Word Count-24,365. SC(G).
NEW SITE CURATOR NEEDED.
COULD BE ACTIVE: ADDING MATERIAL TO THE SITE,
PASSIVE: INSURING THAT ALL THE CHAPTERS ARE PRESERVED. PROFESSIONAL COMPUTER HELP IS AVAILABLE AND THE SITE IS HOSTED BY THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER.
Before his connection with the Apollo Club, Benjamin Johnson Lang had organized a male choir in his hometown of Salem in 1860. Known “under the name of the Amphions, rehearsals were held weekly at Mr. Lang’s room [his father’s music shop]. The first and only concert was given at Mechanic Hall, April 18, 1861. There were twenty singing members and a roll of honorary members. Much of the music used by the club was selected by Mr. Lang while in Europe. The Amphions assisted the Mendelssohn Quintette Club at a concert in Salem and were invited to take part in a series of classical concerts in Boston.” (Whipple, 121) The Civil War “thinned the ranks of the organization and it was dissolved in 1862.” (Ibid)
The April 18, 1861 concert was not the only concert given by this group. An announcement dated January 26, 1861 told of a Grand Concert at the Mechanic Hall which B. J. had announced where “a rich musical threat may be anticipated.” (Salem Observer (January 26, 1861): 2, GB) It promised the Mendelssohn Quintet Club, B. J.’s sister and also pieces by the Amphions which was “a musical association recently formed in this city. These gentlemen render such music as Mendelssohn’s Part-Songs in a manner that will compare favorably with the singing of the best clubs of the kind, the ‘Orpheus Club’ of Boston, or the Harvard College Glee Club.” (Ibid) A quarter-page ad of the same day promised that B. J.’s sister would sing “a beautiful composition of Ferdinand Hiller, accompanied by The Amphions.” (Salem Observer (January 26, 1861): 3, GB) It further noted, “Coaches to Danvers at the close of the concert.” (Ibid)
A review published on February 2, 1861 outlines the event that was “one of the pleasantest entertainments of the season.” (Salem Observer (February 2, 1861): 2, GB) B. J. organized this concert which included the Mendelssohn Club and the Amphions, “a new musical association, consisting of twelve gentlemen, who have been under the tuition of Mr. L. Their singing gave great satisfaction and evinced ability and practice.” (Ibid) Also part of the concert “was the singing of Miss. H. M. Lang, whose full, sweet voice, gives promise of rare excellence.” (Ibid) The review in another Salem paper described the January concert as “a great success, and was attended by a larger audience than is usually seen here at a first-class musical entertainment. Mr. B. J. Lang’s performance on the pianoforte fully justified his high reputation and delighted all by his correctness and elegance…The Amphions made their debut in admirable style, and created a strong desire for ‘more of the same sort.’ Miss Lang, also, was very successful in her first appearance. She has a voice of great purity and gives promise of high attainments in the divine art.” (Salem Register (February 4, 1861): 2, GB) In this same article, the Mendelssohn Quintet Club announced that they would give a series of concerts and that the subscription list “is nearly filled” with only room for about a score more of signers “who can find the papers at B. J. Lang’s [this should be B. Lang’s] Music warerooms, in the Downing Block.” (Ibid)
A week after this concert, Tuesday, February 5, 1861, The Amphions appeared in a concert at the Lyceum Hall given by Giorgio Stigelli which “attracted a large and brilliant audience” whose “applause throughout was most enthusiastic.” (Boston Evening Transcript (February 7, 1861): 2, GB) Part of the ad for this concert contained a twenty-seven line review from the Boston Traveller; the concert “was, in every respect, a grand success. The hall [Boston Music Hall] was packed full, including the platform, and all the standing places in every part of the hall.” (Salem Observer (February 2, 1861): 3, GB) The last paragraph was a rave about the debut of Mlle. Carlotta Patti [1840-1889], the older sister of Adelina Patti whose “execution was wonderful. The most difficult passages were rendered with the most perfect ease, her voice running up, with birdlike sweetness, to high D and F.” (Ibid) Sig. Giorgio Stigelli was actually a German, Georg Stiegele, 1820-1868. (Ellinwood and Porter, Bio- Bib Index Musicians in the United States, 361 and 289)
On April 1st. a notice appeared concerning the April 18th. concert saying that the group, “who have increased to twenty since their first public performance, propose to give a concert with distinguished Boston assistance. Having expended a considerable sum of money for music, we trust that their proposed entertainment will put them in funds and that the public will encourage them to persevere in the course which they have marked out under the skillful supervision of Mr. Lang.” (Salem Register (April 1, 1861): 3, GB) Also in this article, it was announced that the Mendelssohn Quintet Club would give their last performance of their Salem season that night at Mr. Lang’s Music Rooms and that Mr. B. J. Lang would assist them. Another paper also gave advanced publicity for the April 18th. concert saying that “The concert advertised for Thursday evening should not be forgotten. The previous success of the Amphions and their efforts to excel is a guarantee of a rich entertainment.” (Salem Observer, (April 13, 1861): 15, GB) The Salem Register ad promised a vocalist, Miss Louise Adams w(ho had been a soloist with the Handel and Haydn Society, piano solos from B. J., various opera scenes and from The Amphions, a “choice selection from the Club’s New Music, lately received from London.” (Salem Register (April 11, 1861): 3, GB) Then, on the day of the concert, it was announced that the concert “will be postponed until further notice.” (Salem Register (April 18, 1861): 2, GB) The performance took place on Wednesday, May 1st. at the Mechanic Hall, “the proceeds being added to the fund for the relief of the families of those fighting for their country. The Mayor is in favor of the undertaking and heartily recommends it. Several patriotic pieces will be sung.” (Salem Observer (April 27, 1861): 3, GB) Just two days before the Mayor had announced that “no foolish shows, Ethiopian concerts, or other divertisements…will be licensed in this city.” (Salem Register (April 25, 1861): 2, GB) On Tuesday, April 25th. the Amphions “sung the Star-Spangled Banner and America, the multitude joining in the chorus.” (ibid) Perhaps this had swayed the Mayor to allow the Amphion concert on May 1st.
The choir continued to contribute to the spirit of the era. On April 23, 1861, the chorus “and a big crowd joined in singing the Star-Spangled Banner and other national airs” as part a flag-raising and patriotic speech given at City Hall. (Salem Observer (April 27, 1861): 2, GB) Then on October 3rd. 1861 they again sang the National Anthem and America at a “grand war meeting at Mechanic Hall.” (Salem Observer (October 5, 1861): 2, GB) Later in the event, the choir sang Glory Hallelujah [probably The Battle Hymn of the Republic] and then sang Holmes’ Army Hymn just before the meeting adjourned “with cheers.” (Ibid)
The “Amphion” name was then continued in thie North Shore area by a male quartet of that name. They are listed as performing at Commercial Hall in Beverly in November 1887 when they appeared at with “Miss Nellie Miles, the xylophone and staff bell soloist.” (Beverly Citizen (November 12, 1887): 3, GB) In the same issue there appeared a notice of “One good organ to rent for $3 per quarter. Two pianos to rent for $5 and $6 per quarter. One to sell for $10; one for $25. One fine upright 7 and 1/2 octave, warranted $200; one for $175. We guarantee to show more pianos and organs, also greater bargains than all the music stores in Salem combined. Easy terms. $1 per week. W. J. Lefavour, 175 Essex Stree, opposite the Bee-Hive, Salem. Upstairs.” (Ibid) It would seem that B. J.’s father had competition.
Boston-Apollo Club (the Boston Public Library has a complete bound set of their programs through 1909 as well as scrapbooks for the same period- Orr and Hardin: Choral Music in Nineteenth-Century America).“Founded in 1871 and incorporated in 1873, its nucleus being the earlier Chickering Club. It has a singularly unbroken history along the lines originally planned. It aims to maintain a male chorus of superior singers for the study and performance of part-songs and concerted works for an audience limited to singers and subscribers.”(Pratt, 115-116)
Syford writing in 1910 noted that the Chickering Club had twelve singers and had also used the format of giving concerts only to invited guests. (Syford, 159) The 25th. Anniversary Program book (May 6, 1896) added: “In the winter of 1870-71 the Mendelssohn Glee Club of New York, then four years old, came to Boston and gave a concert in Horticultural Hall. Previous to that time there had been little male-voice music in Boston among American singers…The Chickering Club, of twelve voices, was the principal male-voice organization in active service, and admission to its concerts was obtainable only by invitation from its singing members.”This concert by the New York Mendelssohn Glee Club was held on April 25, 1871.
