting style was described: “With his primitively artless beat, he extracted from the orchestra a beautiful pianissimo, perfect crescendos and diminuendos, and other fine nuances…Mr. Dvorak was often applauded, and when all was over, he was recalled with exciting enthusiasm.” (560-562)

“Pemberton Sq., Boston                                                                                               December 15, 1892

My dear Doctor,

I am directed by the government and members of the Cecelia to extend to you their cordial thanks for the honor which you conferred upon them in conducting their first performance of your glorious Requiem. The opportunity thus given them of making your personal acquaintance, of listening to your instruction, of singing under your baton and of paying you their sincere homage, is something which will not be easily forgotten by them.

Of the beauty of your noble composition, it would be impertinent to speak. When the musical world has already spoken, any small body of music lovers can find nothing to add. Boston is fortunate in receiving its first impression of the great work at the hand of its great composer.

In the earnest hope that your stay in America may be pleasant to yourself as it will surely be profitable, and that Boston may have many more occasions of renewing an acquaintance so delightfully begun, I am my dear Doctor, most gratefully and respectfully yours.

S. Lothrop Thorndike”

(Beckerman, 193)

 Philip Hale noted: “Dvorak conducted his Requiem Mass at a concert given by the Cecilia. There was a naturally animal curiosity to see the man; but who recalls the work or the performance. The Cecilia maintained its reputation, however, as an excellent body of singers.” (Yearbook, Vol. 10, ix)

George Chadwick recorded: “There was much curiosity to see the man but he was a poor conductor and could not speak English, consequently he got no effect out of the work, which after all is not one of his best. I did not meet him.” (6465) Dvorak was probably a house guest of the Lang family as Carl Faelton, in writing to Dvorak about visiting the New England Conservatory, mentions that he had asked B. J. “whether you might not be interested to look over our Institution.” (Ibid) In Frances Lang’s “Diaries” there is also a reference to the composer looking over Margaret’s instrumental compositions. B. J. has wasted no time in making use of Dvorak’s presence in America-he had only just arrived on September 27, 1892! Horowitz mentioned the critical response to this work: “Imagine denouncing such a refined work as ”barbarous”! This was Boston shorthand for ”Slavic” or ”non-German.”” (Horowitz, Dvorak, 116) Luckily there were other considerations that would overcome this first American negative reaction. Dvorak could take comfort in his salary as Director of the National Conservatory of Music for which he was paid $15,000 per year, a figure that exceeded “by one-third that of the mayor of New York.” (Horowitz, 21) He also could reflect that his duties included teaching “for two hours every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is fewer hours than he originally planned,” and this left him more time to compose. (Horowitz, 33). He also had part of his family with him in New York-his wife, Anna and two children, his daughter Otilka aged fourteen and his son Antonin aged nine, but four remained back in Prague. However, the four came to America in the summer of 1893, and the whole family spent the summer in Spillville, Iowa which had been settled primarily by Czechs. The Conservatory itself was a fine school-begun in 1885 by Jeannette Thurber, who had attended the Paris Conservatory, she had built a solid staff including James Gibbons Huneker, the critic, who also taught piano at the school. Victor Herbert, who was then the principal cellist in Seidl’s two orchestras, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, also taught composition at the school. By the end of 1893, Dvorak would also have the triumph of the premiere of his Symphony No. 5, in E Minor, “From the New World,” conducted by his now good friend, Anton Seidl. In a letter dated 27. XI, 1892 written from Boston’s Parker House Hotel, Dvorak wrote : “Yesterday I came to Boston to conduct my obligatory concert (everything connected with it being arranged by the highly esteemed President of our Conservatory, the tireless Mrs. Jeanette M. Thurber) at which the Requiem will be given with several hundred performers. The concert on December 1st. will be for only the wealthy and the intelligentsia, but the preceding day my work will also be performed for poor workers who earn 18 dollars a week, the purpose being to give the poor and uneducated people the opportunity to hear the musical works of all times and all nations. That’s something, isn’t it? I am looking forward to it like a child.” (Sourek, 151). The performances were actually on November 29 and 30, 1892. (Ibid, 153) “Each program was given before an audience of wage-earners and their families on the evening preceding the regular concert.” (MYB 1892-93, 15)

         The second concert was held on Wednesday evening, January 23. 1893 at the Music Hall with Maude Powell as the featured soloist. This was a miscellaneous program which included the premiere of Love Plumes His Wings by Margaret Ruthven Lang for female voices. Elson, in Musical Matters called this piece “the best I have yet heard by this composer. It is charmingly melodic, has enough of imitative treatment in the voices to keep up continuous interest from the harmonic, or contrapuntalside, and its unaffected grace and daintiness appeal to musician and non-musician alike. It received abundant and continued applause (and deserved it, too) but an encore was denied.” (564) The Herald wrote: “The ladies never did better work than in Margaret Lang’s tuneful and pleasing Love Plumes Her [sic] Wings.” (565) Hale, in his short two-paragraph review, found the “Programme not sufficiently diversified. its color was gray,” but “Miss Lang’s graceful setting of Mrs. Moulton’s Love Plumes His Wings to Fly Away stood out in delightful relief, and it was heartily applauded…The singing of the chorus was, as a rule, excellent in quality of tone, in balance of the parts and in phrasing.” (566) Another review, under “Theaters and Concerts” found that: “Miss Lang’s dainty and exceedingly cleverly written Love Plumes His Wings was a welcome ray of light in the midst of all this.” This reviewer felt that the program, as a whole, was “melancholy.” (567) Another reviewer found that the program had a “lack of contrasts” which made it “somewhat dull.” However, “a pleasing feature of the concert was Miss Lang’s delightful music to Mrs. Moulton’s poem, Love Plumes His Wings to Fly Away. It was a wholly charming song, and met with cordial applause.” (568) One final review wrote of: “the pure and elevated sentiment of the musical setting by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, to the words of Love Plumes His Wings, [which] contributed a very welcome share to the interesting character of the Programme.” (569) The choir President S. Lothrop Thorndike called the piece an “altogether delightful bit of four-part writing for female voices.” (593)

          The Cecilia presented a concert in Salem under the sponsorship of the Salem Oratorio Society [Arthur Foote conductor?] on Thursday evening February 9, 1893 at Cadet Hall which included Margaret’s Love Plumes His Wings. No reviews were preserved, but President Thorndike wrote that the choir “evidently did itself credit; for the audience and newspapers were unanimous in their approval of the excellence of the singing, of the dresses of the ladies, and, especially, of the fact that Mr. Lang had not only conducted the concert admirably, but had, at an earlier period, taken occasion to be born in Salem.” (593)

The Monday evening, March 22, 1893 concert at the Music Hall presented The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz with Miss Elizabeth Hamlin, soprano; Mr. Geo. J. Parker, Tenor [and member of Apollo]; Mr. Max Heinrich, Baritone; Mr. Ivan Morawski, Bass; with orchestra. (BMYB 1892-93, 16) One review said of the piece: “This work is one of immense power in certain essentials, but it must be confessed that much of it is painfully labored in effect. Berlioz, whatever his merits may have been otherwise, was not richly endowed with the gift of melody…The best moments of the work are its more stormy and bizarre…the difficulties of the work are very great, for both the singers and the players. that they were fully met on this occasion can hardly be conceded. The choruses were, on the whole, sung with fine precision, clearness and steadiness.” But, “the singing was too persistently and monotonously noisy…A similar effect was observable in the playing of the orchestra…Worse than this, however, was the roughness and raggedness of much of the playing; the happy-go-lucky manner in which difficulties were surmounted, the uncertainty in attack and the laxity in precision generally.” (570-571) It had seemed as reflected in previous reviews that the orchestra performance had improved, but, it seems that this was not the case. Another review entitled “Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust receives a Fine Presentation” was more enthusiastic. “Soloists, chorus and orchestra each did their part to make the perfect whole, and it is doubtful if the work was ever given better in Boston…The ”Hungarian March” was given with a snap and precision that brought forth hearty applause…The real climax of the piece, the wonderful ”Ride to hades” was grandly done…under the skillful direction of Mr. Lang.” (572-573) In a third review, Warren Davenport wrote of the choir: “The singing of the chorus was always good and mostly excellent as regards precision, good intonation and balance of tone in the parts.” However, “the orchestra generally throughout the evening was loud, disjointed and careless in its efforts, but for the past four seasons this has been its general style.” Of the soloists: “Generally speaking the solo parts in this work are ungrateful tasks, melodically dry and technically difficult…These singers deserve great praise for overcoming the difficulties of their respective parts in the artistic manner that marked their efforts.” (574-575)

Boston is today known as an Early Music City with its Festival of Early Music every two years and various musical groups that use authentic performance practice techniques, but B. J. Lang, 120 years before brought Boston an awareness of Early Music in the May 11, 1893 Music Hall Concert in honor of Shakespeare which used a harpsichord “kindly loaned by Messrs. Chickering & Sons.” The title of the concert was “Music in Shakespeare’s Time and Shakespeare In Music.” The assisting artists were Miss Fanny Richter, a pianist who played Bach’s Italian Concerto and Mr. Ericsson F. Bushnell, bass. The first part of Renaissance material and a concluding part of contemporary works including pieces by Foote (When Icicles Hang By the Wall from Love’s Labors Lost) and Fenelosa based on Shakespeare texts was separated by three harpsichord solos by Byrde (Prelude in C Major and Pavan in A Minor) and Gibbons (Galliard in C Major) played by Lang. (BMYB 1892-93, 16) The Cecilia records have seven reviews of this performance! Hale felt that “Miss Fanny Richter played the Italian Concerto of Bach with a certain facility, but without individuality and without rhythmic distinction: in a word, she played like an industrious pupil of an advanced class.” He also pointed out that the piece had no connection with this program. “Mr. Lang played a prelude and pavane by Bryd and a galliard by Gibbons on a harpsichord, a substitute for the virginal of Shakespeare’s day…It was a pleasure to hear the tinkling with its thin, acid tone, and such an instrument might be recommended to any modern formidable pianist who delights in thundering at length; if he exerted his strength he would break the harpsichord and thus give an excuse for the early departure of the audience.” (579) The Globe noted: “A quaint and vastly interesting contribution to the evening’s pleasure was made by Mr. Lang in his performance upon the old harpsichord of the Chickering collection of a prelude in C major and a pavan in A minor by William Byrde and a galliard in C major by Orlando Gibbons, these old-time compositions on such an instrument constituting a novelty, which was greatly enjoyed.” (580) The Advertiser (Louis C. Elson) noted: “The twanging, picking style of the instrument was a new flavor to the modern concert room, but of course the instrument (the harpsichord is first cousin to the virginals) was not powerful enough for the hall…had the actual virginals been used they would have been quite inaudible…Mr. Lang played the two old dances and a prelude…in a manner that completely won the audience.” (581-582) Another review entitled “THE CECILIA CONCERT. Mr. B. J. Lang’s Harpsichord Recital Much Applauded” noted: “Mr. Lang himself received most of the applause for his numbers on the harpsichord,” while about the choir: “Chorus singing such as the CECILIA’S at the concerts conducted by Mr. Lang deserve all the praise they get.” (583) Under the heading “Music In Boston” Hale wrote repeated his point made in an earlier review that many pianists might benefit from having to deal with the limited dynamic range of the harpsichord. he ended this article with: “The season as a whole was a dull one.” (584-586) The Advertiser under “Theatre and Concert” called the concert “A most interesting evening…We doubt if the majority of the Cecilia audience ever enjoyed a concert more than this one last evening; Shakespeare was the bait, and they all took it greedily…Mr. Lang’s playing of the Virginals music on an old harpsichord was quaintly suggestive of how the music would have sounded if one could have heard it; but the disproportion between the size of the hall and the feeble voice of the instrument was so great that the effect was more imaginative-poetic than intelligibility musical…Mr. Lang and the forces under his baton are highly to be congratulated upon the artistic success of their ”Shakespeare evening.”” (587-588) Warren Davenport praised the choir: “There was a good degree of contrast in the dynamic expression, and a fair observance of the nuances. The voices also were well balanced, and the singers attentive.” Of Lang’s harpsichord solos: “Mr. Lang touched the harpsichord with delicacy and clearness, and evoked their heartiest applause of the evening.” (589-591) Certainly, the choir had not expected such a positive response. In the May 1893 Annual Report, the President wrote: “We were agreeably disappointed on the morning after the performance, when some of the best critics said that the concert was a good one, not merely from the antiquarian and educational, but from the musical standpoint…This was very satisfactory, and led us to believe that, after all, we had not made a bad ending of a notable season.” (594)

At the Annual Meeting of the choir on May 25, 1893 it was reported that the ware-earner concerts had continued to be a success. “Enough tickets to fill the house were taken, at fifteen cents or twenty-five cents, according to location, by leading firms on behalf of their employees, and by individuals of the working class; and the audiences were as large and as enthusiastic as those of our regular concerts.” However, it was noted that some richer persons were using these tickets, and the President asked: “Will our friends kindly look to it that this does not happen again.” (594) The President was S. Lothrop Thorndike who returned to the position after “an interval of eight years,” and he thanked “my worthy successors, now my predecessors, Colonel Browne and Mr. Coale.” He noted that during that period “the club, by innate strength and worth, survived three of four other organizations working in the same field, which had begun, continued, and ended, during the existence of the Cecilia.” (592) In announcing the next season he mentioned that its third concert would be “our one hundredth,” and that “the Walpurgisnacht of Mendelssohn with which we began almost twenty years ago” would be presented. (595)

