Berlioz in London

Toast in honour of Berlioz at the banquet
of the Society of English Musicians

The Times, 23 February 1848

Berlioz was one of the guests of honour at a banquet on 22 February 1848, held to celebrate the 110th anniversary of  the Society of English Musicians. This banquet was one of the many similar events to which Berlioz had been invited as a guest of honour during his first visit to London.

The Times reported the banquet of the Society of English Musicians the next day. We have transcribed the text of this report from a print-out of its image in a database accessed at the British Library in London (Colindale site); the syntax and spelling of the original have been preserved.

See also an excerpt from a letter that Berlioz wrote to the publisher Brandus in Paris about the banquet and his speech at it (CG no. 1179; 24 February 1848).

ROYAL Society of Musicians.—The 110th anniversary festival of this society, which was instituted in 1738, for the maintenance of aged and indigent musicians, their widows and orphans, took place yesterday. At 6 o’clock precisely a company which entirely filled the large room of Freemason’s hall sat down to a dinner provided in the careful and substantial manner for which the host of this house of public entertainment has long been noted. The assembly was constituted of members of the society, subscribers, patrons, and the guests of either. A disappointment occurred in the absence of his Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, who has so often presided at those festivals; a letter was read from the Royal Duke’s secretary, addressed to Mr. John Parry, honorary treasurer of the society, expressing his Royal Highness’s regret that indisposition prevented his attendance on this occasion. The chair was very ably filled, however, by Mr. R. Palmer, M.P., one of the honorary annual subscribers. Grace was sung before dinner, and “Non Nobis Domine” after the cloths were removed. The customary opening toasts were then given and warmly acknowledged, each being followed by a piece of music. In the course of the evening Mr. Horsley, one of the Court of Assistants for life, delivered himself of a speech, in which he eloquently discussed the benefits accruing from the society, drawing apt illustrations of his argument from events in his own career as an artist. Mr. Horsley’s oration was the signal for loud and prolonged manifestations of sympathy and approval. Later in the evening Mr. Horsley read from a paper which he held in his hand a list of donations and benefactions to the society, the whole amount of the subscriptions and donations reaching to considerably above 450l. In the course of the evening several complimentary toasts were proposed, which elicited responsive addresses more or less amusing. The most interesting of these involved a just mark of respect to the celebrated musician M. Hector Berlioz who was present, and whose health was proposed and received with great cheering. M. Berlioz returned thanks in the French language, and with true French politeness paid many compliments, not altogether undeserved, however, to the musical taste and acquirements of the English nation expressing himself highly flattered by the reception he had met from our public and gratified by the admirable style in which his works have been executed by our artists. The healths of Mr. R. Palmer (the president), Mr. C. Knyvett (the oldest member of the society, having been elected in l794) and the Rev. D. C. Delafosse, A.M. (chaplain of the society), were warmly received, and drew forth highly-amusing speeches from those gentlemen. One item in the rev. chaplain’s speech, which involved a gratuitous proffer of his services to unite all the spinsters to all the bachelors of the society, provoked hilarity as unrestrainable as it was spontaneous. The musical arrangements of the evening were on an unusually liberal scale. The instrumental portion consisted of two marches for a military band composed expressely for the society by Haydn and Winter, who during their residence in this country, manifested great interest in the welfare of the institution. Those marches are sufficiently simple, and indeed chiefly noticeable on account of their origin; they were well executed, however, under the direction of Mr. Harper, by Messrs. Williams, Lazarus, and Egerton (clarionets) Card and Card, jun., (flutes); Grattan Cooke and Malsch (oboe); Baumann and Godfrey (bassoons); Platt and C. Harper (horns); Harper and T. Harper (trumpets); Healey (trombone); and Prospère (ophicleide). The vocal music comprised several glees and madrigals, among the most effective of which was Mr. Horsley’s “Cold is Cadwallo’s tongue,” sung under the composer’s direction by Mr. Machin (by whom the solos were excellently given), Messrs. Barnby, Howe, Bennett, and Kench; and Wilbye’s madrigal “Flora gave me Fairest Flowers,” executed, under the guidance of Mr. Lovell Phillips, by eight young gentlemen from Westminster Abbey, eight experienced glee-singers. There were also several solos. The veteran Braham, who was vociferously cheered on taking his seat at the piano, sang “Stand to your Guns,” with an energy that belonged to his prime, when no singer could surpass and few could equal him. Miss Dolby was deservedly encored in a clever song by Mr. Hatton, “Day and Night;” which she sang very effectively, the composer playing the accompaniment; and Mr. Reeves was similarly complimented in his popular ballad from the Maid of Honour, “In this old Chair.” Miss Ellen Lyon also deserves a word of praise for the unaffected way in which she rendered Haydn’s beautiful canzonet, “My Mother bids me bind my Hair.” In short, the whole proceedings of the evening caused unanimous satisfaction, and the thanks awarded to Mr. Parry, the hon. treasurer, under whose superintendence, as usual, everything was prepared, were not less well merited than they were hearty and sincere.

The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997; this page created on 1 May 2010.

© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.

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