The Chickering Club had been formed earlier as “a Vocal Club of twelve amateur singers gathered in 1866 by James Cutler Dunn Parker (1828-1916), organist of Trinity Church and later a member of the Boston University faculty. The members were:
(The empty stool at the right may be for the missing member)
First tenors: William I. Winch, Dr. Samuel W. Langmaid, and John H. Stickney
Second Tenors: William B. Merrill, Allen A. Brown, and David W. Loring
First basses: George H. Chickering, P. H. Powers, and Henry Payolt
Second basses: Charles J. Sprague, John F. Winch, and Myron W. Whitney.” (Baker, 3)
George H. Chickering was of the piano-manufacturing family. The Club eventually performed in his company’s Chickering Hall (then at 246 Washington Street) and became known as the Chickering Club. Dwight reported in his May 22, 1869 issue that “Mr. Parker’s Vocal Club of amateurs sang another exquisite programme on the evenings of May 1st. and 8th. The severe bereavement which had befallen Mr. Parker deprived them of his presence (a requiem for a child was part of the program) and Mr. Lang kindly took his place for the occasion.” (Ibid)
The dozen members of the Chickering Club were absorbed into the organization [Apollo Club] that resulted from an invitation written by John D. Danforth, John H. Stickney, and Charles James Sprague stating that “It has been suggested that a Club of Male Voices might be formed in Boston, similar in character to some of the New York Clubs. With a view to test the feasibility of the prospect, you are requested to meet, with some forty gentlemen, at the warerooms of Messrs. Russell Hallet & Co., 143 Tremont Street, on Wednesday Evening, June 21  at 8 o’clock. Your presence is particularly requested, to ensure a balance of voices. “This meeting was held and a committee elected to study and report on a plan for the projected club. On June 26th. a second meeting was held, the plan of the club decided, the Hon. John Phelps Putnam elected President and Mr. B. J. Lang musical director.” (Baker, 4) The first informal concert was held on Tuesday evening, September 5, 1871 by the fifty-two founding members. Lang was the elected conductor, but he had not yet returned from Europe, and so Charles James Sprague led this first event. Lang conducted the group from the middle of October 1871 until May 1, 1901 except for certain periods when the “breaking of an arm or a neck, or some other portion of his anatomy” prevented this; “but at such times it has been found that he could easily conduct the Club with A Foote.” (BPL Lang Prog., A Sketch prepared for the 100th. concert of the Club, December 21, 1886). “During the first season, several informal concerts, or monthly rehearsals, as they were called, were given in small halls, and three concerts in Music Hall, two of which were with orchestra.” (Ibid) Certainly this was a very ambitious beginning! Among the fifty-two Active Members were some of the most famous local singers of the day-Messrs. Aiken, Barnabee, Allen A. Brown, Cook, Fessenden, Fitz, Langmaid, Loring, Merrill, Powers, Ryder, Sprague, Stickney, Wetherbee, M. W. Whitney, John F. Winch, and William J. Winch were among the number.” (25th. Anniversary Concert program book) By November the five hundredth gentleman, Robert M. Morse, Jr. joined the Club as an Associate Member; twelve years later he would become the second President of the Club. For the first season, the assessment upon Associate members was $10, but this was raised to $15 the second year, the justification being that the group needed to pay for Club-rooms and a small hall which was to be part of a building being erected at 151 to 153 Tremont Street. The group moved into these quarters in April 1873. (Ibid) The Barnabee mentioned above was Henry Clay Barnabee who went on to a career in opera and musical comedy. In his autobiography, he recorded the “pride I took in the formation of the Apollo Club.” (Barnabee, 206) As his career progressed he had to leave the choir, but “I may return to the city of my adoption, make application to the music committee, be found qualified, take my place among the basses, and with the rest of the old boys, sing once more to the ‘Sons of Art.'” (Op. cit., 208)
“The success of the Apollo, both musically and socially, was so great and so rapid that it soon had imitators all over the country, and there have been several Apollo Clubs in various parts of the United States, besides many clubs founded on the same plan, but not taking our name. In Boston, the Boylston Club started during our third year but soon gave up rivalry as a male-voice club, deeming it better to marry a wife and settle down to a different sort of work. The Arlington Club also started and lived for a few years, but we have practically had the field to ourselves for ten or twelve years, and today I believe i am safe in saying that our Associate Members exceed in number those of the other vocal clubs and some of the orchestral clubs, combined.” (Op. cit., Program Book)
Typical German Romantic light part-song; translated into English and published in 1890 by Schmidt in Boston. Furnished by Herb Zeller, Historian of the Apollo Club.
The general taste of the time was represented by the light part-songs of the lesser German Romantic composers, but B.J. favored larger works with orchestral accompaniment. However, as conductor of the Apollo Club, he was essentially a hired hand and had nothing to do with the selection of the music. With nine out of ten of the singers against singing with an orchestra, he had a great prejudice to overcome. The feeling was “After we have been working like oxen over our music, and have got it all down to a fine point, we don’t want to be drowned out by a band!” Lang’s rehearsal methods also were not appreciated by some: Apthorp wrote-“Nothing like such drilling has ever been known before in Boston. The immediate results were not found to be satisfactory by a considerable proportion of the audiences, and it took no mean amount of pertinacity and backbone on the conductor’s part to follow out the plan on which he started. His principle was that in chorus singing, as in every sort of musical performance, the indispensable basis is technique; without a solid technique nothing worthwhile can be done, and the technique can only be acquired through severe drilling. At first, the singers were required to pay strict attention to just the sort of details that amateurs as a rule are most prone to overlook-giving every note its proper value, etc. But when it came to the concert, they had no attention left for anything else, the performances sounded rigidly correct but rather dry and lifeless. After a while, this exact attention to correctness of detail began to egg on his choral forces to vivacity of style, emotional vigor, and to thoroughly artistic performance. That arduous system of drilling to which Gericke subjected the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and which was so much commented on at the time, both favorably and adversely, as something utterly unprecedented by its severity, was really first applied to the Apollo Club and Cecilia by Lang.” (Fox, Lang Papers, 7)
Elson’s opinion was that “In 1871 the Apollo Club, formed largely of professionals, gave the best male chorus-singing of the country. Mr. B.J. Lang was the director of this club from its inception until 1901 when he voluntarily relinquished the baton to Mr. Emil Mollenhauer, who is still (in 1915) its director.” (Elson, 81-82)
In the fall of 1872 the officers for the coming year were listed as “Pres. John P. Putnam; V. P. Chas. H. Allen; Sec. Arthur reed; Treas. Chas. T. Howard; Director, B. J. Lang.” (Folio, November 1872, 139)
From the beginning, great things were expected. “The Handel and Haydn Society of Boston is about played out. Its white-headed members are beginning to grow famous by their squeaky, husky voices-and they ought to know it. They wouldn’t think of retiring in the background, or of admitting young voices and fresh talent into their exclusive ranks. They have grown old-fogyish in their notions, and can’t give a respectable concert without outside assistance. Their day is past; and our hopes now center in the rising Apollo Club, from which the public is led to expect many wonderful successes.” (Folio, February 1872)
In 1891 the group had 35 tenors and 36 basses including eight original members. (Scrapbooks Vol. 6: 1891-96) “at the time of the first informal concert, on September 5, 1871, there were fifty-two active members, and but one hundred and ninety-three on the associate list. This first concert was a great success, and the associate list soon numbered the restricted five hundred. These associates (non-singing) members have the privilege of purchasing tickets for the concerts of the club.” (Syford, 160)
Syford goes on to say, “The first concerts of the organization were given in the old Music Hall. An account that refers to the first formal concert in 1871 says: “Music Hall was packed with an audience composed of the elite of Boston.” The report of the critic refers to the strong, resonant and fine quality of the voices, the light and shade, delicate pianissimo swelling into a storm of power with beautiful, smooth gradation; the clear, crisp enunciation of all the words as with one voice; the mingling and wielding of the transitional expression as though one mind directed it.” (Syford, 161-162) The program was:
Spring Night-Fischer Cheerful Wanderer-Mendelssohn I Long For Thee-Hartel (Hartell) Praise of Song-Maurer Soldier’s Farewell-Kinkel (Kindel) Serenade-Mendelssohn ____________________ Loyal Song-Kucken (Kucher) Lovely Night-Churatal Miller’s Song-Zoellner(Zollner) The Voyage-Mendelssohn Serenade-Eisenhofer Rhine Wine Song-Mendelssohn
Baker gives the date of this concert as November 7, 1871 noting that Horticultural Hall was on Tremont Street between Bromfield and Bosworth Streets; his composer spellings are given in parenthesis above. (Baker, 7) Dwight’s review of this concert stated: “The new ‘Apollo Club of Boston’ treated their associate members and a few invited guests to a taste of their part-singing quality at Horticultural Hall on the evening of November 7. There were about forty voices, the finest in their separate quality, and the most musical, sonorous, rich and full in their ensemble, that we remember hardly ever to have heard…Mr. Lang, with whom they had had as yet but few opportunities of practice, conducted, and their singing of each and every piece was a model of blended sweetness, refined purity of tone, good light and shade, well-tempered power and right expression.” Dwight then laments the limitedness of male part-singing and asks for more weighty works such as Mendelssohn’s Antigone choruses. His final suggestion is that the group considers adding female voices! (Dwight (Nov. 18, 1871): 135) For the early concerts in each season, which were called “Rehearsals,” single cards with just the titles and composers were the programs, but for the later concerts, program books of eight pages which included the full texts and soloists names and occasional comments were produced.
Back page-Front page. Johnston Collection.
The program for the Wednesday, January 10 and Tuesday, January 16, 1872 concerts at the Music Hall contained: “the Beethoven Overture to Prometheus, partsongs by Gade and Mendelssohn, Beethoven’s Chorus of Dervishes and ‘Turkish March’ from The Ruins of Athens, partsongs by Lachner, Kocken, Johann Kinkel and M. Anton Storch, interrupted by the Chopin Scherzo in B-flat minor played by Lang, and concluding with Mendelssohn’s To the Sons of Art.” (Osborne, 34) Baker refers to these two concerts as “given privately for associate members and guests only,” and that the same program had been performed December 5, 1871 as “the first formal public rehearsal.” (Baker, 8) “The Apollo Club has given two private concerts at Music Hall, which were decidedly the best vocal entertainments given in Boston within our remembrance. Truly we have reason to be proud that the Hub possesses the very best male chorus in America.” (Dexter Smith’s (March 1872): 53) The Folio, early in 1872 had printed: “The Boston Apollo Club is the name of a Musical Association, whose modesty is only exceeded by its genuine worth and superiority. Many of our readers, we dare say, have never heard of the name before; and those who have heard of it, have so by mere accident. The Apollo Club is a thoroughly American institution and is composed of male singers wholly. its membership includes the names of many of our most eminent musicians. The musical committee consists of Mr. Chas. J. Sprague, Mr. Allen A. Brown, and Mr. Henry M. Aiken. Mr. B. J. Lang has recently been elected Director of Music. Although the society has been in existence but a short time, it already bids fair to surpass, in singing, any similar organization in the country. In a word, it is a noble body.” Then, in the Folio’s February 1872 issue it presented an extensive review. “The Apollo Concert. Nothing but an occasion of uncommon interest could have so completely filled Music Hall, on the 10th inst.; and many months have elapsed since we looked upon so fair and intelligent audience…To say that the concert was a grand success, but feebly bespeaks our mind. Altogether it was one of the most enjoyable ones of the season.” After several points of specific praise, Lang’s piano solo was mentioned. “Mr. Lang’s playing of Chopin’s Scherzo in b flat minor was in his usual style, and of course above criticism. In a word the concert was delightful in the extreme; and again we note the superiority of the Apollo Club.” (Folio (February 1872) Another reviewer wrote: “The Apollo Club has given two private concerts at Music Hall, which were decidedly the best vocal entertainments given in Boston within our remembrance. Truly we have reason to be proud that the Hub possesses the very best male chorus in America.” (Dexter Smith’s (March 1872): 53) Not bad for a choir begun less than a year before to be able to present two concerts in the major concert hall of the city! Strangely no names are listed in the program-no conductor, no accompanist, no reference to who played the Chopin piano solo, no list of singers, no reference to who played the two overtures that opened each half, but the English words were printed for every choral selection.