The summer of 1893 saw the choir invited to perform at the Chicago World’s Fair. They were among 39 American choirs and seven instrumental organizations to take part; the Apollo Club was also invited. Their membership was noted as being 175 while the Apollo total was 65. Carl Zerrahn brought three groups: the Handel and Haydn Society (410 singers), the Oratorio Society of Salem, MA (250 singers), and the Worcester County Musical Association (500 singers). Boston was represented instrumentally by the Boston Symphony of 75 players conducted by Arthur Nikisch and the Mendelssohn Quintette Club. The only other New England groups to take part were the Haydn Society from Portland, ME conducted by Hermann Kotzschmar (125 singers), and the Arion choir from Providence, RI conducted by Jules Jordan (400 singers). (Upton, article, 79)

Boston premiers continued with the oratorio St. Francis of Assisi Op. 36 by the Belgian composer Edgar Tinel (1854-1912) given at the Music Hall on November 23, 1893 with Mr. Almon Fairbanks as the organist. The American premiere had been given less than a year before in New York City conducted by Walter Damrosch. Henderson in the New York Times of March 19 said: “It is simply a natural advance on the path in which the oratorio has traveled ever since its birth. He has made his advance under the lines indicated by Mendelssohn. He has adopted the Wagnerian style of instrumental accompaniment. But the simple truth is that the work does not appeal forcibly to the general musical public.” (Johnson, 367) Hale in the Journal noted that the piece had been cut, but of the performance, he wrote: “First of all, the warmest praise may be awarded justly to the women of the chorus. Their body of tone was fresh, beautiful and sonorous. They sang with intelligence and with skill. The men were not heard to such advantage. Their attack was often timid…at times they were inaudible…With the exception of Mr. Ericsson F. Bushnell, the solo singers were not equal to the task imposed on them…The orchestra worked faithfully, but many rehearsals are necessary for a satisfactory performance of such a difficult work.” (596-598) Warren Davenport called the sections that were omitted “the most striking numbers,” but he too wrote that “the chorus did admirably,” and that Mr. Bushnell was the best soloist “meriting thereby the warm applause he received.” Davenport wrote extensively of “the poor success” of Mr. Ricketson who had “no sense of the rhythmical demands of the role, to say nothing of an inability to even keep the time…It was well that Mr. Lang paid no heed to the singer in this case, but kept firmly in hand the orchestra and let the singer tag along in his own way.” (599-603) The Courier praised the choir, thought “the solo work was inadequate,” and then spent the remaining half of its space to had badly the orchestra played. “The orchestra played away unintelligently and without distinction, overpowering the soloists, and making a thick, muddy mess of sound even when only the strings and wooden wind [sic or clever] were employed. (604) The Transcript wrote of the piece: “We could find nothing particularly remarkable in it,” but “the performance was inexpressibly fine, in so far as the chorus was concerned; the chorus singing was absolutely superb at every point. the orchestra was far less satisfactory.” This review ended with a plea for more financial support for the choir so that it could continue to present “important choral works” without having to deal with “ridiculously insufficient orchestral rehearsing, and with solo talent that, on the average, barely comes within the boundaries of the excusable.” (605-606) Elson in the Advertiser noted “The roll of such works [Boston/American premiers] which this organization has first presented in Boston is a very large one, and scarcely any famous composition for chorus and orchestra has failed of a Boston hearing, thanks to its officers and energetic conductor. St. Francis d’Assisi by Edgar Tinel, is not the least of these, and its initial performance was an event of much importance in our musical annals.” He cited the ladies of the choir who “sang very finely…There were moments of timidity in some of the difficult numbers, and a number of places where the ensemble was not perfect, but this was to be expected in a first performance of so great an oratorio…where the scoring is the boldest ever attempted in an oratorio.” (607-608) President Thorndike described the work in his 1894 Annual Report: “its splendid beauty and religious impressiveness, the richness of its harmony and orchestration, and the height and nobility of its inspiration have been sufficiently described by the critics. its length required vigorous cutting to bring it within the limits of one evening, but the curtailment was judiciously done by our conductor…The chorus singing was well done, the women winning especial praise; the solo work, entirely by singers from without the Club, was in the main adequately performed; and the orchestra, thanks to good conductorship, did far better than might be expected from somewhat meager rehearsal of a very difficult composition.” (629 and 630)

The second concerts of the season were given on Wednesday, January 24 and Thursday, January 25, 1894 at the Music Hall with Charles P. Scott as the organist, Arthur Foote as pianist, and Miss Currie Duke as violinist: “She made a very favorable impression.” Two Boston composers were represented: Miss Duke played Mrs. Beach’s Romance for violin and piano and the choir sang “a brief and pretty trio for female voices by Mr. Clayton Johns, which was carefully and expressively given.” This reviewer felt that while the performance was “creditable to the organization,” it “was not fully up to its best standard.” (609) However, another reviewer began by saying: “Those who were fortunate enough to have tickets to ”The Cecilia” on Thursday evening heard one of the best concerts given for a long time by the society…The chorus of ladies was very picturesque, and added much to the appearance of the stage, as they were all costumed in light colors, blue, pink, and white, which was very effective.” No word on what the men wore. Miss Duke played “with so much success that she was obliged to respond with an encore. Mr. Lang accompanied her in his most finished manner.” (610)

The choir appeared again in Salem on Monday, February 5, 1894. This was mentioned in the program for the choir’s 100th. Concert-March 1894. “It remains to add to the history of the Club that it has never, except in two instances, sung outside of Boston. Upon these two occasions, it sang in Salem, desiring to pay tribute to the old music-loving town which gave birth not only to its conductor, but to others whose names have often appeared upon its programmes.” (613)

In March 1894 “our male chorus assisted at a concert of the Apollo Club in Nicode’s cantata, The Sea, and shared the honor which always attends a performance of our renowned brother society.” (630)

       ”Membership sometimes ran as high as 200 voices, but it never went below 100, but it was still referred to as the “small” chorus in Boston as the Handel and Haydn Society often did Messiah with 500 singers. (Gould, Our History-part 3, 3) Until 1900 no tickets were sold to individual concerts and thus no advertisement was needed. Tickets were sold by the season to 300 “associate members” and each singer was given 6 tickets per concert to be distributed to friends. Thus the Cecilia performed to full houses, but fundraising was always needed to balance the books. In most seasons an orchestra was employed for only two of the four concerts and many works with orchestral accompaniment were performed only with keyboard accompaniment. As a final gift to the choir, B.J. headed an Endowment Drive, which was able to raise $40,000, but even this support was not enough to guarantee the high ideals of Lang. The $2,000 yearly income from this endowment covered Arthur Fiedler’s salary of $600 per concert but little else. Luckily the Boston Symphony covered all the other major expenses. In 1894 the Board wrote that it hoped to pay its conductor $1,000 per season, but Lang never actually received more than $500, and often this amount was returned to the group via “purchase of tickets or direct contribution.” (Gould, Our History-part 2, 3)

         Lang, however, was enterprising; he and his successors (up to 1917) gave nearly 200 concerts in 42 years with 129 works having first performances in Boston, 15 having first performances in America, and 15 being world premiers. (Hall, 11) In its earliest days, The Cecilia, and the Boylston Club, were comprised of socially prominent people with a will to finance so useful an organization. The Cecilia sang Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Op. 123) for the first time in Boston (March 12, 1897) at the Music Hall with members of the Boston Symphony and Helen B. Wright, Lena Little, Frederick Smith, and Arthur Beresford as the soloists and with Franz Kneisel, violin and Arthur Foote, organ (Johnson, 55). They had also sung the Boston premiere of the Berlioz Requiem (February 12, 1882) (with Charles Adams, soloist), Dvorak’s Requiem (November 28, 1892) for the second time [actually, the third time according to Johnson’s First Performances In America,  132] in America, under the composer’s direction, Mendelssohn’s little opera Comancho’s Wedding (March 19, 1885) for the first time in America, and other works of lesser fame (Hallelujah Amen, 167-168). The soloists for the November 28, 1892 performance of the Dvorak Requiem (world premiere in London in 1891) at the Music Hall were Mmes. Marie Bernard Smith, May How, and Messrs. Ricketson and Beresford all conducted by the composer (Johnson, 132) S. Lothrop Thorndike wrote to Dvorak after this performance:

       The March 15, 1894 concert was the 100th. since the founding of the group in 1874. To mark the occasion the same work was performed in 1894 that been presented in 1874-Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night. Schumann’s Selections from Faust were also performed. The program for that concert gave a three-page history of the group and then listed the current singers – Soprano: 55, Alto: 47, Tenor: 45, and Bass: 50. Among the tenors was Frances’ brother, Edward C. Burrage and among the basses was H. G. Tucker. Neither Frances nor Margaret were singing members at that time. “The vocal capacity of the Club has been greatly improved both in quantity and quality since its early days, when its hundred voices found it hard to cope with the full orchestra of the Harvard Association or to fill the great space of Music Hall. It has now nearly two hundred voices. The vocal parts are well balanced; and each part, by dint of strict conditions of admission and of ruthless weeding out of useless material, is of excellent quality and power.” (613) The choir had continued since 1874 “outliving three or four organizations working in the same field, which have begun and ended during its existence.” (611) During its first twenty years “its presidents have been Charles C. Perkins, S. Lothrop Thorndike, A. Parker Browne, and George O. C. Coale.” (612) The Gazette found the Schumann “dull and almost tiresomely monotonous,” which generated applause that was “very slight and merely formal at that,” but the Mendelssohn “was much better done, and was far more favorably received.” Woolf had to include his usual comment on Lang’s conducting: “On Mr. B. J. Lang’s peculiar methods of conducting, it is unnecessary, and would be wearisome to dwell again. They are admirable object lessons to young conductors, on what to avoid.” (618 and 619) Warren Davenport wrote: “As a choral body last evening it must be said that it acquitted itself admirably. In the Faust number, the singing was excellent when the difficulties of the work are considered…The singing of the club in the Walpurgis Night, with one exception, was excellent.” The orchestra again was panned: “The playing throughout the whole performance was devoid of precision, expression, and proper attention to the firm and definite beat of the conductor.[Interesting evaluation of Lang’s conducting]  The unheeding attitude of the players, with eyes fixed upon their music or with attention divided among themselves, produced results that might be expected from a circus band only, while the total disregard of the conductor’s movements can be referred to as little less than disgraceful. Mr. Lang’s endeavors were of the best, and with the chorus accomplished admirable results. The accompaniment was a blot on the performance.” ((620-623)

      Also in March 1894, for the third concert of their season, The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz was performed. In his Annual Report for 1893-94, President Thorndike referred back to Lang’s presentation in 1880 which had been “his own private undertaking.” He had asked the critic Apthorp which performance had been better-Apthorp thought that the first in 1880, while Thorndike thought the second in 1894, “But why make comparisons. Both performances were excellent, even remarkable.” (BPL Lang Prog.)

       “On April 13 and 14 our ladies, with Mrs. Smith and Miss Whittier [members of the soprano section of Cecilia] in the solo parts, cheerfully accepted Mr. Paur’s invitation to sing the fairy music in the Midsummer-Night Dream, and made the symphony concerts for those days more than usually attractive.” (1894 Annual Report-631)

       The final concerts of the season were given on Wednesday evening May 2 (Wage Earner Concert) and Thursday evening May 3, 1894 at the Music Hall with Almon Fairbanks as the organist. Edward MacDowell played his Shadow Dance Opus 39, No. 8 and March Wind Opus 46, #10, but Warren Davenport wrote: “Mr. McDowell [sic] was not at his best,” but “he was recalled after the performance of his group of pieces.” (624) Hale reported that McDowell also played pieces by Bach, Chopin, Alabieff-Liszt and Geisler in addition to his own compositions. “He gave much pleasure, and he was twice recalled.” (626) The Transcript wrote of the soprano soloist, Miss Anita Muldoon, who was new to Boston: she “made a very favorable impression…She has a rich voice of considerable compass…she uses it uncommonly well, singing musically and with a great deal of ”temperament.” Mr. MacDowell’s pianoforte playing was a delightful feature of the concert and excited well-merited enthusiasm; he was twice recalled. The club sang admirably as ever, proving itself to be, as of yore, a chorus of which Mr. Lang may well feel proud.” (627) President Thorndike’s Report referred to MacDowell’s playing, saying that all the pieces had been “presented with great brilliancy of technique and charm of expression.” The choir had sung the Eia Mater by Dvorak, Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer, and “sundry part songs of the usual sort.” (631)

       “The Cecilia Society often gave evidence of its affection and regard for Mr. Lang. Twenty years of service as conductor were marked on May 24, 1894 by a reception when he was presented an inlaid mahogany table and carved chair from the chorus.” (Hill-History, 10)In 1901, when Arthur Foote was the President of the Cecilia Society, he was responsible for a commemoration on May 9, 1901 at the Hotel Vendome that honored Lang’s twenty-five years as conductor. Foote made the main speech and presented to Lang a silver bowl [that was passed on to Rosamund on B.J.’s death].

