Monday, 19 December 2011

Birthday - 1863 Style

This is another extract from Whitnash Parish Magazine, from December 1863. It is perhaps not surprising that in cultured circles, some kind of sophisticated entertainment should take place, but what is interesting is the influence of German culture permeating this kind of celebration, in a way that would have probably not been possible after the Great War.

The Song of the Bell (German: "Das Lied von der Glocke") is a poem that the German poet Friedrich Schiller published in 1798. It is one of the most famous poems of German literature and with 430 lines also one of the longest. In it, Schiller combines a knowledgeable technical description of a bell founding with points of view and comments on human life, its possibilities and risks. (Wikipedia)

The musical version here is that of Andreas Romberg - "Das Lied von der Glocke". Romberg was a colleague of Beethoven, who had also set to music Schiller's ode An die Freude (Ode to Joy).  It is likely therefore that the version sung was in German, and not a translation of the poem - yet another example of the facility with German enjoyed by the Whitnash Rector's family, and this is certainly corroborated by the poem which followed.

I've not been able to find precisely what was meant by "grand kinder-symphonic" with which the celebration ended, but it was probably Romberg's Toy Symphony (Kinder-Sinfonie) for Piano (or 2 Violins and Bass) with 7 Toy Instruments.

The "Living Pictures" were also called "Tableau vivants"  which means still images. The term describes a striking group of suitably costumed people carefully posed. Throughout the duration of the display, the people shown do not speak or move.

Before radio, film and television, tableaux vivants were popular forms of entertainment. Before the age of colour reproduction of images the tableau vivant (often abbreviated simply to tableau) was sometimes used to recreate paintings "on stage", based on an etching or sketch of the painting. This could be done as an amateur venture in a drawing room, or as a more professionally produced series of tableaux presented on a theatre stage, one following another, usually to tell a story without requiring all the usual trappings of a "live" theatre performance. They thus 'educated' their audience to understand the form taken by later Victorian and Edwardian era magic lantern shows, and perhaps also sequential narrative comic strips (which first appeared in modern form in the late 1890s). (Wikipedia)

It is an interesting glimpse into "home entertainment" from days gone by!

BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION. (from Whitnash Parish Magazine, December 1863)

On Monday, November 2nd, the Rector's birthday was celebrated by his family in a very pleasing manner. The music, vocal and instrumental, of Schiller's Lay of the Bell, composed by A. Romberg, was performed by various members of the Rector's family, and the scenes of that poem were represented by living pictures, including -The Cradle. The Meeting. The Bride. The Home. The Fire. The Parting. The Harvest. Discord, and Concord. These scenes were very prettily designed and executed by the members of the Rector's family and their friends, and they were introduced by the following prologue, written by the Rev. R. E. Brown, and spoken by Miss Ruth Young -:

Another link upon the chain of human life,
With smiles and tears, with joy and sorrow rife;
Another step upon the path that upward tends
Through doubt to certainty that never ends.
Another stroke upon the bell that deeper rings
As each new year this festal season brings.
List to its sound ? oh, listen well and learn
That which one mastermind did 'erst discern,
The living pictures here before you see
The history of a bell from earliest infancy,
Till when uplifted to its sacred home,
Pregnant with fate, it speaks for years to come
Thus where the giant mind of Schiller led,
Let not our pigmy footsteps vainly tread,
Where our skill fails, let zeal fill up the rest,
And love, not science, be the critic's test;
Not at the world's approval here we aim,
or seek the uncertainties of public fame,
One smile alone, one look of happy joy,
For this our every effort we employ,
Father and friend with your approval blest,
Successful must our efforts be confessed.
Enough the countrymen of Shakespeare long,
To fill the air with Deutchland's Schiller's song,
Aid us, ye muses, loving Avon's waters,
While German verse is sung by English sons and

At the conclusion of the Tableaux, the Whitnash Rectory band performed a grand kinder-symphonic, composed by Bernhard Romberg.

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