By the following spring Dwight reported: “On Friday Evening, May 31 (1872), the great Music Hall was crowed once more by invited friends of male part-singing, interested in the success, already very marked, of the ‘Apollo Club,’ which hardly has been organized a twelvemonth. The club is in a flourishing condition, having several hundred ‘passive’ or subscribing members, including many gentlemen of high social character and culture, besides the actual singing nucleus, which is composed of over fifty singers, -the pick of the best tenors and basses in our city. In power and quality of voices never has so good an ensemble been brought together here before…They have an artistic leader and instructor. Mr. B. J. Lang has proved himself one of the best of choral drill masters…There was no full orchestra, and no overtures, as in the two great concerts given in the winter.” However woodwinds were used to accompany some items and were featured alone in Hummel’s “Andante With Variations” from his Septet in D Minor. The second half opened with Mendelssohn’s Fest-Gesang-to the Artists. Lighter pieces completed the program. Another paper commented: “The closing concert of the season of the Apollo Club was a splendid success. This is certainly the best male singing society in America.” (Dexter Smith’s, July 1872)
Just over a year later Dwight reports on concerts given on Jan. 3 and 6, 1873 at the Music Hall: “Never in this city have we heard so capital a chorus of male singers; the voices being of the choicest quality in all the four parts, -particularly the smooth, sweet, clearly soaring upper tenors and the rich, mellow, manly basses, -and their ensemble very perfect under the careful training and the sure and nice conductorship of Mr. B. J. Lang. They numbered nearly a dozen voices of each part…and their whole performance was obviously a marked improvement upon that of a year ago, good as that seemed to most of us.” The programme was the same for both nights, but at the second concert, an orchestra was used for certain accompaniments and two overtures. Dwight called attention to how much more effective the orchestrally accompanied pieces were at the second concert. The “Bacchus Chorus” from Mendelssohn”s Antigone was sung with full orchestra which leads Dwight to ask for the complete work. Of the opening work, Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture which was given “with great spirit” by the full orchestra at the second performance. Dwight wrote that one first concert performance at two pianos, played by Lang “and his pupils Messrs. Sumner, Apthorp and Tucker ineffectively foreshadowed” what the orchestra sound would be. (Dwight (January 25, 1873): 374) Another reviewer stated: “The private concerts given by the Apollo Club, at Music Hall, Jan. 3d and 6th, were glorious feasts to the musical audiences who crowded the vast hall to overflowing on both occasions. The program comprised gems from the best composers, which were most artistically rendered by the Club. We noticed a great improvement over their efforts of last season, even, especially in delicacy of shading, the pianissimos being remarkably well sung. Boston has reason to be proud of the Apollo Club.” (Dexter Smith’s (February 1873): 33) To have two full houses was quite a feat considering that “with nearly two thousand cases of small-pox, and sixty deaths a week, the Board of Health have (sic) provided a hospital for one hundred patients, and talk of ‘complete isolation.'” (Ibid)
The first rehearsals, beginning in June 1871, were hosted by the piano maker Messrs. Russell Hallet and Co. at 143 Tremont Street. Then, four months later the club moved to Wesleyan Hall at 36 Bromfield Street. Lang’s first rehearsal with the group was on Tuesday, October 17, 1871. “The Apollo Club procured club rooms at 151-153 Tremont Street in a new building. A collation was served in April 1873 to mark the opening.” The Club had been incorporated by a special act of the Legislature in March. (Baker, 9)
In addition to active and subscribing members, the Society also elected honorary members, “composed of persons distinguished for their interest in the purposes of the club, or who have rendered it valuable service. This membership numbers four; Allen A. Brown, Arthur Reed, B. J. Lang and Mr. Chickering.” (Syford, 160) Allen A. Brown provided access to his “unequaled musical library (which now occupies a spacious room in the Boston Public Library)” (Syford, 165) and he also served many years on the music committee; Arthur Reed was the first Secretary and held the office for twenty-five years. The artistic position of the club is reflected in the fact that.
The May 26, 1873 concert at “the crowded Music Hall” used an orchestra to accompany three of the double choruses from Mendelssohn’s Antigone.“These had evidently been carefully rehearsed by the singers, but not so thoroughly by the players; so that the best intentions of Mr. Lang and his attentive followers were in some degree balked.” The orchestra also played Mendelssohn’s Overture to Heimkehr and Bennett’s Overture to Naiads which “agreeably varied” the program. Some items were thought “trivial for solid men with grey bears (some of them) to be so absorbed in,” and “The ‘Pilgrim Chorus’ from Tannhauser was not entirely happy in the introductory recitative. But these drawbacks were accidents, and it was clear enough to all that still the motto of the ‘Apollo’ is Excelsior!” (Dwight (June 28, 1873): 47)
The December 30, 1873 Music Hall concert (repeated a week later) was sung to a full crowd, and “was the best public manifestation which this strong and select choir of admirable voices has yet given of its quality. The singing of the larger pieces, -this time without orchestra, – was much better than upon the last occasion. There were sixty voices, finely balanced, sweet, rich, musical, trained to a nicety in all points of expression and effect. The only accompaniment was that of their able conductor, Mr. B. J. Lang, at the piano. The programme, too, contained a greater proportion than ever before of compositions of decided and enduring value.”Two choruses from Mendelssohn’s Antigone, including the “Bacchus” chorus, were sung “most admirably.” The second half included “lighter, sentimental pieces” including solos by William and John Winch, and the finale was the “Pilgrim Chorus” from Tannhauser. (Dwight (Jan. 10, 1874): 159)
In addition to their own concerts at the Music Hall, the choir was called upon to contribute to a number of civic occasions. ” A large number of the members of the club also, by invitation of the city of Boston, assisted at the memorial services in honor of Charles Sumner, on April 29, 1874. After Lang’s organ prelude of the “Final Chorus” from the Passion by Bach [St. Matthew?], they sang a Prayer by Storch. Then, after a prayer by Rev. Phillips Brooks, they sang a Holland National Air arranged by Lang. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 2 ) Sumner’s funeral had been on March 16, 1874, and among the pallbearers were “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Greenleaf Whittier…The body had lain for thousands of mourners to view” at the Massachusetts State House, and this was followed by a “brief prayer service at King’s Chapel,” which was followed by burial at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. America had lost its “most passionate, vociferous, long-standing, unwavering, and inexhaustible antislavery champion.”(Puleo, 186 and 187)
Nearly all the members also, by invitation of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, assisted at the services on the occasion of the First Centennial Anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1875. They sang the hymn God Save the Queen with words by Charles James Sprague and Loyal Song with music by Kuchen and words by Sprague. The final hymn had words by “G. W. W.” and music by Abt. The Benediction was given by Rev. Phillips Brooks. “G. W. W.” was George Washington Warren who was President of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, and he had given the address. Lang thought enough of the event that he saved his “City of Boston Pass” which allowed him “through all the lines, military and police.” (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 2)
Good notices continued with a June 1874 review that reported: “The Apollo Club, its active force now raised to sixty singers, gave about the best feast of male part-singing, in the Music Hall, June 1, that we have yet had…They quite surpassed their previous efforts, greatly as those were admired.” Again Lang was the accompanist, the brothers Winch soloed [in Lang’s The Sea King], and “The whole concert did great honor to the Club and to their excellent conductor.”(Dwight (June 13, 1874): 247)
Dwight reviewed the concerts of late 1874 as being “Singularly perfect and delightful specimens” of male part-singing. “The Apollo Club (64 good singers, with fine voice, (and well balanced), have given two concerts, with essentially the same programme, to their crowds of friends; and never has their singing seemed so perfect in the finish and refinement, as well as the rich volume and grand power of tone, and the harmonious blending of tone colors” (Dwight (Jan 9, 1875): 367) Dwight continues by decrying that the group should spend so much time on trivial material, but concludes, “on the other hand, there was the grandly satisfying double chorus from Oedipus of Mendelssohn, which closed the concert, and was sung magnificently, to the effective piano accompaniment of their accomplished conductor, Mr. B. J. Lang.”(Ibid)
In 1875 Dwight continued his good reviews. Mentioning a June concert, he said: “The singing of the former (Apollo Club), -a well-selected, solid, and well-balanced body of 67 voices, -even surpassed their own high standard of past years. The sweet, pure, rich ensemble of tone, its vital resonance, was most remarkable; and the execution, in all points of precision, light and shade, etc., was singularly perfect. Vocal solos and a Rondo for two pianos by Chopin were also included. (Dwight, June 26, 1875, p. 47)
Seven months later Dwight’s review said that the club “sang more admirably than ever.” The Mendelssohn “Bacchus” chorus again closed the concert, and the guest soloist was a soprano from Brooklyn. But, “Part-songs, sentimental or playful, filled the intervening space, all sung with that exquisite finish, which becomes cloying after a certain time. One critic described the effect with more truth than he intended when he called the execution ”dead perfect.” It is not that anything can be sung too well; the secret of the fatigue lies, we think, in our feeling of the disproportion between comparatively little consequence of the music itself and the great amount of time and pains which it must cost to render it so perfectly.” (Dwight (Jan 22, 1876): 167) In a review following that of the Boylston Club, mention is made of the Apollo Club’s having “many ripe, smooth, well-matched high tenors.”
This previous review provoked “S. L. B” (presumably a member of the Apollo Club) to write to Dwight-this letter Dwight published in two full columns of his February 5, 1876 edition. The gist of the letter was that the Apollo committee had spent much time and effort in researching the best male repertoire and that many of the great composers of the time had set short poems: If triviality is inherent in brevity, then all of these worthies must bear the charge, for they have not sought to elevate the character of Liederkranz and Mannerchor by offering important works…The mind is not always attuned to grandeur and profundity…The four-part songs of the great composers include some of their sweetest musical thoughts.” Dwight is forced to admit “That we cannot, any more than the Apollo Committee, draw up a list of noble pieces to be added to the Antigone choruses, etc., which they have already sung.” Dwight’s solution is to have the club become a mixed voice choir, a solution that they have not followed up to the current day.