        The May 1894 Report of the President noted that the club had just finished its twentieth year, eighteen years of that being an independent group. “I am sorry to have to find fault with the attendance at rehearsals, and I recommend to the officers having charge of that matter a more strict enforcement of the by-laws provided for the case. The constant attendance of the best musicians is as necessary as that of the poor ones, in some respects more necessary. It isn’t enough that they already know their parts. What would happen if a dozen of the best string players in the Symphony Orchestra were to attempt to offer that excuse for non-attendance at rehearsals?” He then urged that more members be used for solo parts: “WE have sometimes made a mistake in going outside for work that could be done just as well from within the Club. The course suggested would, moreover, benefit the Club itself. We should get many valuable additions if it were clearly understood that the only chance of singing at a Cecilia concert would be by joining the Cecilia.” ((629)

The fall of 1894 saw the Boston premiere of the opera Samson and Dalila by Saint-Saens given with orchestra at the Music Hall on Tuesday, November 27 (Wage Earner Concert) and Wednesday evening, November 28 with the Boston Symphony. The translation into was by Nathan Haskell Dole. The soloists were Mrs. Julia L. Wyman, Clarence B. Davis, Heinrich Meyn, W. H. Clarke, Robert T. Hall, and Stephen S. Townsend, the last two being members of the Cecilia. Carl Zerrahn had conducted the work at the Worcester’s Mechanics Hall just two months before. The Courier wrote that even though the work was called a biblical drama, “the music has a certain unmistakable oratorio flavor,” and as a staged version was probably not to be given in Boston, as it was one of “the composer’s most famous creations, it is far better to hear it given in this way than not at all…The performance had many fine points. The chorus sang admirably from beginning to end, with accuracy, authority and effect.” When the soprano soloist, Mrs. Wyman “sang the more famous passages…she dropped from English into the original French; a proceeding which may be criticizable on the ground of good taste, but was none the less welcome to us; it gave the music its true flavor, and showed it forth in a far more brilliant light…The orchestra, if we except some occasional moments of not perfectly clear playing, did well, doing justice to the wealth of color in the scoring and giving the often intricate detail-work with good effect. The Cecilia is heartily to be thanked for giving us so good an introduction to a work which every music-lover is interested to hear, and one which holds unquestionably high rank among the dramatic productions of the last quarter of the present century.” (632-635) Hale in the Journal wrote that the first four scenes suffered from Lang’s “sluggish” tempi. “If the conductor is not a man of marked talent in orchestral leadership and the rehearsals are few, the most skillful players are apt to appear at a disadvantage. The chorus was generally excellent. It sang with beauty of tone, as a rule, and with understanding…It was a pleasure to hear it again, even with perhaps inevitable drawbacks. May the day soon come when this opera will be heard here as an opera.” (636-638) Warren Davenport referred to Hale’s remarks about “sluggish” tempi, but wrote that he felt “Mr. Lang’s tempi was [sic] well-conceived, in my opinion.” Of the other aspects of the performance: “The work of the chorus was admirable in every particular, and Mr. Lang conducted the performance in a firm and confident manner.” (639 and 640) Another review wanted to see the work as a staged opera “rather than perverted into an oratorio. The result of this perversion was that there was an absence of warmth and of color contrast…Palestine was changed to Boston, and the Philistines metamorphosed into Puritans…Nothing but praise is due to the chorus, all the members of which sang with spirit and with feeling. It may be truthfully said that, from an art-viewpoint, the chorus performed the best work of the evening…A word of protest may be urged against Mrs. Wyman’s bad taste and small art in singing several of her numbers in French, while the remainder of the opera was sung in English. Musically, there is no merit in pronouncing French correctly, and art propriety [what is that?] is of far more importance than linguistic skill. It remains to be added that at every available opportunity Mrs. Wyman was greeted with applause, which was enthusiastic at the conclusion of the love song in [the] first act.” (642 and 643) Interesting ideas!

Another piece by Margaret Ruthven Lang was premiered at the Wednesday evening, January 16 and Thursday evening, January 17, 1895 concerts at the Music Hall. The secondary headline of one review was: “A Not Particularly Interesting Programme Presented” (645) while another review began: “The Programme was most excellent and varied…The song for female voices by Miss Lang is charming in melody, and it is most skilfully and effectively arranged. It was sung with intelligence and sympathetic feeling, and was fully deserving of the applause that it won.” (647) Hale listed the title of Miss Lang’s piece, but made no mention of the work saying: the concert “was not of special interest.” (649) However, another review ended with the comment: “The whole concert was one of the most enjoyable of the smaller ones ever given by the Cecilia,” and described Miss Lang’s piece as “charming through and through.” (651-653)

The third program of the season was given on Thursday evening March 28, 1895 at the Music Hall with orchestra and H. G. Tucker as organist. The Brahms Requiem and selections from Act One of Wagner’s Parsifal were performed. The Courier described the Brahms as “a long, heavy and complicated work, intensely honorable, thoroughly academic.” The writer thought little of the Wagner excerpt “which is vain and irrelevant without its context and poor concert material anyhow.” (654) Hale called the Brahms “this crabbed and tiresome Requiem…It is unemotional, it does not provoke a good or mental emotion; it is without a religious feeling…Mr. Lang conducted in a perfunctory manner and without disclosing possible beauties that may lurk concealed…The chorus sang carefully and faithfully, but without marked distinction in dynamics. It must not be forgotten that the task of the chorus is exceedingly difficult, and the attacks and the intervals are dangerous even for picked and long-drilled singers. The orchestra did its best in the absence of a firm conductor.” Hale did not approve of opera excerpts, and the most positive thing that he could say was: “The performance was one of good faith.” (655-659) The Transcript wrote that this second performance by the Cecilia of the Brahms “gave one fresh insight into the work; at the first performance, a few years ago, one listened to it, as one is often impelled to listen to something at once new and evidently beautiful and sublimity is a rather general way, but without very definite musical understanding…The Cecilia last evening sang the great music admirably for the most part; with careful attention to light and shade, firmness of attack, and often brilliancy…One wished that the singers would only sing with more of individual fervor, with more buoyancy of phrasing, in a word, with more style…The selections from Parsifal were sung far more satisfyingly, and made a very powerful impression. The singing of the small choirs behind the stage was one of the most beautifully perfect things of its kind we have ever heard. The orchestra played unusually well throughout the concert; only in some portions of the Parsifal music was a certain lack of dynamic balance between different groups of instruments to be noticed.” (660-662)

The usual miscellaneous program finished the season on Thursday evening May 2, 1895 at the Music Hall with Frederic H. Lewis as the pianist and Rose [Laura, 1870-    ] and Ottilie [1872-    ] Sutro as the featured guest soloists. Their pieces were by Mozart-Fugue, Chopin-Rondo and Brahms-Theme and Variations Op. 56. Among the choral pieces were two by Boston composers, The Robin by Helen Hood and From a Bygone Day by George Osgood. Warren Davenport wrote: “The performance of the Sutro sisters was a delightful one, the ensemble of the effort being faultless. It was a thoroughly artistic effort devoid of affectation or sensationalism.” After the Chopin piece, “these admirable artists were recalled and played in a charming manner a Scherzetino by Charmenade.” [sic] “Mr. Lang conducted with his accustomed attention to detail and the concert was an agreeable experience on the part of the audience.” (Globe, undated review) The Sutro sisters were then in their early twenties, and their career continued to blossom to a point that they appeared during the 1916 Season of the Philadelphia Orchestra, probably conducted by Leopold Stokowski. (Wister,  227)

One “Wage-Earner” from Cambridge wrote to the Transcript saying that he was very insulted by the insert which had appeared in the last program which noted that the concerts: “are given at no profit to the club, and at great personal inconvenience to the members of the chorus.” He asked: “Are not the conductor, orchestra and many members of the chorus wage-earners? ” (666)

20th. Season:1895-1896. The opening concert at the Music Hall on Thursday evening, December 5, 1895 presented the Berlioz Requiem. Hale gave his usual hedged review noting how difficult the score was, how large the orchestra;” It is seldom. then, that this mass is ever heard as it looks in the score and may be imagined from it. To say that the performance last evening was wholly excellent would be to say the thing which is not. Yet it may be said truthfully that the performance was respectable throughout, and at times admirable.” He ended his review: “In spite of the shortcomings, some of them inevitable, to which I have alluded, the performance was a creditable one, and this phrase applied to the Requiem means much.” (667-670) Another review noted: “Considering its difficulties the Requiem was surprisingly well sung, although now and then the singers were in advance of or lagged behind the orchestra…It was, however, all conscientious and well-studied work, and at times reached a high point of excellence…No fault could be found with the excellent work of the orchestra [and then a few faults were listed].” (671)

The second concert was presented on Thursday evening February 13, 1896 at the Music Hall with Harry Fay and Frederic H. Lewis pianists Margaret’s Irish Love Song was sung by Mrs. Jeannie Crocker Follett who seems to have had an ideal voice for this piece. The Transcript wrote: “Mrs. Follett was utterly unlike the soprano soloists we have heard in recent years, for she sang with no affected airs. Hers is the ideal ballad voice, simple, sympathetic and appealing. Her three songs were admirably chosen, and with Mr. Lang’s skillful accompaniments, gave genuine delight.” The review continued with comments about one of the accompanists. “We venture to suggest to Mr. Fay that he profit by the lesson given him by Mr. Lang. [Fay was a Lang pupil I believe] Where the latter’s touch was delicate and subdued, Mr. Fay’s seemed harsh and noisy. Mr. Lang’s pianoforte work was a treat in itself. Mr. Fay’s made one squirm.” (672)

The third concert was given on Friday evening March 20, 1896 at the Music Hall using a string orchestra, harp and organ for the accompaniment; Foote and Lewis were the organists. Margaret’s work also appeared in this concert-not as a composer, but as the translator of a scene from Goethe’s Faust which opened the second half of the concert. The translated title was “The Shepherd deck’d him For the Dance” with music by Moritz Moszkowski, his Op. 44. The Gazette review was lukewarm: “The concert was solemn as befitted the occasion and somewhat dull.” The reviewer felt that “the Moszkowski music came in as appropriately as a clown at a death bed; it drew the line at solemnity and converted it into farce. A sample of bad taste not often heard at dignified concerts. The piece was not bad in itself, but its place was surely not on a Programme of a religious or semi-religion [sic] nature.” Three movements of the St. Saens Noel found favor, and “the singing was admirable throughout, the soloists being surprisingly good…the orchestra played with independence; a large audience was liberal in its applause and the Cecilia may be congratulated on the excellent work done.” (675) Louis C. Elson also though the Moszkowski “a bit of an interruption to the prevailing thought of the evening, but in itself proved a sparkling sketch of bucolic fun and laughter.” He approved of the Sgambati Te Deum for organ and strings which he described as “replete with spiritual exaltation” and played “with just the right touch of religious fervor, portraying a churchly pageant rather than a humble prayer.” (676-677) Elson also enjoyed the St. Saens nothing especially the chorus work in the final section. “Their splendid precision of attack, purity of tone, surety of intonation, were given free scope in that inspiring finale.” The choir’s performance inspired Elson to devote a paragraph to their place in Boston’s musical world. “With all due excuses for a display of local pride, we take pleasure in renewing our own assurance of unrivaled distinction for the Cecilia in the way of a body of ensemble singers, after hearing most of the best chorus work done in America. Even the patron saint of the society would find satisfaction in the tone quality of the soprani. Rarely in a body of singers are there to be found such distinctive qualities as refinement, power, tone and temperament, but in the Cecilia the combination is refreshingly patent.” (678)

The fourth concert was given on Thursday evening April 30, 1896 at the Music Hall with Ernst Perabo as the guest soloist and Mr. Frederic Lewis as accompanist, and Elson noted that he played “with discretion and good taste.” Elson also wrote: “Miss Margaret R. Lang’s In a Garden was graceful but nothing more; Miss Lang must beware of taking so long a time to say nothing.” He ended the review with the comment: “Altogether the evening was a pretty and unambitious ending to a season that has been even above the praiseworthy standard generally maintained by the Cecilia.” (679) The Transcript review didn’t mention Margaret’s piece directly but noted: “Mrs. [Alice] Rice’s three songs were a delight to the ear and soul,” and of the solo pianist: “Mr. Perabo played exquisitely as ever.” (680) Hale also noted the pianist’s performance: “Mr. Perabo played with his customary thoughtfulness and reverence for the composers,” and of Margaret’s song: “Mrs. Bates-Rice sang [her three songs] with technical skill and genuine feeling.” (681) Perabo had played pieces by Beethoven, Rubinstein and Schubert in the first half, and by Rubinstein, Chopin and Schumann in the second half. (Program-Johnston Collection)