The Wednesday, February 11th. and Monday the 16th. concerts had an unusually large number of premiers. Four part-songs were sung for the first time: Young Siegfried by H. Zoller, The Soldiers of Gideon, Opus 46 by Camille St.-Saens, the Chorus of Spirits and Hours by Dudley Buck and Love, as a Nightengale by Englesberg. The Key Notes review began by mentioning Mr. Apthorp’s recent questioning if private clubs, such as the Apollo Club, should be reviewed. “I hold with him, that they should be criticized freely or not at all. But in the concerts [of] Apollo there is really very little to criticize. The ensemble is generally perfect, the power of the voices magnificent.” (Key Notes, February 16, 1876. unsigned, but probably Louis Elson) Elson then did mention that the program of mainly part-songs with no orchestral accompaniment suffered from a certain degree of monotony. Of the new pieces, the St.-Saens was “excellent” and “at times very intricate.” (Op. cit.) The Buck had the advantage of a small orchestra accompaniment by the Listermann Concert Company, and it “ended in a grand climax, which is well worked up.” (Op. cit.) George W. Sumner was the pianist and Arthur Foote the organist.
Dwight review of the May 3 and 26, 1876 concerts began: “May and early June being to the songbirds, with and without wings. Our vocal Clubs, -it is theirs by right to sing out the long concert season, and usher in the summer.” Dr. Langmaid (tenor), Mr. J. F. Winch (barytone), and Mr. W. J. Winch (tenor) were the featured soloists. The accompaniments were done on the piano, and five of the choral pieces had been translated “for the club by Mr. Charles J. Sprague sung on this occasion for the first time in this country.” It would seem that having the audience understand the texts was important to B. J.” We may truly say that we have never enjoyed an Apollo Concert quite so well as this one. It has long seemed as if they had about reached the last limit of attainable perfection in the balance and well-blended beauty of their voices, and the nice, effective and expressive execution of whatever music that are wont to undertake. But this time they really pushed the limit farther back; the rich, full manly, sweet ensemble of tone, the precision, force and delicacy of execution, the truth to every shade and contrast of sentiment, too, though still kept within the rather exhausted and monotonous sphere of male part-songs, had uncommon freshness…Mr. Sprague has been happy in his exploration after fresh material, as well as in his singable translations.” Dwight ended with a paragraph from another paper, the Advertiser: “Upon the stage of the Music hall, during the concert of the Apollo Club last evening, was to be seen a very beautiful bronze statuette of the Apollo Belvidere. This work-a Barbedienne and an exquisite specimen of its kind-was obtained through Messrs. Bigelow, Kennard & Co., expressly for the active members of the Apollo Club, who last night presented it to their conductor, Mr. Lang. The gift was certainly an appropriate expression of the feeling of admiration and regard cherished by the corps for the accomplished artist under whose guidance they have won so many artistic triumphs.” (Dwight (June 10, 1876): 246 and 247) The cost of $225 was divided among the sixty members. Other reviewers were enthusiastic; the “Traveler” critic ended: “WE cannot find words to say what is due to Mr. Lang. He gave his whole souls to the performance and inspired the singers throughout. A justifiable pride should be his in the success of the concert.” (Scrapbook) The Advertiser reviewer held the same opinion: “The last concert of the club marks the highest point which it has yet attained, and seems to leave little more to be accomplished.” (Scrapbook)
Dwight’s review of January 20, 1877 said: “The first concert (sixth season) given by the Apollo to its friends, Tuesday evening, Jan. 2, placed this well-selected and well-trained body of now nearly one hundred singers in a brighter light than ever as an instance of what perfection may be reached, alike of technique and expression, in the execution of part-songs and choruses for mere male voices. For the most part, this time, it was the manner of presentation, more than the matter, that claimed attention.” The concert was mainly short works, and Dwight felt that fine performances did not make provide as much pleasure as the repertoire of a mixed chorus such as the newly formed Cecilia whose concerts supplied “sweets more inexhaustible.” (Dwight (Jan. 20, 1877): 375)
In May of the same year, Dwight writes: “The Apollo Club gave an admirable example in their last week’s concerts of what pitch of perfection part-singing can be brought to. Yet it is difficult not to bring in the ungracious but very soon in speaking of these concerts.” His but concerned the low level of the selections presented. After allowing that as the group was giving private concerts to friends, and thus could program whatever the group wanted, Dwight called the choir to a higher level as “They have the most transcendent means of performing or doing their part towards performing all that is greatest, highest and also most difficult in choral music…they should direct their efforts to producing really worthy works.” (Dwight (May 12, 1877): 24)
A month later (June 7, 1877 at Tremont Temple) Dwight hails the choir for “a task worthy of its unsurpassed vocal material and trained perfection, in Mendelssohn”s Antigone, which was given entire at the last concert, with the connecting text of Sophocles read (in English), it is said, very finely, by Prof. Churchill, of Andover. All who were present speak of the performance altogether as the finest achievement of the Apollo, giving unqualified delight.” Dwight then finishes with another suggestion, saying that the work had been done well, “so far as possible without orchestra.”(Dwight, June 23, 1877, 47) The soloists were Messrs. Dr. Bullard, Powers, Wilkie, Lincoln, Babcock, Allen A. Brown, and Aiken, with Arthur Foote at the piano. (Johnson, 253)
“By request of the Governor of Massachusetts, the club gave a concert on June 23, 1877, to honor the President of the United States, [President Hayes] then on a visit to Boston.” (Elson, Musical Boston, 3)(Coburn, 584) Presented at the Music Hall, the program began with two organ pieces played by Mr. S. B. Whitney, and then the Club sang Mendelssohn’s To the Sons of Art. Mr. Eugene Thayer played Handel’s Organ Concerto No. 12 followed by other choral pieces, two more organ pieces by Whitney, and the concert finished with the “Double Chorus” from Antigone by Mendelssohn that they had just performed earlier in the month. (BPL Lang Prog.)
Seven months later Dwight reviews concerts given on January 9 and 15, 1878 “before immense and most enthusiastic audiences. We know not when we ever listened to those seventy voices musical and manly voices with so much pleasure. The singing, the execution and expression of the music, was beyond praise. And there were more things of a substantial, noble character than has been usual in programmes mostly made up of part-songs.” Such things as William Winch’s “admirable singing of Schubert’s ”Erl-King,” and the “Andante and Variations, and the Presto from Beethoven’s ”Kreutzer” …The other was a pleasing Romance in B flat, Op. 27 by Saint-Saens for violin, pianoforte and organ.” These programming changes earned the comment: “We said we never listened to the Apollo with more pleasure. We did not hear them sing the Antigone music last year, which must have been a greater treat. Will they not give it again?” (Dwight (Jan. 19, 1878)
Early in his conductorship, Lang effected some changes that would later be adopted by other groups: “He was also an innovator in other aspects of concert presentation: for example, he experimented with the use of heavy paper for programs so they would not rustle in the hands of the audience, and had the texts of vocal compositions printed in the program in such a way as to avoid page turns at particularly quiet passages.” (Ledbetter, 10)
Dwight again makes his suggestion that orchestral accompaniment would enhance the Apollo’s performances when he refers in an April 27, 1878 review to a cantata which “doubtless the orchestral accompaniments, which were merely sketched on the piano, well as that was played by Mr. Petersilia, would have placed the whole work in a stronger light.” Does one wonder if Lang had spoken to Dwight about his desire to have orchestral accompaniments?
Dwight’s wish to hear Antigone was granted within six months together with his suggestion of orchestral accompaniment.”The concert of May 7, in the Tremont Temple, was entirely devoted to the performance of a single work, -but that perhaps the noblest work existing for a chorus of male voices: Mendelssohn’s music to Antigone of Sophocles…And it is the first of Mendelssohn’s creations of this kind, and the freshest. It was conceived in a high moment of his genius and executed while the mood possessed him…This time it was made complete by bringing in the full Orchestra, which added vastly to the inspiring grandeur of the work, and to the clear comprehension of it. The orchestra had been well drilled by Mr. Lang…The instrumentation throughout is singularly beautiful and chaste, and with the voices frequently sublime. The rich and manly voices of the Club, some seventy in number, perfectly well balanced, and trained to remarkable perfection, were admirably suited for such music, and the performance was almost without a flaw. It was the crowning achievement of the club. Would there were more such music for them!” (Dwight (June 8, 1878): 247)
Dwight reprinted an announcement of the forthcoming 1878-79 Season. “The Apollo Club, Mr. Lang, director, (as we learn by the Courier) will give the first concert of its eighth season in Tremont Temple, December 6. Subsequent concerts will be given in Music Hall, December 9, February 19 and 24, and two in May. The committee make[s] no announcements of the works to be presented. But the associate members may rest assured, had they any need of that assurance, that the programme will be made up with the care that has been expended on them, that the rehearsals will be through, and the performances quite up to the club’s high standard. The list of applicants for associate membership now numbers over three hundred names.”(Dwight (October 26, 1878): 327)
The third pair of concerts on May 15 and 20, 1879 ended the season. “For both, there was the usual crowded and enthusiastic audience, and on both occasions, the splendid body of finely trained male voices, full of esprit de corps, seemed, if that were possible, to surpass their best previous instances of well-nigh perfect execution.” The first concert used mainly piano accompaniment with the addition of a string quartet for the Schumann Piano Quintet in E-flat and to accompany one extended choral piece. The second concert repeated three pieces from the first and added six new pieces that used orchestral accompaniment. B. J.’s song Ho, Pretty Page with words by Thackeray was sung by Mr. J. F. Winch, and Dwight’s review said it “catches and reproduces the fine pathetic humor of the verses, and is a fresh, genial, fascinating bit of music. As sung by Mr. Winch it took the audience almost off their feet, and had to be repeated.”(Dwight, May 24, 1879, p. 86) The Evening Traveler of May 8, 1878 reported: “The club has not sung more artistically this season, the orchestra played with a fineness and unison altogether uncommon, and seemed to have been much longer preparing its part than was the fact. A great share of this excellence is due to Mr. Lang, whose guiding hand and thorough care were once more appreciable in their highest value.” (Scrapbook 1887-1906)
Mendelssohn’s companion work to Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus was given in January of 1880 with orchestra accompaniment and “with the connecting readings being given by Mr. Howard M. Ticknor (instructor of elocution at Harvard College, and a bass in our club)”(Baker, 10). “It is good proof of the intrinsic power and charm of the music and the old Greek tragedy, and of the excellence of the interpretation, that the whole audience, crowding the Music Hall, listened with unflagging interest, and with frequent tokens of delight, to a work so far removed from all our modern tastes and ways of thinking, and so uniformly grave and tragical, in so monotonous a key of color and feeling…The Apollo Club never sang anything better, and that is high praise indeed.”(Dwight (Feb. 14, 1880): 30)
The February 19 and 24, 1879 concerts were reviewed with an opening sentence that said the concerts were “one of the most interesting it has given. The singing was in all respects most admirable, -an improvement even on the best efforts of the past. The pure, sweet, manly quality of voices; the prompt and sure attack; the precision; the fine phrasing, delicate light and shade, distinct enunciation; and the pervading fire and spirit, seemed to leave nothing to be desired in respect to execution and interpretation. The selections, too, though mainly part-songs were uncommonly interesting.” A string ensemble was used to accompany Schubert’s Song of the Spirits Over the Waters. Also programmed were three movements from Hummel’s Septet for strings and winds: “the performance gave great pleasure, and the “Scherzo” had to be repeated.” The final accolade was that “Mr. Lang has certainly the choicest of materials for a male chorus under his control, and he has trained them to a rare perfection of ensemble. There is no need of saying that the Music Hall was crowded,”(Dwight (March 15, 1879): 45)
The March 9, 1880 concert contained mainly short pieces, and the guest soloist was Miss Hubbell from Grace Church in New York City.” The programme was miscellaneous, containing things of a high artistic order, and nothing commonplace. The singing seemed to us extremely good, -almost too good, that is to say, too daintily refined for certain things, say ‘drinking songs,’ which owe much of their charm to a certain off-hand freedom.” The next to the last piece was a duet by B. J. entitled The Sea King, and it was sung by Dr. Ballard and Mr. J. F. Winch. Dwight’s review said the “duet is in the rollicking old English bravura style, with plenty of ”go” in it, and made a lively effect as sung by the two basses.”(Dwight (April 10, 1880): 62) Also on the program was Dudley Buck’s The Nun of Nidaros-this was the first work by an American included except for Lang’s own works. This piece was repeated the same year at the late November concerts; G. Schirmer had published the work with a copyright date of 1879, and a “New and Revised Edition” was copyrighted in 1905. During the 1880s Americans began to appear on Apollo Club programs with great regularity.
Buck-King Olaf’s Christmas December 1881
Whiting-March of the Monks of Bangor April 1881
Chadwick-The Viking’s Last Voyage April 26, 1881. Conducted by the composer
Paine-Excerpts from Scenes from Oedipus Tyrannus February 1882
Paine-Summons to Love, Opus 33 (Written for Apollo)1882
Paine-Radway’s Ready Relief April 1883
J. C. D. Parker-The Blind King April 1883
Whiting-Free Lances 1883
All but one of these pieces (Radway’s Ready Relief) were of cantata-like proportions with instrumental support. Their predominance perhaps in part accounts for a newspaper clipping of early 1883 which announced that ”in compliance with the desire for more part songs and unaccompanied singing, the next concerts of The Apollo Club, February 14 and 19, will be without orchestra.” (Osborne, 36)
However, the advantage of instrumental accompaniment was also mentioned in a review of a May 20, 1880 concert that had the same program as an earlier concert, but which had “the great improvement of an orchestral accompaniment.” It was a varied program as the orchestra was used by itself (Overture-Spring by Goetz), used to accompany choral and solo numbers, and the choir also performed a cappella. “Throughout the Apollo sang with life and refinement.” (Dwight, June 10, 1880)
The November 26 and 29, 1880 concerts again contained primarily short works, but “We never heard those seventy men sing better; and we were struck by the remarkable preservation of their voices, many of them being original veterans in the service. Rich, sweet, manly quality of tone, large, generous volume, admirably blending of the voices in a grand organ-like ensemble, combined with rare unity, precision, light and shade in producing a fine impression.” Instrumental works (including the Widor-Serenade for piano, violin, cello, flute, and harmonium), solos, and Dudley Buck’s setting of Longfellow’s poem, Nun of Nidaros. The review ended with the announcement of the Boston premiere of Max Bruch’s Frithjof for soprano and baritone solos, male choir, and orchestra to be given in its entirety on the following February 4 and 9, 1881. (Dwight (December 18, 1880): 207)
The Bruch was given as advertised and was well received by Dwight with a special mention for the soloists, Miss Simms and John F. Winch. “Though dark and tragical in its pervading tone, it is grand, poetic, deeply impressive, wildly romantic and imaginative music throughout; full of old Norse tenderness and passion, blended with heroic fire.” (Dwight (February 26, 1881): 36) The second part of the concert was “an agreeable miscellany. Three part-songs, solo songs, the orchestra playing the third movement of Moskowski’s Joan of Arc symphony, and the concert ended with a remarkable arrangement, with expressive, ever-varying orchestral accompaniment, by Hector Berlioz, of the Marseilles Hymn, which was sung with great spirit and exciting effect.” (Ibid)
Elson, History of American Music, 268.
By the spring of 1881 the Apollo, “the oldest of the Associate-membership vocal clubs celebrated the tenth year of its prosperous existence, having given sixty-eight concerts, always under the musical directorship of Mr. B. J. Lang. On the occasion, both the programme and the entire performance were exceptionally interesting.” The sixth and final concert of the tenth season was sung at the Music Hall on April 26, 1881 with the accompaniment of a full orchestra. After opening works, the group sang a work by George E. Whiting written for this occasion called March of the Monks of Bangor, words by Walter Scott, for tenor solo, male chorus and orchestra. [Choral score at the Library of Congress download; vocal scores at BPL and Westminster Choir College; autograph full score at BPL] The choral score of this work was published by the Apollo Club dated 1881, and another edition, with piano reduction, was published by John Church Co. of Cincinnati dated 1887. Probably this Cincinnati edition was prompted by the fact that Whiting now lived in that city. (Program, Historical Note, Johnston Collection) Then George W. Chadwick conducted his own The Viking’s Last Voyage for baritone solo, male chorus and orchestra, , the orchestra played two movements from Saint Saens’s Suite Algerienne-Evening Reverie and French Military March, “and the ever-inspiring ‘Bacchus’ double chorus from Mendelssohn’s Antigone, splendidly delivered, brought the memorable concert to a close.” (Dwight, May 7, 1881) Some did not hear this final work. Printed just before the words of the last piece was the notice: “Those who wish to leave the hall before the end of the concert are respectfully and earnestly requested to do so during this pause.” (Program, Op. cit.) The names of the tenor and baritone soloists were not listed in the program.
“The Tenth Anniversary Dinner was held on Tuesday, May 24, 1881, at Young’s Hotel on Washington Street at Court Square. It must have been a gay evening, the formally dressed members entering through the billiard room and bar on Court Street, then ascending the stairs to the second floor and the private dining room. A six-course dinner with wines, punctuated by speeches and toasts closed the tenth year of pleasant rehearsals and convivial meetings.” (Baker, 10) In Dwight’s issue of June 4, 1881 he reprinted an article from the May 25th. issue of the Advertiser which furnished further details. “The tenth-anniversary supper of the Apollo Club was held at Young’s Hotel last evening. The company numbered eighty persons and was composed of the active members, and the past active members, and the invited guests, who were the President and Director of the Harvard Musical Association, of the Boylston Club, the Cecilia Club, the Handel and Haydn Society, the Orpheus Club and the Arlington Club. Judge Putnam presided in his usual graceful and genial manner. Supper was served between half-past six and eight o’clock. Speeches and songs were then in order. The soloists were Mr. Pflueger, Mr. Osgood, William Winch, Clarence E. Hay, and there was a piano duet by Mr. Lang and Mr. Parker. The club opened the musical part of the entertainment by Mendelssohn’s Sons of Art, and subsequently sang a number of part-songs interspersed between the speeches and solos. Speeches were made by John S. Dwight, Professor Paine, G. W. Chadwick, Charles Allen and Robert M. Morse, Jr. The tables were set in the form of a Greek cross, and were handsomely spread and ornamented. All the arrangements were made under the supervision of Mr. Arthur Reed, the secretary of the club.” (Dwight (June 4, 1881): 93) In July 1881 the officers were: Judge John Phelps Putnam-President, Robert M. Morse, Jr.-Vice President, Committee on Music-Allen A. Brown for three years, Committee on Voices, four singers including John H. Stickney. (Musical Herald (July 1881): 162)
The December 7 and 12, 1881 concerts had the famous violinist Camilla Urso as one of the assisting artists. George Sumner opened the program with an organ solo-the “Andante and Fugue” from Judas Maccabeus by Handel. Every item in the concert except one was new to the choir and most were first performances in Boston. The Advertiser called the pieces “all of sterling worth.” (Advertiser, undated, unsigned review) The choir’s pianist, John A. Preston was singled out for “unstinting praise.” (Ibid) Most of these new pieces were performed by Madame Urso and the tenor soloist, Mr. Theodore J. Toedt (Boston singing teacher, 1853-1920). The Journal noted: “The singing of the soloists was very fine, especially that of Mr. Toedt, who showed himself to be an artist of power as well as finish.” (Journal, unsigned and undated review) The choir premiered the Woodcock Song by V. Lachner, King Olaf’s Christmas by Dudley Buck and the “Chorus of Sailors” from the beginning of the last act of Flying Dutchman by Wagner. (Op. cit.) The music of the Buck was “strikingly interesting on a first hearing.” (Op. cit.) The Home Journal mentioned that the program continued “more things of a substantial, noble character than has been usual in programmes mostly made up of part songs.” (Home Journal, undated, unsigned review) The Journal took the opposite position: “In spite of the excellence of the evening’s performance, however, a feeling would creep in that the club might be doing the cause of music still better service. With a corps of such fine singers, it should be possible to produce some great compositions, and it is hoped that this will be done before the season closes.” (Journal, undated and unsigned review)
Would pieces by Harvard’s J. K. Paine qualify as “great compositions?” For the February 15 and 20, 1882 concerts the choir sang three choruses from Paine’s Oedipus Tyrannus. “Every new experience with this delightful music enhances the admiration of it.” (Home Journal, Undated and unsigned review) The first half ended with Mendelssohn’s Overture-Athalie. B. J. had the idea of adding an organ part to the last section which produced a “thrilling effect.” (Ibid) However, the Transcript noted that “its mighty voice [was] much out of tune.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) This paper also took notice of the fact that “The presence of an orchestra has now become almost a matter of course at the Apollo concerts,” and it went on concerning the Paine, “The first fine impression made by the music last year in Cambridge is only strengthened by repeated hearings. It seems to us that, of all the fine things Mr. Paine has done, this music is the finest.” (Ibid) The final piece was the March of the Monks of Bangor by G. E. Whiting which the choir had premiered the previous season. Perhaps the suggestion that the piece be performed every year was to be taken! However, the Transcript review was not as enthusiastic as other reviews calling the work uneven “Every now and then a weak place appears with unexpected suddenness.” (Transcript, Op. cit.)