President Thorndike’s Annual report of May 28, 1896 wrote: the “kind public has greeted our successes with appreciative favor. Even the critics…have not found fault oftener than is the wont of their tribe or, perhaps, oftener than we have deserved.” He also called attention to the “higher standard of performance of the Cecilia” and cited one of the factors:”the playing of Mr. Higginson’s orchestra is superior to that of the orchestra of the Harvard Musical Association. And I am never tired of saying that the Cecilia owes most of this to Mr. Lang, who must have great pride in the manner in which the club has grown under his hands.” Thorndike then reflected on the general growth during the previous twenty years of all aspects of music in Boston. “The musical life of the city is far more intense and pervading, far more a necessary part of daily existence, than ever before. Fifty girls play the piano fairly well to one who played it fairly well when Mr. Lang and Mr. Dresel began to teach. ” He then addressed the younger members of the club: “Upon you, young people, it rest to see that the Cecilia takes its proper place in this general progress. You are the inheritors of all the gains that it has made in the time that is past, and it depends upon you to add like gains in the time that is to come.” One area of needed attention was financial support: “We could do much more than we have done if we had more associate members, and we must, each and all, neglect no opportunity of obtaining them.” The continued success of the Wage Earner Concerts was noted as was the continued abuse by some who used these cheap tickets even though they could afford to become Associates. “This dishonesty manifestly causes pecuniary loss to the Cecilia. Mr. Ryder [Secretary of the Wage Earner Committee] well remarks, ”If the evil cannot be abated, the Wage Earner Concerts must stop.”” The Report ended with news of the following season: “The next season will begin with a repetition of Dvorak’s The Spectre’s Bride, not heard here for seven years. In a later concert Massenet’s Eve will be repeated.” (682-685)

TWENTY-FIRST SEASON.  1896-1897. The opening concert was on Friday evening December 4, 1896 with full orchestra at the Music Hall. This was the choir’s 121st. concert and the featured work was Dvorak’s The Spectre’s Bride with George J. Parker singing the role of the Spectre-it was the third time that he had performed this part. The Herald [Woolf] didn’t care for the work, but noted that “The chorus singing was excellent throughout in admirable quality of the tone and the clearness and steadiness of its work generally,” but then found fault with the choir’s “persistence with which it emphasized the first beat in a bar…The orchestra acquitted itself with a strongly manifest attention to its task, but it was not always together, owing to causes which are too familiar to dwell upon again.” All orchestra shortcomings were Lang’s responsibility and they were due to “the apparently irremediable eccentricities of Mr. Lang’s use of the baton. The audience, a large one, applauded often and warmly.” (694-695) Hale in the Journal wrote that this was the fourth time that Mr. Parker had sung the work-the Boston premiere on May 13, 1886, the second time on March 17, 1887, the third time on December 2, 1889 and now this performance. hale also did not like the work: “I confess that the more I hear the cantata the less truly dramatic does it seem to me. Dvorak often shows on Olympian indifference to the sentiment of the text, which is presumably the same in Bohemian as in English. There is no true blending of music and drama.” Of the performance: “The chorus singing was most excellent last night in these respects: body and quality and balance of tone, pure intonation, and precision of attack. If in phrasing, and such included matters as accentuation and punctuation, they fell short occasionally of reasonable expectation, it was because they followed the conductor’s instruction; for the chorus of the Cecilia is made up of singers of more than ordinary intelligence, nor do I know a chorus anywhere that is capable of finer and more effective work under wholly satisfactory and favoring conditions.” Hale then cited a couple of places where the choir sang forte rather than the marked pianissimo, and blamed Lang “who does not insist rigidly at rehearsals on a proper following of the dynamic indications” probably because he was busy training the choir in all the positive aspects that Hale had listed earlier. Hale seems to not allow for any conductor decision that does not follow exactly what he sees on the page, whether or not that marking is effective or chorally appropriate. Hale spent a long paragraph listing the faults of the soloist Mr. Max Heinrich [who had also sung at the Boston premiere]:”Last night Mr. Heinrich was guilty of offences for which there is no pardon.” (696-699)

A review for their Wednesday evening [Wage Earner] February 3, 1897 Music Hall concert began: “Listening to the Cecilia is such a restful musical pleasure; there is never a moment of insecurity or suggestion of a possible flaw in their performance.” (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 8)

The second concert, February 4, 1897 at the Music Hall included Phippen and Lewis as pianists and Mrs. H. H. Beach as soloist. She was the accompanist for the first Boston performance of her own The Rose of Avontown for women’s voices, and she also played a group of solos by Beethoven and Chopin in place of “Mr. Proctor” who was “ill and unable to play.” (700) Hale in the Journal said of the Beach work: “This composition is indeed a pleasing one, written with skill that is not ostentatious. The emotion is gentle and becomingly womanly…The performance was all that could be desired.” Of Beach’s piano selection: “She appeared to her best advantage in the waltz [Chopin in E Minor]. In the Chopin prelude and in the variations by Beethoven there was little or no tonal color, and there was frequently metallic attack, as well as rigidity in phrasing.” (701-703) Elson (?-the review is marked “Adv,” but this does not sound like Elson) in the Advertiser began negatively: “The chorus is poorly balanced, the male section being far more ready and dynamically stronger than that of the ladies. The sopranos have sweet voices, but only half enough of them; the altos are colorless and slow. Mr. Lang is not magnetic or inspiring as a conductor, but his taste in Programme-making and shading is unquestionable.” The Beach piece was a positive: “Nothing but praise can be said regarding the composition or its performance-both interesting and artistic…Her [Mrs. Beach’s] accompaniment to her own composition was quite a part of its success. Conductor, chorus and pianist seemed in sympathetic, friendly accord, resulting in a beautiful ensemble in every sense of the word…Mr. Phippen’s accompanying of Madam Wyman” songs were noticeably excellent.” Pieces by two other Boston composers were included-George L. Osgood’s Christmas carol, Listen, Lordlings, Unto Me, and a solo song by Mrs. Clara Rogers, River Floweth Strong, My Love.

Friday , March 12, 1897 saw the first performance in Boston of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in D. Op. 123 which had not even been mentioned in the previous Annual Report of repertoire for the following year! In fact, what had been planned was a repeat of Massenet’s Eve, but “it occurred to the Musical Council to do something for the third concert a good deal better…It had been mentioned hesitatingly in the Musical Council for a number of years. Mr. Lang had taken care that it should not be lost sight of. It had always been passed over with the feeling that by-and-by we should be stronger. But at last the Council was convinced that the time had come.” (725) Sung at the Music Hall accompanied by members of the BSO, the soloists were Helen B. Wright, Lena Little, Frederick Smith, Arthur Beresford with Franz Kneisel, violin and Arthur Foote, organ.With so many other premiers having been offered by the Cecilia, it is strange that it took this long for this work to be sung in Boston. Wright and Smith were members of the choir! The New York first performance had been in 1872, and it was sung in Cincinnati at the May Festival with a chorus of 600 in May 1880 (Johnson, First, 55).This same work was sung by the Cecilia at the dedication of Symphony Hall on October 15, 1900 conducted by Gericke. One review said:”The performance was one of the finest the Cecilia has given; finer than its recent one of Berlioz’s Danremont-Requiem. And, considering the character of the work, such a performance is a triumph like few for any choral society. We have listened carefully to two performances, score in hand; we could not detect a single false entry in any of the parts, we heard only a very few timid and ineffectual ones. the quality of tone was in general fine, smooth and musical, at times brilliant; expression marks were regarded and implicitly obeyed. And just here let us thank Mr. Lang for two things: for his never exaggerating Beethoven’s pianissimo, not hushing it to that double and treble pianissimo which belongs solely to more modern works…Mr. Lang had the artistic feeling to allow Beethoven to speak as he speaks in the score, underscoring nothing, putting nothing in job type…The Cecilia may well be proud of being able to take a soprano and a tenor from its own ranks for the quartet in the Missa Solemnis; few even of the great singers of the world care to attack these terrible parts. The whole solo quartet did wonderfully well…Finer even than the individual performances of the four singers was their excellent ensemble; they sang together, as if they had long known the music and one another…In a word Mr. Lang and the Cecilia may be fairly proud of each other. Together, they have given one of the greatest works in existence, not impeccably, but solidly and intelligently well. They have made a date in the musical history of Boston.” (705-708) Hale basically said that the work was not worth all the trouble taken to present it. He found the soloists inadequate and of the choir: “The chorus, too, was brave and its performance was often surprisingly good; yet in the terrible fugues in the Gloria and Credo the singers were so tired, especially the sopranos, that the result was unmusical in that there was no clear walk of the parts, no pronounced attack of the subject. I know of no chorus in this country that would have made a more courageous attempt or accomplished as much.” Hale then raised the question of whether doing such a difficult work was worth it. “For the sake of the record, let us then rejoice that the Missa Solemnis has been attempted in Boston. I do not believe that repeated hearings or even incredible performances would turn the vocal score into a marvel of strength and beauty, or convert the dry, thick, at times brutal orchestration into a glory for all time.” (710-709) The Gazette recorded that: “Many extra rehearsals had been devoted to the preparation of the mess [!], and the performance was most honorable to the Cecilia.” The solo quartet “undertook the great tasks of the solo quartette and acquitted themselves excellently. There was a good-sized orchestra from the Symphony, which took much pains. Mr. Kneisel assumed the violin obbligati and Mr. Lang directed with intelligent and correct command.” (712) The Courier said of the work: “It is not a loveable work,” and not how difficult the work was. “The singers are to be congratulated for attempting to do what they were incapable of doing well. The work is most trying and most difficult…He knows what he wants and if singers are unequal to the demands, so much the worse for them…We have now heard the Missa Solemnis; let us now be grateful that the hiatus in our education has been filled in and the work done.” (713)

The fourth concert was given on May 6, 1897 at the Music Hall with Phippen as accompanist and Adele aus der Ohe as piano soloist. Part of the program was Margaret’s Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down of which Hale in the N.Y. Musical Courier wrote: “Mr. Lang is not a good understudy for the Roman Father. If he were he would not have allowed his daughter’s amorphous, colorless, rhythmless piece to go into rehearsal.” He also complained: “Miss Aus der Ohe, I entreat you, extend your repertory! For heaven’ sake leave the exasperatingly familiar rut!” (714) In another review Hale wrote: “Miss Lang’s part-song, Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down is without rhythm or color; a dull thing, clumsily written, amorphous.” Of Miss Aus der Ohe, after disparaging her Bach and Mendelssohn, he wrote: She played “her own superb Etude, in which she displayed amazing brilliancy, and a Rhapsodie of Liszt, which called forth thunderous applause.” (717-719) Under the title “Last of the Cecilias” the Transcript wrote: “The Cecilia Society is always heard at its best in these short selections, and last evening’s performance was no exception to the rule. The Programme included nine choral numbers, mostly from the modern school….Miss Margaret Lang contributed a musical setting of Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down which was well received. The musical scenery along the brook was very pretty, if not diversified….The work of the chorus was excellent throughout…Of Miss der Ohe’s piano numbers it need only be said that they were of her usual standard.” The Liszt “gave abundant opportunity for a brilliant display of marvellous technique…Altogether the concert was one of the most successful of the season.” (720) Another review said of Margaret’s piece: “Miss Lang’s song appeared to please, perhaps because of the spirit and dash with which it was sung.” Of the pianist: “Everything she does is backed by an honest sincerity which makes her performances wholly enjoyable. She was much applauded, and after her first appearance responded graciously to an encore. After her second appearance she received many recalls. There was a large audience present, but it was not especially demonstrative, except over the playing of the soloists. ” (722-723) President Thorndike wrote: “Miss Lang’s Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down, written with the scholarship and musical feeling which always mark her compositions, was sung with spirit, and received great applause.” (726) Of the accompanist Joshua Phippen, the President wrote that the choir was “indebted for such valuable service.” (727)

President Thorndike began his Annual Report of May 27, 1897: “The Club has not only maintained but has added to the distinction of its record. It has in its third concert, to use the language of one of our friendly critics, ‘made a date in the musical history of Boston.'” [with the Missa Solemnis performance] He continued: “There are today few, perhaps no choirs of two hundred voices on either side of the water capable of finer and better work.” Again, as in the report of the previous year, he gave credit to Lang: “Mr. Lang may well be proud of what he has made the Cecilia, as the Cecilia has always been proud of Mr. Lang.” Of the Wage Earner Concert tickets we wrote: “It is manifest that the plan is a failure and entails a distinct loss.” He then announced that he was retiring as President after sixteen years as he felt that the choir would be “made stronger by the infusion of fresh blood, and the time always comes when the elder should give place to the younger.” He called his time with the choir “the pleasantest years of my musical life and [these musical] friendships [are] not easily forgotten.” (724-727)

The Cecila provided the male voices for a run of three performances in French of Racine’s Athalie in December 1897 sponsored by Harvard’s Faculty of Letters and Sciences at Sanders Theater. Lang conducted the choir and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 7)

TWENTY-SECOND SEASON.  1897-1898. Bruch’ Odysseus was again performed, this time on Thursday evening, December 2, 1897 at the Music Hall with orchestra. The Gazette didn’t like the work: “It is not cheerful; it makes no strong appeal either to the heart or the head; it is without color or inspiration,” but of the performance: “It was well sung throughout, the chorus work being excellent. There was no dragging, no lack of unevenness of attack, and the singing was spirited and very effective.” Many of the soloists were given positive comments. (729) The President’s Report of May 1898 noted that choir members were used for eight of the twelve solo parts. Hale in the Journal also found the work “dull” and praised the choir. “The performance, so far as the chorus is concerned, was excellent in quality of tone, balance of parts, precision of attack.,” while the “orchestra played about as it pleased.” (730-731) Just before this concert the Transcript had an article giving the “Reasons Why the Cecilia Suspended” the Wage Earners Concert for the 97-98 Season. “The two great causes of the abandonment of the concerts were a lack of interest on the part of the wage-earners themselves, and the misuse of the tickets by those to whom they were intrusted for distribution.” It seems that “agents of business houses distributed the tickets among their personal friends instead of to wage-earners.” Thus the Club losing “attendance at their own regular club concerts.” (732-733)

The second concert was on Thursday evening January 13, 1898 at the Music Hall with orchestra, and the repertoire was Brahms-Song of Destiny, Humperdinck-Pilgrimage to Kevlaar, [first Boston performance-had been done in NYC and Milwaukee in 1896:Johnson, First ] and The Swan and Skylark by Goring Thomas [first Boston performance-had been given by Zerrahn and the Worcester County Music Association on September 23, 1897, this Worcester performance was cited as the third time in this country: Johnson, First]. The Herald reviewer praised the concert: “The chorus again distinguished itself by the precision, the steadiness and the admirable color of its singing,” with special praise going to the women’s voices who “can hardly be overpraised…the concert, taken altogether, may be ranked among the best that the organization has ever given. The audience was large and appreciatively bountiful in its applause.” (734-735) T. P. Currier in the Journal found the Goring Thomas to suffer “for want of contrast. It is too much alike.” Two choir members were had solos in this concert were praised: Miss Palmer’s contralto solo “was well sung,” but the size of her voice was “hardly equal to the task of filling Music Hall,” while Mr. Townsend “was no less successful with the bass solos. The orchestra played for the most part admirably. The concert was wholly creditable to the club and its conductor.” (736) The Gazette found the Humperdinck “pleasing and gracious” and the Goring Thomas “delightful, full of poetic imagination and artistic charm…The work was interpreted in the most satisfactory manner the chorus calling for particular praise. It sang with unusual spirit and fine intelligence…The concert throughout was most enjoyable, and there was hardly a fault of commission or omission to mar the pleasure. from beginning to end the chorus was admirable. There was full harmony between it and the orchestra, and it is a pleasure to record the the Cecilia won a triumph that was well deserved. The art level was the highest yet reached by this society.” (737-738) It would seem from the tone of this last review in the Gazette that a new reviewer had been hired by that paper.