There were only three concerts in the 1881-1882 season with the third set being held on April 26, 1882 with full orchestra accompaniment. The major work was Salamis by Max Bruch for double male chorus and orchestra; “a rich and impressive piece of writing, finely scored and masterly in effect.” (Gazette, Undated and unsigned review) One premier of the evening was Summons to Love, Opus 37 by J. K. Payne which was written expressly for the Apollo Club. “It is a strong and vigorous work, abundant in poetic feeling, and fully in harmony with the poem to which it is set. In the breadth of design and depth of sentiment, we think it is superior to any of the composer’s previous efforts in the same direction.” (Ibid) Another premier was the part song by Mr. Henschel, The King and the Poet. “It is not the most pleasing of the works we have heard from the same source, and is more remarkable for its ingenuities of harmonic progression than for its clearness of design or its beauty of theme.” (Ibid) The Transcript wrote: “Of the singing of the club what can be said but that they sang with all their accustomed perfection, and with even more than their wonted fire. Mr. Lang has now brought the chorus to the point that enables one to write, as the Leipzig critics do of the Gewandhaus orchestra, ‘The performance was perfect, as usual.'” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) A review dated May 1, 1882 in a New York publication rated the chorus very highly; “The Apollo sing as no other club in America or (to my knowledge) anywhere else can sing. I wish that some of your Knickerbocker aristocracy could induce them to give one of their private concerts in New York. I assure you it would be a musical treat beyond anything that Boston has yet sent you.”
The December 5 and 11, 1882 and February 14 and 19, 1883 concerts ended with choruses by Wagner. Lang was doing his best to make Wagner’s name known. This would help with the fund-raising activities that Lang was doing on behalf of the building of the opera house at Bayreuth.
The April 25 and April 27, 1883 concerts with orchestra accompaniment were the final group of this three-concert season. The Blind King by J. C. D. Parker which was written for the choir, was given its world premiere. “A pure, melodic atmosphere pervades the whole work, the harmony is always natural and often striking in its suggestiveness, and the essence of the poem is well reflected by the music. The orchestra is treated modestly, but effectively.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) Another world premiere was Free Lances by G. E. Whiting for chorus, wind instruments and drums. Whereas Parker represented the older generation, Whiting was of the present. “He is nothing if not brilliant, and one finds in his writing, as one does in almost all the music that belongs to the present day, what an integral part orchestral clang-tints are of the inspiration. (Ibid) Another review called the music “Brilliant in the extreme. It is military music and is just a trifle sensational in effect, but it displays that wealth of melody which I have always found a distinguishing trait in this composer’s music. (undated and unsigned review) The final world premiere was by Paine and entitled Radley’s Ready Relief, which was a setting of a newspaper advertisement for a cure of acute and chronic rheumatic pain! (Courier, undated and unsigned review)
On Wednesday afternoon November 7, 1883 at 3 PM and in the evening at 8 PM, the Apollo Club closed the concerts dedicating the new “Chickering Hall.” They sang Mendelssohn’s To the Sons of Art. Lang and Perabo also played in these concerts the Hommage a Handel by Moscheles. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 4) For this concert a new seating arrangement was used; the orchestra was in the middle in five rows with the choir divided on either side of the orchestra.
For the first (December 5, 1883) and the second (Monday evening, December 10, 1883) concerts of its Thirteenth Season the opening piece was Rinaldo, Op. 50 by Brahms. Also included was the first American performance of The Language of Flowers [Suite de ballet, Set One, 1880; a copy of the full score is available from the Sibley Library Mirroring Project at the Eastman School of Music], a suite of six orchestral movements by the English composer Frederic H. Cowen [1852-1935]. The Transcript called the suite “wholly charming” and “fanciful…Yet the composer has not been content to be merely fanciful, but has given his work musical coherence and beauty.” (Apollo reviews-unsigned, undated) The concert opened with Rinaldo by Brahms; this was a Boston first performance. The Transcript called the piece the work of genius with great melodic beauty. Lang experimented with the orchestral placement in this concert. Instead of the normal orchestra in front and chorus behind, “The orchestra was placed behind the chorus, so that the men could sing point-blank at the audience without having the sound of their voices filtered through the orchestra.” (Ibid) The reviewer mentioned that he had suggested this arrangement some ten to fifteen years before. The Traveller noted that the choir was “in semicircular lines, so that the four parts were more merged into one volume of tone…The voices will now stand out, as they should, and the instruments make their proper background.” (Traveller, December 6, 1883 unsigned review) The Courier approved of the new performing arrangement, and had compliments for the orchestra and the choir; the concert “deserves to rank with the most enjoyable ever given” by the club, and “the entire concert seemed as pleasant to the audience as to the critic.” (Courier, undated, unsigned review) Elson writing in Key Note spoke of the Cowen suite: “Every one of these pieces is a gem.” (Key Note, December 9, 1883 review by Louis Elson)
For the Wednesday night, February 20, 1884 concert the Advertiser printed a “review” set as a conversation between two attendees. The first thought the repertoire was “throughout a concession to popular taste,” while the other admitted that “there are concessions which have to be made to the popular taste,” and then this second man asked of the first: “But if you had the matter in hand, could you do better?” (Advertiser (March 1, 1884): 2, GB-FULL TEXT LISTED BY DATE IN GENEOLOGY BANK) Lang programmed his own arrangement of a Swedish folksong Hi-fi-kin-ke-le which the audience loved and demanded an encore. “Mr. Lang, with marked modesty, declined for a time to accede to their calls, but at the last, after a half-dozen times bowing a denial, he was forced to direct the last two stanzas over again.” (Journal, undated, unsigned review) Another lighter number was the world premiere of a fantasie that the pianist Ernst Perabo arranged from themes in Sullivan’s Iolanthe. The Advertiser described the work as “so brilliant, so captivating, and so well written a composition that he was obliged to accept an encore for it.” (Advertiser, unsigned, undated review) Perabo had shown this work to the composer Carl Reinecke of Leipsic ” who hailed it as a high-minded and brilliant addition to pianoforte music and calculated in a good sense to interest the public at large.” (Undated, unsigned review) For the repeat of this concert on February 25, 1884, Lang and Perabo played Moscheleles’s Hommage a Handel. Perabo repeated his Iolanthe Fantasy and for his encore played again selections from this work. (Unsigned, undated review)
For the fifth and sixth concerts in the season presented on Wednesday evening, April 30 and Monday evening, May 5, 1884, the main works were not choral, but orchestral. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto was played by Ovide Musin and the Overture, The Princess by George E. Whiting received its Boston premiere. Musin, born in Belgium was an experienced soloist who had played successfully in Vienna, Paris, and London. Choral highlights included a chorus from Paine’s Oedipus followed by a double chorus from Mendelssohn’s Antigone. “I can honestly say that the American work lost nothing by the juxtaposition.” (Brainard’s Musical Magazine, May 14, 1884) The Advertiser noted that “Mr. Lang conducted with even more than his wonted skill, and the orchestra, composed of the very best men, accompanied all well, and the concerto with wonderful taste and accuracy.” (Advertiser, undated and unsigned review) Possibly the reviewer was Howard Ticknor. His appreciation of the conductor and orchestra was a nice change from the predictable harangues of some reviewers. The concert was very popular with all the seats taken as were “all the good standing places.” (Traveller, May 1, 1884, unsigned review) The Times thought the program “of unusual interest,” and the p[erformance “at all times smooth, delicate, finished and brilliant.” (Times, unsigned and undated review)
The New York City reviewer for Key Notes wrote of his visit to Boston and being invited to attend a rehearsal of the Apollo Club. The invitation was given by C. T. Howard, who was then (1884) the club’s Treasurer. The reviewer told of a previous Boston visit when he had heard the club at the Centennial Celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill. “The Apollo Club covered itself with glory. The singing made a far more profound impression that the oration, and the orator was and is one of the most eloquent men in Massachusetts. We haven’t any club in Brooklyn or New York that can hold a candle to it. The truth is, in vocal music, Boston people are ahead of New York because they give their minds to it. Why Charley Howard would no more think of absenting himself from a rehearsal than from his own funeral.” (Key Notes, May 5, 1884)
The first concerts of the fourteenth season were sung on December 3 and 8, 1884. The major work was the first Boston performance of Raff’s Italian Suite for orchestra. Choral works receiving their first Boston performances were Lovely Maid, Sleep On by Debois, Love Song by Engelsberg, and Mahomet’s Song by Esser. The Raff Italian Suite also had its Boston premiere. This was a major work that included an Overture, Barcarolle, Intermezzo, Notturno and Tarantelle. The Courier said that this concert was “one of the most interesting that the club has ever given.” (Courier, December 7, 1884 unsigned review) Elson in Key Note of December 8, 1884 found the Alberto Randegger “Forge Scene” from Fridolin to be “sensational in a high degree. Of course there were flickering flames, dashing of hammer and anvil, and a fierce hurly-burly generally…The work, however, was a fair type of the modern school, and decidedly woke up the audience, who, by the way, were apathetic to the degree of frigidity.” (Louis Elson, Key Note, December 8, 1884) The Courier described the work as “a cross between Wagner and a circus band.” (Op. cit.) Randegger was an Italian composer born in Trieste in 1832. After some success as a conductor in Italy, he emigrated to England where he was a noted voice teacher, opera conductor, and later in life, a conductor of some of the English regional music festivals. Fridolin (or The Message to the Forge) had been written for the 1873 Birmingham Triennial Festival. The work was for four voices, SATB choir and orchestra. The “Forge Scene,” which is near the end of the work, uses only men’s voices. (Wikipedia article, accessed September 29, 2016)