Schumann’s The Pilgrimage of the Rose was the main work presented on Thursday evening March 3, 1898 at the Music Hall with Foote as the accompanist-the other works were unaccompanied. The Transcript wrote: Foote “did full justice to the most beautiful poetic feature of this composition.” Most of the soloists were praised, but “Mr. Dunham was hardly the right man in the right place. The tenor part is not a particularly grateful task, but it need not be monotonous, tame and stiff.” (740) The Courier review was based “only upon the report of a listener on whose tried judgment we depend.” This person felt that the work was passe, and should only be sung in “a small space as it was meant for and its leading singers should be accomplished not less than well-intentioned. But the Cecilia had to depend mainly upon its own members for soloists, whose performance naturally lacked something of the authority of experienced singers. The chorus acquitted itself honorably as usual, and the male choir showed especial volume and richness.” (741)

For the final concert of this season, “an opportunity will be afforded a small non-membership public to attend the final concert on Wednesday evening April 27.” The major work was Arthur Sullivan’s The Golden Legend which had only one previous Boston performance, on May 8, 1887 by the Boston Oratorio Society conducted by Frederick Archer. At that time Hale wrote: “’twas a dull night.” (Johnson, First, 350) Zerrahn had also given the work with the Worcester County Musical Association on September 23, 1896. (Ibid)  The Cecilia concert used professional soloists and “a large orchestra from the Boston Symphony players,” (742) and Mr. B. L. Whelpley as the organist. (744) The Courier wrote that the performance “was chiefly meritorious for its fine, equable, rich and noble choir work…The orchestral support was correct enough so far as reading the notes went, but beyond that it cannot be commended…mr. Whelpley got remarkably fine effects from the organ.” (745-736) The Gazette thought little of the Sullivan work, but noted: “The best work of the evening was that done by the chorus that sang with unusual spirit, purity of intonation and intelligence. The soloists were less admirable; they sang in dry and perfunctory manner, and without any particular respect for the work in hand.” Of the orchestra: “The playing was without color or grace, and if any guidance were given to them they were inexcusably careless in not paying heed to it. The audience was good-natured and frequently gave applause where it was not deserved.” (747) Hale in the Journal wrote that the soloists were inadequate and that one of them, Mr. Heinrich “was indisposed, and fainted while singing Lucifer’s mockery of the pilgrims.” He also noted that the orchestra “played without attention to dynamic indications…It was the fault of Mr. Lang, who, keeping his eyes fixed curiously on the score, gave no cues, gave no signals for dynamic gradations, but beat time mechanically, and often with an injudicious and unmusical choice of tempo. There was a good-sized audience and applausive [!] audience.”(748-749) For this concert there was also a social notice which recorded: “Miss Gertrude Edmands, who is always one of the best dressed of our local singers, was in deep yellow and white brocade, opening over a petticoat of white lace.” This notice also recorded that among those in the audience were the choir’s former president, Mr. Lothrop Thorndike, Mr. and Mrs. William Winch, and Mrs. Gardner. (750) The Transcript called the Sullivan “a decidedly weak work…It sounds old as the hills, without the dignity of age…Nowhere in the work does Sullivan strike a distinctly dramatic note…The performance by the chorus last evening was admirable in the extreme, admirable at all points…In rich fulness of tone, precision and vigor of attack, beauty of light and shade, the choral performance left nothing to be desired. The orchestra played with unusual smoothness, for men who had made up their minds to be uninterested in their work, but almost constantly too loud for the solo voices, and exasperatingly monotonously.” (751-752)

In the fall of 1898 it was announced that the Wage Earners Concerts would resume on Monday nights with the regular member concerts being on Wednesday nights…”As before, the club proposes to give precisely the same concerts in all details to its audiences of wage-earners that it gives to its associate members.” (753)

The Annual Report of May 26, 1898 presented by the new president Arthur Astor Casey reviewed the Wage Earner Concert cancellation admitting that their cancellation had not added to the ranks of Associate Members in an amount “important enough to be significant,” but he listed the advantages that these concerts did provide to the choir. “They are useful, in the first place as dress rehearsals,” and secondly, “they add to the work of the society a larger motive of public spirit.” For these reasons he had recommended that they be reinstated, which they were. (755-756) Among his overall comments was one about the men: “I have heard, and I believe it to be true, that the male chorus never has sung so well as it has this winter, and that the chorus as a whole has never sung better. Upon this result of their labors, we must congratulate both leader and chorus.” (757-758)

George Chadwick, writing about a performance he conducted of the Worcester Chorus, mentioned that the choir had been applauded by the orchestra, who were mostly players from Boston. The orchestra members were “quite in love with our pretty girls in the front row – ”not like those old hens in the Cecilia” as one of them said.” (6476)

TWENTY-THIRD SEASON: 1898-1899. December 5 and 7, 1898 saw the Boston premiere at the Music Hall of Verdi’s Te Deum for Double Chorus and Orchestra whose world premiere had been only a few months earlier in Paris, March 20, 1898! Mr. B. L. Whelpley was the organist and Miss Sara Anderson the soprano soloist for this concert. Verdi’s Stabat Mater and other shorter works were also on the program. (Cecilia program) Hale in the Journal approved of the Verdi pieces, noted that the soprano “evidently gave pleasure to the large audience, [but] was not the Miss Anderson who triumphed at the Worcester Festival,” and ended his review with his now-familiar complaint: “But, as we know, orchestral rehearsals are few before Cecilia concerts, and Mr. Lang is not at his ease before an orchestra.” (759-761) H. M. Ticknor in the Courier gave more credit to Lang but echoed the rehearsal problem: “Mr. Lang conducted and obtained more faithful attention from the orchestra than the Symphony men always give to a leader not their own; but the Verdi hymns needed much more rehearsing than any of our choral societies can afford to pay for.” Ticknor also faulted the choir’s diction. “A mere stream of pulpy vowels without distinctive consonants means so little.” (Courier, undated, H. M. Tichnor)

The second concerts of the season (134th. in all) given on Wednesday evening January 25, and Thursday evening January 26, 1899 at the Music Hall with two new accompanists, Miss Alice Coleman and Miss Laura Hawkins. Mr. Melville Horner sang Margaret’s song, The King is Dead and the choir sang Love Plumes His Wings. [for SSAA choir] Elson in the Transcript wrote that “there had not [been] a single weak number on the Programme…Once more the Cecilia has done a good deed for Boston’s music. When one remembers how many new works have been heard here because of the energy of this society, it seems as if a very large debt of public gratitude was due to this organization.” (Advertiser, undated, Louis C. Elson) Of Margaret’s choral piece: “Love Plumes His Wings is a dainty bit of composition, well worth the singing, and the female voices gave it with feeling and finesse.” (771) The Herald headline was: “Fine Volume and Quality of Tone of the Singing of the Chorus—Miss Rock Piano Soloist.” This review recorded that there was “a very large audience present, and applause was generous and well deserved. The chorus sang in tune throughout the evening, with a fine volume and quality of tone. It sang expressively too, and was a credit to itself and its conductor.” Miss Rock played twice in the concert “in a manner which provoked the heartiest applause.” Nevin’s Wynken, Blynken and Nod was also part of the program. (772)(796)

The third concert was La Damnation de Faust by Berlioz, and “On account of the unusual expenses incurred to produce [this work], by reason of the artists engaged and an enlarged orchestra, a certain number of tickets will be placed on public sale at the Music Hall Box Office on and after March 1. Price, $1.50 and $2 each.” (773) The performances were on Monday evening March 13, and Wednesday evening March 15, 1899. The Transcript wrote: “We think the performance, as a whole, the best the Cecilia has yet given of the Damnation, indeed, the best that has been heard since Mr. Lang”s first productions of the work here, in the Music Hall in 1880, and in Tremont Temple in 1881…It is getting past the time for praising the Cecilia chorus; their wonderful excellence in singing is becoming proverbial. The orchestra did better than usual…What was evidently lacking was sufficient rehearsing of all save the chorus.” (774-775) The Advertiser also praised the choir: “The work of the chorus from the very outset to the very end was admirable and always full of merit.” (776-777) However, Hale in the Journal began with the headline: “A Poor Performance of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust in Music Hall Last Night.” he continued: “The performance last night was neither coldly accurate nor brilliantly wrong. It was colorless, dull, slovenly. Let me first of all praise the chorus for what it was allowed to do.” He continued with more praise of the choir, especially in unaccompanied works, but then wrote that when the group did orchestrally accompanied works, “it’s life is taken away by a stick, and it is sacrificed, as upon an altar and in the presence of the people.” (778-779) That is certainly a new way to comment on Lang’s conducting. Another review began by saying that this was  “a performance which had marked merits and serious faults, but was upon the whole interesting and creditable. That many delicate points and fine shades of the score were not to be found in the rendering, can not be denied. But probably the heaviest blame for this should rest rather upon the singers than the conductor.” The writer, possibly a choral singer himself, then remarked on how often the conductor would call attention to points of interpretation only to have them forgotten and/or ignored the next time through. “One might fancy that common sense had temporarily deserted many of them.” He then mentioned the orchestra players, who knowing that little can be covered in the inadequate rehearsals provided, “will play neglectfully, even if they are not wilfully recalcitrant. A strong, obstinate and quite expert leader might get better results than are generally obtained, but we doubt if even such as one could come very near to perfection.” (780)

The fourth concert broke the usual pattern of a Miscellaneous Program with just piano accompaniment, instead, The Transfiguration of Christ by Perosi was given on April 24 and 26, 1899 at the Music Hall with Mr. B. L. Whelpley as the organist “and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.” (Program) Perosi was then only twenty-six but was already the Music Director of St. Mark’s in Venice. This performance was a Boston and American Premier-it had only been premiered in Italy a year earlier, March 20, 1898. A story written before the performance began with: “No event in the musical annals of Boston has ever been attended with greater or more deserved interest than the production of the Perosi oratorio by the Cecilia on the 27th.” [Actually April 24 and 26-Annual Report] This writer noted that London, which was known to have much experience with “oratorio composers” and praised this work should account for much more than then the “grumblings of the Viennese” audience.  “Everything concerning the new composer is being read and discussed with an interest thoroughly Bostonian. There remains little to be said until we hear what he says for himself.” (Transcript, undated) Hale’s review included interesting comments about Italian concert life. “We heard an oratorio by Perosi last week. How do you account for the success of the work in Italy? Perosi has two powerful backers; The Church and a rich and indefatigable publisher.” [Ricordi] He then suggested that The Church wanted to have the “dramatic intensity” of modern Italian opera “used in its own service,” but “unfortunately Perosi does not show himself in the works that I have heard to be a musician of either technical proficiency or marked temperament.” From the first “to the very last note of this story of the demonic child there is not a beautiful or moving phrase, there is nothing in recitative or in accompaniment that excites any emotion whatever, religious or dramatic, there is nothing that suggests religious contemplation or leads to it…It is a bitter disappointment. For we all hoped to hear religious music that would move and uplift; and we heard music that is inherently, continuously and irretrievably dull.” After all this (and more) Hale had no space to say anything about the performance itself. Another Hale review said: “Verdi’s most effective Te Deum, sung for the second time at these concerts, brought relief, pleasure, and the heartiest admiration” after the Perosi where “the singers had performed bravely their repulsive tasks. Mr. Herbert Johnson, to whom fell the burden of the evening, sang with marked purity of voice and style. Alas! he had nothing to sing but notes-notes-notes.” (Hale, undated, not sourced) Another reviewer noted the advance publicity which suggested that “a new musical genius was expected.” But, this reviewer felt that the composer handled “his art like a thoughtless amateur…To compare him to Palestrina, as his admirers have done, is to indulge in the most crushing satire…The concert ended with Verdi’s Te Deum, and it gave the audience the opportunity of judging between genius and incapacity.” (791-792) After the concert, Richard Bliss of Newport, writing a Letter to the Editor of the Daily News noted: “It can scarcely be denied that Perosi has been absurdly overpraised by his countrymen,” but Bliss was concerned that all the Boston critics (except Louis C. Elson) “had been not only supercilious in tone, but [also] unfair and indiscrimination in substance.” Bliss did acknowledge that the work “seems to me like a number of musical fragments written at different times, and finally tacked together. That many fo the individual parts are of great beauty does not make the work as a whole satisfying.” Of the performance: “The vocal parts were excellently well done, both by the soloists and choristers. But here praise for the execution must cease. The orchestra played with a carelessness and indifference that is astounding.” At the end of his letter, he returned to the choir: “The singing of the choristers was admirable, and their work was worthy of the highest praise.” (Richard Bliss, Newport, April 28, 1899, newspaper unknown)

This season also saw the choir taking part in performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on March 10 and 11 when the male voices took part in Liszt’s Faust Symphony, and on April 7 and 8 when “the full chorus, enlarged for this occasion, sang in the Manfred by Schumann.” Finally, the choir “again enlarged, sang in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the BSO…This makes a total of fourteen concerts which the Cecilia has taken part in this season.” These additional concerts were reported in the Annual Report of May 25, 1899, where it was also reported that “a contribution of one thousand dollars a year for the next five years has been secured from anonymous subscribers, to enable the Society to rearrange its system of sale of seats in such a way as to make receipts larger and the amount of work smaller, at least, than the amount you have done during the last year…The resumption of the ”Wage-earner Concerts” had been an entire success…The increased demand, it is interesting to note, seemed to come from teachers in the public schools.” President Carey then announced that due to having had to miss so many meetings, he was stepping down as President after only two years, but “I shall always feel the liveliest interest in the welfare of their Cecilia, and the greatest sympathy with it in its problems.” (Arthur Astor Carey, President’s Annual Report of May 25, 1899)

TWENTY-FOURTH SEASON. A renewal announcement dated October 1, 1899, sent by the group’s Treasurer, Edward C. Burrage (B. J.’s brother-in-law) to Associate members noted that this season would be the last “in the present Music Hall.” All concerts were to be on Wednesday nights, and the “assessment for the season” was to be $15. The Executive Committee of nine members for this coming season included Arthur Foote as President, and among the at-large members, two choir former presidents, Arthur Astor Carey and George O. G. Coale. (814)  Wednesday, December 6, 1899 saw the Boston premiere of Parker’s oratorio Legend of St. Christopher, Opus 43-the world premiere had been just the year before. “This work was performed at virtually every festival in America in the decade following its premiere. The unaccompanied chorus ‘Jam sol recedit’ is considered Parker’s finest achievement.” (Johnson, First, 285) The orchestra was members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and B. L. Whelpley was the organist with the composer conducting. The fact that Mr. and Mrs. Lang were in the audience was noted in a society column which also recorded that “to look over the audience one would scarcely imagine than anything else musical of special import was going on.” The piece “met with the triumph it deserved.” Also in the audience were Mr. and Mrs. John F. Winch, Mr. Gericke conductor of the BSO, Prof. Carl Faelten of the New England Conservatory and Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Rogers (she the former singer Clara Doria). “Mrs. Caroline Shepherd, the soprano, was handsome in white silk, with lace, which was incrusted with crystals, and pale blue velvet on the bodice.” (813) Elson in the Advertiser wrote: “A considerable audience listened to the orchestral rehearsal of The Legend of St. Christopher on yesterday afternoon. It is pronounced one of the most remarkable pieces of work yet produced by Mr. Parker, and in his warmest and most melodious vein.” Referring back to the recent Cecilia Perosi performance, Elson gave his opinion that “we need not go to Italy to look for new masters of oratorio.” Of the performance: “The orchestra was kept well in hand by the composer, who conducted the performance, and was enthusiastically greeted by the audience. The chorus sang the difficult work wonderfully well.” Elson then went on to say that he preferred Chadwick, Strong or MacDowell for purely instrumental works, “but he felt that this work by Parker should “make a high place, and at once, in our native repertoire and in the scant list of good contrapuntal works of the modern world.” (809-811) Apthorp in the Transcript felt that Parker composed too easily: “He is too often satisfied with saying a thing, without considering whether it might not be said better. His very ease often seems like carelessness…The performance last evening was generally very good, indeed, solo singers and chorus sang capitally, and the orchestra seemed, for once, to have forgotten its determination to play no better than necessary.” (812)

The second concerts were on Monday evening January 22 and Wednesday evening January 24, 1900 at the Music Hall with Mr. Whelpley as organist and Miss Laura Watkins as pianist. On the program was a Bach cantata which the Courier reviewer found boring-“a trying work.” The three soloists were choir members, and the bass of Mr. Weldon Hunt was described as a “fine voice.” Also on the program was the Vision of the Queen by the contemporary French woman composer Augusta Holmes which the reviewer found “contains much graceful writing, the fresh, female voices blending with the harp, violoncello and piano, [to] form a most delightful body of sound.” The accompanist was praised: “Miss Hawkins is to be congratulated on her fine rendering of the sonatina in the Bach cantata, as well as on her able accompaniments.” (815-816)

Major Boston premiers by the Cecilia continued in 1900 with Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, Op. 30 by Coleridge-Taylor (composed only two years before when the composer was only 23 years old) being sung with orchestra at the Music Hall on March 12 and March 14, 1900. An autograph full score of this work is in the Boston Public Library collection (Johnson, First, 115). The concert opened with the first American performance of the Overture to the Song of Hiawatha, Opus 30 by Coleridge-Taylor. The concert also included the Ballad-Cantata Phaudrig Crohoore by Charles Villiers Stanford with the Irish tenor Evan Williams.(Cecilia program) Apthorp in the Transcript didn’t like either of the choral works, “but the performance is another matter; it seemed to me that I had never heard the Cecilia sing so utterly superbly at every point before, great and beautiful things though it has done in the past. There was everything there that completely fine choral singing should do, and nothing that it should avoid. The orchestra, too, played far better than usual. In fine, no composer could ask for anything better.” (818) The Courier was mildly positive concerning the choral works, but also praised the performance. “The club sang wonderfully well in every way, attaining often more vigor and determination than they usually show.” (819)

The season ended with Monday, April 23 and Wednesday, April 25, 1900 performances at the Music Hall with Miss Laura Hawkins and Miss Alice Coleman again acting as piano accompanists.

Between the Cecilia’s 24th. and 25th. Seasons the Missa Solemnis was repeated for the opening of Symphony Hall. One story, written before the concert which was on October 15, 1900, pointed out the honor that was being shown to the choir in being part of this concert, and that “it is also a fully deserved recognition of the society’s rank in the musicianship of Boston. Mr. Lang put it to a vote whether they would undertake the great Mass or a less exacting work. The Mass was chosen unanimously…One hears reminiscences of how Mr. Lang met his singers four and five times a week, when the Mass was sung so successfully several years ago; but all that hard study tells now…Mr. Gericke is much pleased with the work of the club, and in speaking to them of their singing in the Ninth Symphony, said that ”nothing had given him more pleasure.” The Cecilia has invited guests, all personal friends, to assist in the dedication, and a large representation from the Apollo Club responded to Mr. Lang’s invitation. Every singer is pledged to attend all rehearsals, which are arranged for May and late September…Mr. Lang is to be congratulated on such a consummation of the work to which he has given himself so steadfastly, so generously for so many years.” (820-821) Another newspaper reported many of the same facts, and ended with: “Mr. Lang receives some of the honor he deserves, not always accorded to prophets, in the honoring of his club.” (822)


             Symphony Hall just after it was opened in 1900.                                                                                       Johnston Collection.

That the Cecilia’s sponsorship of new works was not just the vision of B.J. Lang but shared by the membership is reflected in the statement of the group’s secretary who wrote in May 1898: “I think it worthwhile next year for our musical council to consider whether our selections have always been abreast of the times, and whether, although we have always given works of good musical quality, we might not in the future produce a somewhat large proportion of the works of the more modern composers.”(Johnson, Hallelujah Amen, 172). In 1900 the choir was incorporated and its official name became The Cecilia Society.

An article announcing the beginning of rehearsals for the 25th. Season mentioned that rehearsals would be on Thursday nights in Pilgrim Hall, and that Mr. Foote would continue as President-“able musician and and wise advisor,” and that Mr. Charles Ryder would continue as Secretary-“in whose hands the thousand tasks of club management are so faithfully administered.” The plan was to expand the season and give three concerts with orchestra accompaniment and two without. At the first rehearsal, “Mr. Lang was warmly greeted by the club, and gave them a characteristic little talk of mingled praise and admonition.” (825)

TWENTY-FIFTH SEASON. The American premiere of Hiawatha’s Departure, Opus 30 No. 4 by Coleridge-Taylor was sung with Boston Symphony Orchestra accompaniment at Symphony Hall on Monday, December 3 and Wednesday, December 5, 1900 with B. L. Whelpley as the organist. (Cecilia Society program) The world premiere had been given by the Royal Choral Society at Royal Albert Hall in London less than a year before. Also on the program was Phoenix Expirans by Chadwick with the composer conducting. A note in the program described the Chadwick work: “So fresh and lovely is it in melody, so dignified and consistent in conception, so delicate yet rich in its orchestral coloring, and so churchly yet warm in its harmony.” (824) Chadwick had been appointed conductor of the Worcester Festival and Director of the New England Conservatory three years before, in 1897. The Herald review thought the Coleridge-Taylor to be “the feature of the evening. It is a thoroughly charming work, with a delightful freshness of inspiration…The instrumentation is of great beauty, and the full resources of the modern orchestra are used with skill and knowledge…Mr. Coleridge-Taylor is yet in the early twenties.” Of the Chadwick: “Mr. Chadwick’s strongly effective cantata was heard again with pleasure and interest. The audience was large and very applausive.[?] Both Mr. Lang and Mr. Chadwick were cordially received and the soloists were generously appreciated.” (826-827) Hale in the Journal found that after one hearing of the Coleridge-Taylor work showed the composer to be “a man of pronounced individuality, true and deep emotion, and native instinct for rhythm and gorgeous instrumentation. No doubt his sense of rhythm and color is a birthright…for his father was a mulatto physician from Sierra Leone, and his mother was an English woman.” Of the Chadwick, which had been first given by the Handel and Haydn Society with Nordica as one of the soloists: “The cantata is one of great beauty; it is in some respects unique, with exotic flavor permeating sound workmanship…There was a good-sized and applausive [?] audience. ” (828-829) Apthorp in the Transcript wrote: “The performance was one of the best the Cecilia has ever given; chorus, solo singers and orchestra seemed animated with one spirit.” The Chadwick “struck me as still very beautiful, very vital, strong and brilliant. Even coming after Coleridge-Taylor’s more modern and resonant orchestration, it lost nothing by the comparison. Mr. Chadwick’s orchestra fits his idea as nicely as Coleridge-Taylor’s does his. of the other things on the Programme I will say nothing.” (830) The concert had opened with Beethoven’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the Mount of Olives: “The Hallelujah would not be sung by any chorus today if Beethoven had not signed his name to it. Let us record one more instance of fetish-worship.” (829)

The second concert of the season was on February 13, 1901 at Symphony Hall with members of the BSO where the main work was a repeat of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. The concert opened with Verdi’s Te Deum which was followed by a Missa Brevis Mass by Palestrina, sung a cappella. The Coleridge-Taylor cantata was next with the tenor soloist, Mr. Evan Williams. A work by Brahms ended the program. (Info from a program offered on eBay-April 2015)

On Sunday evening March 31, 1901 the Cecilia Society was part of an all-Henschel concert which included three works by the composer; Morning Hymn for chorus and orchestra, Serbisches Liederspiel, a Cycle of [10] Romances for Four Solo Voices and Piano, Op. 32, and the first Boston performance of Stabat Mater for Soli, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 53. Mr. B. L. Whelpley was the organist and the orchestra of sixty was from the BSO. Mrs. Henschel was the soprano soloist.


Lillian Bailey Henschel and Georg Henschel.