The February 11 and 16, 1885 concerts had four premiers. They were: Young Siegfried by H. Zoller, The Soldiers of Gideon, Opus 46 by Saint-Saens, The Chorus of Spirits and Hours by Dudley Buck and Love, as a Nightengale by Engelsberg. The Transcript was very taken with the Saint-Saens, calling it “the most interesting and exciting thing for unaccompanied male chorus we have ever heard.” (Transcript, February 12, 1885, unsigned) The assisting artists were the Listemann Concert Company, Mr. Fritz Giese, cellist, and Mr. G. W. Sumner-pianist and Mr. Arthur Foote-organist. Listemann’s group played two selections from Bizet’s Suite Arlesienne and accompanied the Buck work. “Mr. Griese “played his solos with all his well known grace, elegance and warmth of expression.” (Ibid) The Buck was judged “decidedly higher than anything of Mr. Buck’s that we have heard here,” but there was also “a certain inherent triviality of artistic point of view.” (Ibid) The Advertiser found the Zollner Young Siegfried to be very “heavy” and it was not helped even by Mr. Sprague’s “great skill as a translator.” (Advertiser, February 12, 1885, unsigned) The Courier wished that every concert did not have to end with a drinking song. (Courier, undated, unsigned review)
The April 29 and May 2, 1885 concerts were with full orchestra and John A. Preston at the organ. The theme was-“All American Composers,” and every vocal number except the final chorus was “written expressly for the Apollo Club.” Six of the pieces were first performances. The first written for the Apollo Club was the Cavalier’s Song by Frank H. Brackett. Two of B. J.’s works received world premiers-The Lass of Carlisle for baritone and Nocturne for tenor. The melody of The Lass of Carlisle “is singularly quaint, and in the refrain, it has just the queerness which fits the queer poem.” (Advertiser, Undated and unsigned review) In Nocturne “the musical setting proved to be dainty and beautiful, both in the vocal part and in the piano accompaniment…in the last line it displayed high poetic feeling and matched Mr. Aldrich’s verse with exquisite aptness.” (Ibid) Another world premiere which was written for the Apollo Club was Henry of Navarre, Opus 48 by Geroge F. Whiting. The “Introduction and Allegro” from Symphony No. 2 by George Whitefield Chadwick was given its premiere with the first performance of the complete work being premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1886. Two other works written for the Club were premiered-Proposal by George L. Osgood and If Doughty Deeds by Arthur Foote. Another work written for the club, but premiered earlier was The Blind King by J. C. D. Parker. The Home Journal found the Whiting Henry of Navarre to be “brilliant and effective, richly scored and replete in other ways with evidences of the composer’s ability.” (Home Journal, May 2, 1885, unsigned) Elson called it “one of the greatest works of the concert.” (Undated, no paper cited) Chadwick’s symphony movement “impressed me very favorably. The themes are well contrasted, the form well observed, and the coda gives an excellent climax.” (Ibid) The Musical Herald praised many items. “The concert has won a great victory for the cause of American music.” (Undated review)
The highlights of the December 2, 1885 concert (93rd. concert, first of the fifteenth season) were Rheinberger’s St. John’s Eve which was done with piano accompaniment, and Buck’s The Nun of Nidaros which used harmonium accompaniment played by Mr. J. E. Trowbridge. There were two assisting artists, Carl Faelton, pianist from the New England Conservatory, and Leopold Lichtenberg, pianist. Interestingly, the Knabe piano was used rather than the usual Chickering. (Journal (December 3, 1885): 3, GB)
Between 1884 and 1887 four pieces composed by B. J. were sung during Apollo Club concerts; two were repeated in later seasons.
Hi-fi-lin-ke-le February 20 and 26, 1884. Repeated May 12 and 17, 1886. Repeated April 30, 1890 (Program, Johnston Collection)
The Lass of Carlisle: solo for baritone April 29 and May 4, 1885. Written for this occasion-sung by Mr. Hay
Nocturne: solo for tenor April 29 and May 4, 1885. Written for this occasion-sung by Mr. G. J. Parker. Repeated April 29 and May 2, 1887
My True Love Has My Heart May 12 and 17, 1886.
Concerning Hi-fi-lin-ke-le the Advertiser wrote: “…a delicious little bit of writing by Mr. Lang, in the shape of a Swedish love ditty, set to a melody to be sung by the whole chorus in unison, except for the harmony of the close.”It was encored.” Another review suggested that shouting the final chords a little louder could make a better effect. The Journal said: “Another work of decidedly humorous character was Mr. Lang’s song composed upon a Swedish poem reciting the fate of the maid ”who will not when she might,” and when she would, cannot. It is a light but thoroughly well-arranged composition, and brings out the vocal resources of the club as few of the numbers in its repertory are able to do. It was much admired by the audience, who were urgent in their demands for a repetition.Mr. Lang, with marked modesty, declined for a time to accede to their calls, but at last, after a half-dozen times bowing a denial, he was forced to direct the last two stanzas over again.” (Scrapbook)
Words from the program of Wednesday evening, April 30, 1890 at the Boston Music Hall: 121st. Concert, 5th. of the 19th. Season. Johnston Collection.
Concerning The Lass of Carlisle and Nocturne, the Journal said: “its melody [The Lass of Carlisle] is singularly quaint, and in the refrain, it has just the queerness which fits the queer poem of Ettrick Shepherd. In Mr. Aldrich’s ”Up to her chamber window,” – called on the bill a Nocturne – Mr. Lang found fancy and feeling happily combined in a poem, finely adapted to his delicate skill as a composer.” The piece was encored. (Apollo Scrapbook, vol. 3)
The caliber of voices in the 1884-85 membership of the Apollo Club is reflected by the fact that Lang used George J. Parker, one of the tenors, and Clarence E. Hay, one of the basses as soloists with The Cecilia. They both had solo parts in Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri given by The Cecila with orchestral accompaniment on November 17, 1884. This was the fifth time that the choir had performed this Schumann work. (BMYB, 1884-85, p. 46) Both singers were also soloists in the Cecilia’s performance with orchestra of The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz at the end of the season, May 14, 1885. (Op. cit., 47) However, in the June 1885 issue of The Courier, the following appeared: “It is true that the Apollo Club is not quite up to its standard of a few years ago, but it is none the less above the standard attained by any other American male chorus.” (Baker, 11)
March 21, 1885 heard the Boston premiere of Bach’s Coffee Cantata with Louise Gage, William J. and John F. Winch as the soloists in a concert that was in commemoration of the birth of the composer (Johnson, 14).
The April 29, 1885 concert included the world premiere of Arthur Foote’s If Doughty Deeds My Lady Please, words by Graham of Gartmore, which was then published by Schmidt in 1885 as Oct. no. 34 (Apollo Club Collection no. 1). (Cipolla, 35) Schmidt’s address was then 13 and 15 West Street. The piece was dedicated to Allen A. Brown, fellow Apollo Club member and donor of the beginning music collection of the Boston Public Library.
A comparison of the 1885 Boston Directory [a business publication] with the 1883-84 membership list of the Apollo Club gives an interesting insight into the broad range of social backgrounds of the singers. There were PROFESSIONAL MUSICIANS: Henry M. Aiken is listed as a “vocalist” who boarded at the Hotel Bristol; Henry G. Carey, teacher of music who boarded at 52 Union Park; Harry F. Fay, music teacher at 152 Tremont Street (who was a piano pupil of Lang’s); Clarence E. Hay, music teacher at 140A Tremont Street, Room 32 who had a home at Waumbeck (he often was a soloist that Lang used with other groups besides the Apollo Club). There were FINANCIAL TYPES: William R. Baker was an “Auditor” with offices at 40 Court Street and a home at 18 Everett Street in Dorchester. MERCHANTS included: Albert M. Barnes of C. C. Foster & Co. at 11 India Street with a home in Cambridge; George A. Bunton who sold “boots and shoes” at 75 Pearl Street and had a home in Lynn; Charles T. Howard, who with his brother, Alonzo P. Howard were “Benjamin’s Sons,” commission merchants at 73 Kirby-Charles had a home in Brookline. Men listed as SECRETARIES included: Henry Basford who worked at 154 Tremont Street and had a home at Parker Hill. There were LAWYERS: John K. Berry was a partner in N. C. & J. K. Berry located at 51 Sears Building with his home at 79 West Cottage; Sigourney Butler whose office was at 23 Court Street, Room 48 and he had a home in Quincy. SALESMEN: Frederick H. Brackett worked at 84 Commerce Street and boarded at the Hotel LaFayette; Edward E. Holden who worked at 5 Winter Street and had rooms at 63 Myrtle; Calvin M. Lewis who worked at 30 Winter Street and boarded at 18 Ashburton Place. CLERKS: Charles J. Buffum worked at 184 Devonshire Street and boarded at Maple Avenue North Short[?]; Clarence M. Collins who worked at 360 Washington Street; George G. Endicott who worked at 152 Tremont Street and boarded at 106 Appleton; C. Frank Hunting who worked at 105 Bedford Street and boarded in Cambridge; George A. Ilsley who was the clerk of the Maverick National Bank and boarded at Newbury. PHYSICIANS: Edwin C. Bullard worked and lived at 185 Harrison Avenue; Charles K. Cutter whose home and office were at 200 Main Street. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS: E. Herbert Clapp was was the Assistant Clerk to the Massachusetts Senate and boarded at the U. S. Hotel.