The Transcript ran two stories about the choir’s Annual Meeting at the Hotel Vendome in May 1901 which would celebrate the choir’s twenty-five years of existence, “during which B. J. Lang has been the sole conductor.” After the business meeting, there was to be music “by several members of the organization and supper will be served, and it is probable that in a purely informal way short congratulatory addresses will follow. (835) The second story noted that Lang had been presented “a handsome silver bowl on which was inscribed the recipient’s name, also that of the society and the dates 1876-1901…The gift emphasizes the general feeling prevalent on the part of the members that in no small measure is the past success of the organization due to Mr. Lang’s faithful service and interest.” (836) The Herald also did a story after the event. It recorded that long-time former President, Mr. Thorndike was present; that Miss Laura Hawkins, accompanist of the choir played; and that Mr. B. L. Whelpley played two of his own compositions. In replying to the presentation of the loving cup, Lang “said that no words could express what the CECILIA’S 25 years have meant to him. he said, however, that it is not to be considered that he has preferred them over the Apollo Club, though he has resigned the latter work while keeping his conductorship of the Cecilia, and he asked a cheer for the CECILIA’S elder brother,” which was given with a will. He spoke of future plans for the Cecilia. Mr. Lang was cheered to the echo. As a memento of a memorable occasion, the company was photographed in the supper-room by flash light.” (838)

              TWENTY-SIXTH SEASON. To open his second twenty-five years with the Cecilia Society, Lang selected the B minor Mass of Bach. The Herald had once described the piece as “the most elaborately difficult piece of choral writing known.” (Herald (February 28, 1887): 4, GB, incomplete Handel and Haydn performance) At this earlier performance, only six of the choruses had been sung, and with just six sections to learn, the choir had begun to rehearse them a full year before the performance. The ad noted the Boston First Performance, but also noted that it was only the second complete performance in America-the first had been given just one year before by the Bethlehem Bach Choir in Pennsylvania. (Johnson, First, 19) Lang added to the authentic sound by using the baroque trumpets and rarer still, two hautbois d’amour which belonged to Mr. Damrosch from New York. “The organ part has all been carefully registered by Mr. Lang, who has given ceaseless labor to the preparation of the work.” (Herald (December 1, 1901): 36, GB) It was reported that the rehearsals were “going splendidly,” and in fact, “Pilgrim Hall cannot hold the visitors who are drawn to the rehearsals.” (Herald (November 24, 1901): 44, GB) The Herald review praised the choir-“Sang Magnificently”- but found the “Solos Less Satisfactory.” The choral parts were balanced in the fugues and the double choruses. “Mr. Lang conducted with more than his usual authority, and the orchestra joined readily in quick and satisfactory response. The antique instruments added quaint and gentle beauty to their obligati, and the high trumpets imparted a peculiar light and exhilaration to the joyfully moving choruses in which they were used. The audience was very large, remaining almost in a body to the end, which came late. Applause was frequent and full, and a large laurel wreath was sent up with cheers to Mr. Lang.” (Herald (December 4, 1901): 7, GB) The Herald Society Reporter, after describing the colors of the dresses worn by the lady soloists, gave more detail-it was “an immense laurel wreath, which it took two men to carry, tied with broad ribbons and decorated with large bunches of roses.” (Herald (December 8, 1901): 31, GB) Philip Hale, writing for the Journal, did not argue that a complete performance was needed. He gave the history of the work, its lack of performances during Bach’s time of any kind, liturgical or concert, and then suggested that “judicious cutting would honor Bach and spare the audience. I once heard a complete performance in berlin. Earnest and sweating Germans roared lustily for two hours and more. It was a terrible night-one never to be forgotten.” (Journal (December 4, 1901): 8, GB) Hale mentioned that this performance had been put together in a “comparatively short time,” and noted that a performance at the Paris Conservatory in 1891 had required the choir of 79 picked singers two years of rehearsal “and there had been many orchestral rehearsals,” something that Hale knew was not the case in Boston. He wondered if the use of the “antique instruments” really added to the performance, but then cited the”exquisite oboe d’amore obbligato by Mr. Lenom…the brilliant playing of the trumpets” or the flute playing of Mr. Maquarre. (Ibid) He cited the large audience and generous applause, but objected to the choir applauding so often-the entrance of the soloists, the performances of each soloist, the conductor. “It is surprising that it did not applaud its own work. It is a pity that this foolish practice is allowed in a society of such dignity.” (Ibid) Having done all of this work in 1901, it was decided to repeat the work on April 7, 1903.

The headline of the Globe review of February 5, 1902 was “Four Boston Composers-Their Works Beautifully Given at the Cecilia Concert.”The review began by saying that “None of the many excellent Cecilia programs of recent seasons has proved better worth a thoughtful hearing, and few have been more enjoyable than the Cecilia concert last night in Symphony Hall.”Pieces from Arthur Foote, Charles Loeffler, John Paine, and Margaret were performed.“His daughter’s song Love Plumes His Wings with its singularly soaring soprano score, was beautifully rendered by female voices; and it is high praise to say that the Cecilia singers have never given a female chorus as well unless it be in The Lord is my Shepherd, of familiar memory…It is a pity that there were some vacant seats at a concert so varied and so worthy of a greater audience. There was a good representation of Boston’s musical colony present, and the second concert of the Cecilia’s 26th season will go down in the annals as a notable one.” (Globe (February 5, 1902): 3) The Foote piece in the concert was Vita Nostra Plena Bellis (Mortal life is full of battle), Op. 47 for four or eight-part chorus with a text by Alanus de Insulis {Insulanus] translated by John Lord Hayes from “Corona Hymnorum Sacrorum” (Cipolla, Foote Catalog, 45) which was reprinted as part of Walton Music’s “Library of Congress Series” where it is described as “A choral tour de force with a text by Alain de Lille (ca. 1128-1212).” (www.waltonmusic.com/congress.html) Two years later, in 1904, Foote acknowledged his debt to Lang through the dedication of his Suite in D major, Op. 54 to B. J. (Cipolla, Op. cit., 68) An earlier dedication to Lang had been the Quartett in G Major, Op. 4 where the manuscript is dated “6 Aug 84.” (Cipolla, Op. cit., 72)

The Cecila Society was the choir chosen for the 80th. Birthday Celebration for Edward Everett Hale held April 3, 1902. The event was organized by Henry L. Higginson and the opening was Lang leading the choir in Cesar Franck’s 150th. Psalm. They also sang Gounod’s Send Out Thy Light and Salamaleikum by Cornelius with the baritone soloist Mr. Stephen Townsend. (6689-91)

TWENTY-SEVENTH SEASON. On December 2, 1902 the choir presented Georg Henschel’s Requiem, conducted by the composer. This work was written in memory of his first wife, Lillian, who died in 1901, aged 41. Their daughter Helen was the contralto soloist. (BSO webpage on Henschel) There were three other soloists. This was a world premiere as the composer had only finished the full score in April 1902. Helen Henschel wrote about its creation: “They had been parted only very rarely during the twenty-two years they had known each other. When they did have to separate, they wrote to each other every day. Father took no step without her, had no thought apart from her, no joy away from her either in work or play. Out of his first passion of grief came the Requiem Mass. he started it straight after my mother’s funeral, and worked at white heat until the piano score was finished three months later. Each evening he would play and sing me what he had written, so that I knew by heart the whole beautiful thing when it was complete…The full score was finished by the autumn of 1902, and in early December of that year the work received its first performance. In Boston, and rightly so. One of Boston’s foremost music critics, after hearing rehearsals, wrote this: ”The Cecilia Society announces the new Requiem by George Henschel for the December concert. The composer will conduct the work, and the soloists will be Miss Henschel, Miss Woltmann and Mr. Ellison van Hoose…It is fitting that the first performance should be here in Boston, though it will be produced later in other parts of the United States, and at Leipzig by Mr. Nikisch. It was in Boston that Lillian Bailey had her debut, under the guidance of Mr. B. J. Lang who is now instrumental in producing the Requiem. She was an enthusiastic member of the Cecilia and when, a year ago last spring, Mr. Henschel gave his Stabat Mater here, in which Mrs. Henschel sang in Boston for the last time, the choral parts were sung by the Cecilia…The day before this performance, Mr. and Mrs. Henschel had given their daughter her Boston debut, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the mother’s first appearance. This young daughter will sing the solo soprano part in the work which commemorates her mother. Since then, the Requiem has been performed in many different places. Only in London, it has not yet been performed since my father’s death. I longed to produce the work myself, but how could I possibly engage Queen’s Hall, an orchestra, a chorus, and a conductor?” Her friend Thomas Dunhill [the composer?] suggested that she show the work to Claud Powell at Guildford who was able to arrange a performance in April 1937 which possessed a quality and produced an effect which I have never experienced before or since.” (H. Henschel, 203-206)

On New Year’s Night 1903 nine singers (including Lena Little) from the Cecilia Society sang at the opening of the Music Room of Mrs. Gardner’s new home at Fenway Court. They opened the concert with a Bach chorale, (Tharp, Mrs. Jack, 243) and the remainder of the program was performed by fifty members of the Boston Symphony conducted by Mr. Gericke-pieces by Mozart, Chausson and Schumann. Mr. Apthorp pronounced it to be a “perfect hall,” and after the music, the guests were led to the inner courtyard where “No one was in the least prepared for the fairy beauty that greeted his eyes…Here, in the very midst of winter was ‘a gorgeous vista of blossoming summer gardens…with the odor of flowers stealing toward one as though wafted on a southern breeze. There was intense silence for a moment broken only by the water trickling in the fountains; then came a growing murmur of delight, and one by one the guests pressed forward to make sure it was not all a dream.’” (Carter, Gardner, 200) “Word got around that the musicians had been treated like servants and ordered out a side door by an officious flunkey. Members of the famous Cecilia Society were supposed to be particularly insulted because they got no glimpse of the palace and no chance to partake of doughnuts and champagne.” (Tharp, Mrs. Jack, 247) Just three month’s later women’s voices from the choir were to sing at Mrs. Gardner’s Birthday Party on April 13, 1903, but before this could happen, Mrs. Gardner “personally assured the 16 young women…that the New Year’s incident was one she deeply regretted,” and these words convinced the choir members to abandon their “strike’ and perform which they did “with the usual musical appreciation.” (Tharp, Op. cit., 341) The music was all by her friend and Boston Symphony member, Charles M. Loeffler. B. J. was the accompanist for six solo songs, and the choir took part in L’Archet. (Carter, Op. cit., 205)



The second concert of the season was on Tuesday, February 3, 1903 at Symphony Hall where the featured works were the Death of Minnehaha and Hiawatha”s Departure, the second and third works in Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha trilogy. (Information from a program offered on eBay April 2015)

On Tuesday, April 7, 1903 the third concert of the season was presented at Symphony Hall when the choir sang Bach’s B Minor Mass. Five vocal soloists were used, Mr. B. L. Whelpley was the organist and in addition to the usual orchestra, six addition instrumentalists were included-one flute, two Hautbois d’amore and three trumpets. (Information from a program offered on eBay April 2015)

Tuesday evening April 14, 1903 Lang was involved in the “Commemoration of the Eightieth Anniversary of the Founding of the House of Chickering & Sons, by Jonas Chickering, in 1823.” The program began with five songs sung by Miss Mary Ogilvie which included Margaret Ruthven Lang’s My True Love Lies Asleep. Next came a short address by Dr. Edward Everett Hale [who was also celebrating his 80th. year], and then B. J. Lang played a series of pianoforte pieces. The first piece was one that was “greatly in favor in 1823” played upon the “first piano made by Jonas Chickering,” and this was followed by a “composition in vogue at the present time” on a “Concert Grand of today.” (6702-06) The program included engravings of the first Chickering factory at Washington Street that was destroyed by fire in December 1852 and then the factory that replaced it in 1853 which covered a full city block.(6707-08)

The 161st. Concert was on Monday, April 11, 1904 at Symphony Hall was a miscellaneous program with assisting artists Mr. Karl Ondricek, violinist with the Kneisel Quartet, Mons. A. Giraudet, from the Paris Grand Opera and Professor at the Paris Conservatory, Mr. B. L. Whelpley, organist, and Miss Lucy Drake. (Information from a program offered on eBay April 2105)

The 162nd. Concert was on Monday, December 12, 1904 when one of Lang’s most favorite pieces was performed. He had conducted the Berlioz Damnation of Faust a number of times before, but at this concert, the French conductor Edouard Colonne led the performance. (Information from a program offered on eBay April 2015)(see Lang’s final chapter for more information)

The 165th. Concert of the choir was on Monday evening, December 11, 1905 (Wage Earners) and December 12, 1905 (Members) where Bruckner’s Te Deum was given its first Boston performance. Also on the program was The Blessed Damozel by Debussy and The Departure of Hiawatha by Coleridge-Taylor. This last work had been premiered in London in 1900 and later that year first sung in Boston by the Cecilia. The highlights of the Monday, February 5, 1906 and Tuesday, February 6, 1906 concerts were listed as Saint Mary Magdalen by D’Indy (first Boston performance), The Waters of Babylon by Loeffler together with a Bach motet and a capella pieces by Dvorak, Parker, McCunn and Franck. (Program: Johnston Collection-can not find) The review in the Transcript mentions first performances of The Birth of Venus by Faure and Taillefer by Strauss. Mention was made that the orchestra was too small and insufficiently rehearsed. The Strauss work was repeated at the next concert, April 2, 1906.

On Monday evening April 2, 1906 The Cecilia Society repeated (they had given the first American performance the previous spring, April 3 and 4, 1905) La Vie du Poete (The Life of the Poet) by the French composer Gustave Charpentier which was scored for chorus solo, voices, three orchestras and organ-Mr. B. L. Whelpley was the organist. Also on the program was Taillefer, a Ballade by Richard Strauss which used chorus, solo voices and orchestra. The Charpentier had been premiered in Paris during the 1892-93 season where it had five performances. The Strauss had first been performed at Heidelberg in 1903 with the first American performance being given by the New York Oratorio Society in 1905. Both of these works were probably first performances in Boston (although Johnson lists neither)(Program, Johnston Collection).

Philip Hale continued his negative reviews of the group. His headline for their early December 1906 concert was: “Programs for the most Part Dull, and Performances Phlegmatic.” (Herald (December 11, 1906): no page number) Did such abuse lead to Lang thinking about giving up the Cecilia?

“On May 9, 1907, upon his retirement after 33 years service, he was presented a hall clock from the chorus and bound volumes of Cecilia programs from the directors.” (Hill, History, 10) An article in January of 1907 entitled “Lang Will Give Up Baton of Cecilia” mentioned that his leadership had spanned 31 years and was ending with B. J. helping to raise $40,000 as an endowment fund- $5,000 of this was contributed by Lang himself (Transcript article January 25, 1907), and he added another $1,000 to this fund in his will. “The result of his work in raising the endowment fund which he has just completed will be his leave-taking of the society whose concerts he has conducted since its organization.” (Herald ( January 25, 1907) “On 25 January, the day after Benjamin Johnson Lang’s retirement from the Cecilia conductorship, the Transcript ran an article titled ‘Two Musical Generations.’ Lang, it acknowledged, was the last link between the current musical generation in Boston and that of thirty or forty years before. ‘Boston is a larger, more diversified formal life now. The change was inevitable. It is part of the broadening, richer, and more aesthetically hungry life of a democratic new America.’ Bostonians continued to struggle with the transition. By 1923 Loeffler was disgusted: ‘Boston is getting stuffier and stuffier and will soon graduate to the astounding grade of “the largest village on earth”’” (Fox, Rebellious Tradition, 230)

Many eminent guest-conductors led the group including “Bruch in 1882, Parker in 1889, Dvorak in 1892, Henschel in 1902 and Colonne in 1904.” (Pratt, 156) To mark the end of his conductorship, the chorus asked B. J. if they could present a concert in his honor. As President of the group Arthur Foote wrote on March 16, 1907:

Dear Mr. Lang,

Thirty-one years ago, the Cecilia Society began its concerts under your direction. The Society desires to express to you in some way its appreciation of what you have been, and what you are to it and to the cause of music in Boston. The directors therefore ask you to allow them to give a concert in your honor, at such time and in such circumstances as may be agreeable to you.

Lang’s answer was:

Dear Mr. Foote,

I thank the Cecilia most heartily for its kind proposal of a concert in my honor. If the Society will sing at a performance of the Children’s Crusade, it will give Pierne’s beautiful work in a peculiarly fitting way, and give great pleasure to…Yours sincerely, B. J. Lang.

The concert was given at Symphony Hall on Wednesday night, April 17, 1907 to benefit the Industrial School for Crippled and Deformed Children by the Cecilia Society, nine soloists, a chorus of 100 children, and sixty players from the Boston Symphony. Tickets were $2, $1.50, and $1, and could be ordered from the fifteen members of the Auxiliary Board of Managers that included Mrs. John L. Gardner of Fenway Court. After B. J.’s death, the Cecilia Society sang a memorial concert at Symphony Hall on December 2, 1909 that included the Mozart Requiem and the “Grail Scene” from Wagner’s Parsifal. The success of this piece is reflected by Cecilia’s other performances of the work. “Thursday evening, February 16 [1911] is the date set for the second concert of the Cecilia Society and the Boston Symphony under the leadership of Max Fiedler. The work to be given then will be Gabriel Pierne’s musical legend The Children’s Crusade that The Cecilia has given twice in recent years with much success. In addition to the chorus of the Cecilia Society, there will be a chorus of 100 children and the entire Symphony orchestra will be employed. Edmond Clement, the distinguished French tenor, will make his first appearance in concert in Boston on that occasion. (Globe (January 29, 1911): 49)

In 1915 the choir made Lang’s widow an honorary member of the group, the only person ever so honored by the society.

An article written in 1907 one week before the concert given in B. J.’s honor at Symphony Hall by the Cecilia of Pierne’s The Children’s Crusade, included a list, “by no means complete…of the compositions…that Mr. Lang has brought for the first time, or for the first time in their proper form, in Boston. Even with the omissions of a hasty compilation, it is a very remarkable list, surely not to be matched in the activities of any other American executive musician. The list of the new compositions performed under him…by The Cecilia covers the thirty-odd years during which Mr. Lang has been its conductor.” (Scrapbook)”

Bach: Ich hatte viel Bekummerniss.  March 16, 1876.

         Bide With Us. (With piano) February 27, 1880.

         God’s Time Is Best. (With piano) December 13, 1880.

         Christmas Oratorio, Part VI.  April 2, 1883. (First American)

         Blessing, Glory, Wisdom and Might. (With piano) January 24, 1894

         Mass in B minor. December 3, 1901. (First Boston and Second   American)

Beach: Rose of Avontown. February 4, 1897.

Beethoven: The Ruins of Athens. (Selections) January 24, 1881.

          The Praise of Music. March 22, 1888.

          Missa Solemnis. March 12, 1897.

Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust. May 14, 1880. (First time sung by Cecilia)

          Danremont Requiem. February 12, 1882. (Second American)

          The Fifth of May. November 29, 1891. (First American)(First Wage Earner Concert).

Brahms: German Requiem. December 3, 1888.

           Naenie. May 22, 1890. (With piano)

           How Long Wilt Thou Forget Me, O God? January 25, 1892.

Bruch:  Fair Ellen. March 19, 1877.

           Odysseus. December 22, 1879.

           The Lay of the Bell. May 16, 1883. Bruch conducting.

           Siechen rost. January 25, 1893.

Bruckner: Te Deum. December 12, 1905.

Buck: The Golden Legend. January 24, 1881.

Chadwick: The Pilgrims. April 2, 1891. (First performance)

             Phoenix Expirans?

Charpentier: The Poet’s Life. April 4, 1905. (First American)

Coleridge Taylor: Overture to The Song of Hiawatha. March 14, 1900. (First American)

             Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. March 14, 1900.

             Hiawatha’s Departure. December 5, 1900. (First American)

             Death of Minnehaha. February 3, 1903.

Cornelius: The Barber of Bagdad. (Selections) May 10, 1888.

Debussy: The Blessed Damozel. April 4, 1905.

D’Indy. St. Mary Magdalene. February 6, 1906. (First American)

Dvorak: Stabat Mater. January 15, 1885.

             The Spectre’s Bride. May 13, 1886.

             A Patriotic Hymn. March 22, 1888.

             Requiem. November 28 and 30, 1892. (Second American). Dvorak conducted.

Durante: Magnificat in B flat. March 18, 1875. (Second American)

Elgar: My Love Dwelt In a Northern Land. January 17, 1895. (Second American)

             Dream of Gerontius. January 26, 1904.

Fanchetti: Academic Festival Hymn. (With piano)  January 24, 1894.

Foote: The Wreck of the Hesperous. January 26, 1888. (With piano) (First American). (With orchestra-March 27, 1890)

              A Motet. February 4, 1902. (First American)

Franck: Psalm CL. February 4, 1902.

Gade: Comala. January 21, 1876.

              The Crusaders. (With piano) January 11, 1877. (With orchestra) February 7, 1879.

              Psyche. (With organ and piano) January 18, 1883

              Spring Fantasy. March 22, 1888.

Goetz: Noenia?

Grieg: At the Cloister Gate. (With piano) December 13, 1880. (With orchestra) January 24, 1881.

Handel: Acis and Galatea. May 17, 1878.

              L’Allegro ed Il Penseroso. (Selections) April 21, 1879.

              Zadok, the Priest. March 25, 1886.

Haydn: The Seasons. January 23, 1890. (Not heard since Lang’s 1875 performance-see below).

               Salve Regina. March 20, 1896.

Henschel: Requiem. December 2, 1902 (First performance) Henschel conducted.

Hofmann: The Tale of the Fair Melusina. December 6, 1877.

               Cinderella. (With piano) November 30, 1881.

Hood: The Robin. March 27, 1884.

Humperdinck: The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar. January 13, 1898.

Jensen: Brier Rose. May 10, 1888.

Jones: Up the Hillside. May 5, 1887 (First performance)

Lang, B. J.: The Chase. April 12, 1882. (First performance)

                Sing, Maiden, Sing. February 4, 1886. (First performance)

                The King is Dead. January 26, 1899. (First performance0

Lang, M. R.: In a Meadow. February 1, 1889. (First performance)

                 Love Plumes His Wings. January 25, 1893. (First performance)

                 Bonnie Ran the Burnie Down. May 6, 1897. (First performance)

Lassus: Matona, Lovely Maiden. May 22, 1891.

Liszt: The Legend of St. Elizabeth. November 18, 1886.

Loeffler: L’Archet. February 4, 1902. Loeffler played.

MacCunn: It Was a Lass. January 22, 1891.

                  Lord Ullin’s Daughter. November 30, 1891.

Massenet: Eve. March 27, 1890.

                  Mary Magdalen. November 20, 1890.

                  The Promised Land. April 8, 1902. (American first)

MacDowell: Barcarolle. May 22, 1890.

Mendelssohn: The Lorely. March 18, 1875.

                   Forty-third Psalm. (Unaccompanied) February 27, 1880.

                   Camacho’s Wedding. March 19, 1885. (Second world performance-American first)

                   Athalie. January 27, 1887. (First performance of the Racine text and Mendelssohn music). Also December 6, 8 and 11, 1897-sung  in French at Harvard with Mrs. Alice Bates Rich as the principal soloist and also Prof. de. Sumichrast.

                   Ave Maria. May 10, 1888.

                   XIII Psalm. May 22, 1890.

Moskowski: Scene from Faust. March 20, 1896.

Mozart: Te Deum. December 11, 1906.

Nevin: The Night Has a Thousand Eyes. January 31, 1889.

                    Wynken, Blynken and Nod. May 22, 1890.

                    If She be Made of White and Red. May 11, 1893. First performance)

Paine: Azara. April 9, 1907.

Palestrina: Sanctus. May 2, 1894.

                    Missa Brevis. February 13, 1901.

H. W. Parker: St. Christopher. December 6, 1889. Parker conducted.

Perosi: The Transfiguration of Christ. April 24, 1899. (First American)

Pierne: The Children’s Crusade. February 26, 1907.

Raff: Romeo and Juliet Overture. November 20, 1890. (First American)

Rheinberger: Toggenburg. November 25, 1878.

Saint-Saens: Samson and Delilah. November 27 and 28, 1894.

Schubert: Psalm XXIII for Female Voices. December 2, 1875. (Johnson: First, p. 323)

                 Miriam’s Song of Triumph. May 14, 1891.

Schumann: Paradise and the Peri. February 18, 1875

                Manfred. April 24, 1880.

                Scenes from Faust. March 28, 1881. (First American)

                Mignon’s Requiem. (With piano) April 12, 1882.

Sgambati: Andante Solenne. (Organ and orchestra) March 20, 1896.

Stanford: Phandrig Crohoore. March 14, 1900.

R. Strauss: Taillefer. April 3, 1906.

Thomas, G.: The Swan and the Skylark. January 13, 1898.

Tinel: Franciscus (St. Francis of Assisi)(Selections). November 23 and 24, 1893. (Second American)

Tschaikowsky: Cherubim Song. January 24, 1900.

Verdi: Te Deum. December 7, 1898.

                  Stabat Mater. December 7, 1898.

                  Hymn to the Virgin. January 26, 1899.

Wagner: Quintet and Chorus from Die Feen. January 31, 1899.


Lang also conducted other first Boston performances which include:

Mendelssohn: First Walpurgis Night. May 3, 1862. His first conducting effort-aged 25-combined choir.

                   Hymn of Praise (Lobgesang). January 30, 1862 at Old South Church-combined church choirs, J. S. D. Parker, organist.

Haydn:   Seasons. March 24, 1866. Unnamed chorus-sang only parts. Handel and Haydn did not sing this work in its complete form until 1875. (Johnson, First, 190)

The program for this concert held on April 17, 1907 “In Honor of Mr. Lang and for the Benefit of the INDUSTRIAL SCHOOL FOR CRIPPLED AND DEFORMED CHILDREN” also included a list of first performances which missed some of those listed above, but added the following:

D’Indy: St. Mary Magdalene

Mendelssohn: 43d Psalm; 13th Psalm; Walpurgis Night

Schubert: Miriam’s Song

Schumann: Mignon’s Requiem

Thomas, A. Goring: The Swan and the Skylark

Verdi: Hymn to the Virgin

The program note ended with: “This closes an epoch in The Cecilia’s history; and it is good that here is no sadness of farewell, but only, in changed relationships, a looking forward together to a bright future.” (Gould Collection)

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LIST OF FIRST PERFORMANCES as appended by William Carroll Hill in his HISTORY OF THE CECILIA SOCIETY BOSTON, MASS. 1874-1917.

      That bright future and the emphasis on new works was continued during the conductorship of Arthur Fiedler who prepared the chorus for the world premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms which had been commissioned by Koussevitsky and the BSO and presented on December 19 and 20, 1930. “The Boston Symphony introduced new works before 1930, but it rarely-if ever-commissioned them. Even before the turn of the century the orchestra gave the world premiers of many American works, mostly by Boston composers, and, of course, American premiers of the newest compositions from Europe. Serge Koussevitsky’s decision to commission a groups of new pieces from the leading composers of the day to celebrate the orchestra”s first half-century began a tradition that continues to the present.” (Ledbetter. Program Note, Symphony of Psalms) Koussevitsky believed in the work so much that he repeated it in the same season on February 20 and 21, 1931, and also at the New York concerts of March 5 and 7, 1931. Further performances, all with the Cecilia Society Chorus were performed in 1932, 1936, 1939 and 1942. (Ibid)