The May 12, 1886 concert saw the premier of Arthur Foote’s The Farewell of Hiawatha, Op. 11. “The earliest ‘Indian’ cantata was the product of Arthur Foote…Foote set the concluding portion of the final canto of Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha (1885) for his The Farewell of Hiawatha (1886). This lengthy poem is generally considered the initial major work in American literature to elevate and humanize the Indian. Of more importance to this study is the remarkable resemblance between Longfellow’s Hiawatha and Jesus Christ. Each came to earth to help his people and returned to heaven when his mission was completed. Foote did not use aboriginal melodies in his cantata. Later composers did, however, as they were able to benefit from the work of ethnomusicologists, which began in earnest in the 1880s.” (Stopp, 392) Six months later another Foote premiere was conducted by Lang, but this time, with the Cecilia Society. The Club again performed this piece on May 10, 1938 under the direction of Thompson Stone. (Cipolla, 34)
On December 21, 1886, the Society gave its one-hundredth concert and featured the first American performance of Rinaldo by Brahms.The critic Ticknor in the Boston Herald of December 16th. felt-“If ever Brahms showed a cold, phlegmatic side to his nature he did it at the beginning of Rinaldo. The cantata would have been more warm-blooded had Max Bruch had a hand in its production.” (Johnson, 87)
Arthur Reed, the founding secretary mentioned that “it was a rather odd coincidence that the club was formed in seventy-one; “that we now have seventy-one active members, and that every one of that number was present at the one-hundredth concert given last evening.” (Syford, 165) Reed also thanked Lang who had conducted these one-hundred concerts, “barring accidents, such as the occasional breaking of an arm or a neck, or some other portion of his anatomy; but at such times it has been found he could easily conduct the Club with A Foote.” (Osborne, 33) The concert was held on December 20, 1886, and the featured work was Mendelssohn’s music for The Antigone of Sophocles ( written in 1841 within eleven days after being suggested by Mendelssohn’s new boss, William IV of Prussia) with the play being read by Mr. George Riddle in an English translation. The club was assisted by a full orchestra of forty players. (Traveller, undated and unsigned review) Apollo had given its first American performance on June 7, 1877. It was noted that the reading of such a play was very difficult as the reader had to take the part of six widely different characters. “In general, Mr. Riddle read with little exaggeration and with a well-drawn estimate of the work at hand.” (Ibid) Some in the audience found the work difficult to understand and left early. However, those who stayed to the end “much applauded” the Bacchus Chorus. The Advertiser wrote: “The presentation of such a work as Mendelssohn’s Antigone music with full orchestra, ample chorus, and adequate solo voices is a rare event in musical experience, and deserves handsome and hearty recognition whenever it can be accomplished.” Later in the review, the performance was called “Memorable.” (Advertiser, undated and unsigned review) The Journal also mentioned problems with the reading: Mr. Riddle’s was “marred by a sameness of expression and a tendency to use, in certain passages, a low voice, which was inaudible at the rear of the hall.” (Journal, December 221, 1886, unsigned review) As to the singing, the club “Gave the fullest evidence of the splendid results of Mr. Lang’s careful training” with special attention to “delicate shading, intonation and expression.” (Ibid)
Mention was made that one of the founding members, and also a member of the original Chickering Club, had moved to San Francisco, and there founded a singing group based on the Apollo Club. Reed also claimed that both the Boylston and Arlington Clubs of Boston had been founded in emulation of the Apollo model, and that Australian visitors from Melbourne modeled their choir on the Apollo and that a group in Sydney had, in turn, copied them!
Soloists had usually been selected from the choir but at the 105th. concert given in 1887, the soloist was Adele aus der Ohe, pianist. The Traveler writer was amazed that “the Music Hall contained four thousand people and was full a half-hour before the concert began. All seats are rush seats. Where else could there be such interest in music?” (Baker, 11)
Membership List from the December 5, 1887 program. Johnston Collection.
Another world premiere was the performance on February 16 and 23, 1887 of George Whitefield Chadwick’s humorous song, Jabberwocky with a text by Lewis Carroll, and the dedication on the printed copy (1886) was “To Our Society [Apollo Club of Boston].” The Club repeated this piece on December 10, 1887 and March 20, 1895. The review in the Musical Herald of April 1887 said: “The humor of Mr. Chadwick’s Jabberwocky cannot be overstated. It is a fine instance of a classical composer at play, and belongs to the healthy English school.” (Faucett, 161) The Post wrote: “It would be difficult to imagine anything nearer perfection than his treatment of the subject; its prevailing tone of mack-heroic, tragi-comedy is perfectly caught, and unfailingly maintained throughout.” (Post, unsigned review) The work was published in 1886 by Schmidt as part of the “Apollo Club Collection of Music for Male Voices” which by that time, 1886, had 16 pieces listed including two by Arthur Foote, The Farewell of Hiawatha and If Doughty Deeds. A note at the bottom of the front page stated that “Pianoforte accompaniments furnished separately.”
Also included at this performance were solos by Miss Anna L. Kelly from New York, Grieg’s Discovery, and another piece written for the club and given its world premiere, Sea Greeting by Arthur Thayer. The Home Journal devoted sixteen lines to a description of Thayer’s piece ending with: “All these we need hardly say are the distinguishing qualities of a masterpiece.” (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review) The March of the Monks of Bangor, premiered by the club April 22, 1881, was repeated in these concerts. The Post felt that this piece should be repeated at least once each season. “It is the sort of music which stirs the blood and sets the pulses going…It is full of vigor, the orchestration everywhere skillful and effective, and the melody, as in all Mr. Whiting’s writing, is abundant and original.” (Op. cit.) The final word belongs to the Home Journal: “It was the freshest concert that any vocal club has given in this city for many a day.” (Op. cit.)
The officers elected at the Annual Meeting in June 1888 were: Robert M. Morse, Jr.-President, George H. Chickering-Vice President, Arthur Reed-Clerk, Charles T. Howard-Treasurer, and John N. Danforth-Librarian. (Journal (June 6, 1888): 4, GB)
The Home Journal commented about the concerts given on December 4 and 10, 1888. “A partiality for German composers that does not seem wholly warranted, is often shown in the programmes for the Apollo Club concerts. This characteristic prevailed to a somewhat monotonous extent in the one-hundred-ninth. We see no reason why the Old English glees and madrigals should be so persistently neglected by the club. On the other hand, it is exceedingly liberal and appreciative on the treatment of native composers.” (Baker, 12) This last statement was reflected in this 109th. Concert as the opening piece was Hymn to Apollo written by the Boston composer, Arthur W. Thayer. The piece was “Written for the Apollo Club.” (Program, Johnston Collection) No copy is listed in the WorldCat Catalog. This same concert also included three songs composed by another Bostonian, Helen Hood. (Ibid) The use of native composers is also reflected in the 111th. Concert on December 4, 1888 where the twenty-seven-year-old Edward A. MacDowell was the soloist-he had just returned to the United States, partly at the suggestion of B. J.
Louis C. Elson was most complimentary about MacDowell who was the “chief interest” of these December 1888 concerts. “The fact is that Mr. MacDowell is a great addition to the ranks of resident composers. He is a manly, earnest composer, who not only has acquired the routine of his art but has something to say, a very refreshing contrast to those who are giving learned mediocrity to almost every concert programme in Boston.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson) Does one wonder who Elson had in mind? In this concert, MacDowell played Berceuse-Chopin, Hexentanz-MacDowell and Concert Study-MacDowell in the first half, and finished the second half playing the Hungarian Rhapsody-Liszt. (Program-Johnston Collection) The main choral work was the Boston (American?) premier of The Longbeard’s Saga by the English composer Lloyd. One reviewer found the work “over-long, and lacking in contrast,” the work was wholly for chorus, (Gazette, undated and unsigned review) but another wrote, “the composer has given to it a variety and a vivacity that makes it a very delightful thing to hear.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) The accompaniment was for piano and was played by Mr. E. Cutter, Jr.
The concerts on February 20 and 25, 1889 had Rinaldo by Brahms as the featured work. “The cantata is rather a phlegmatic affair. Throughout its measures one continually longs for the fire and melodic power of Bruch.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson) The other major work was the premieer of The Haunted Mill by Templeton Strong. He “is a composer of whom America will yet be proud, if the Haunted Mill is to be taken as a criterion of his work. A more poetic composition has not yet emanated from a native pen.” (Ibid) However, the audience gave the piece the least applause of the evening. The rest of the program was mainly short, a capella works. “It is in these unaccompanied works where the fine shading of the club is apparent, that the club excels. Here, also, is shown the able leadership of Mr. Lang.” (Journal, unadated and unsigned review) Howard Malcolm Ticknor recorded that “several pieces were encored and repetitions of others were asked for but refused.” (Globe (?), undated review by Howard Malcolm Ticknor-as recently as 1886 he was a bass in the choir) Ticknor also mentioned the choir’s program book-each front page of which was different. “It goes without saying that there was a beautifully engraved title to the book of words, in which Mr. Ipsen had caught the witching and seductive charm of Armida and that Shakespeare had yielded some most apt quotations to the studious demand of the secretary of the club, Mr. Reed.” (Ibid) The Courier also predicted a major career for Strong. “If this is a fair sample of what Mr. Strong can do, then he belongs to the very front rank of American composers, for there were poetry and beauty in every part of it, and also a thorough knowledge of the routine of orchestration was displayed.” (Courier, undated and unsigned review) The Home Journal reviewed the second performance of this program primarily to mention The Haunted Mill again. “In our report of last week inadequate mention was made of one of the brightest and best-written selections that the club performed, namely, Templeton Strong’s The Haunted Mill. It is one of the most commendable works that has yet been heard from this composer…There is a vast deal of learning in the music; the harmonic treatment is original even to the extent of being revolutionary, and the whole is remarkably well-orchestrated and vocalized.” (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review)
The May 1 and 6, 1889 concerts introduced Margaret’s The Maiden and the Butterfly. “I did not like Miss Lang’s The Maiden and the Butterfly as well as some other things she has written. It began well, but the short interjectional phrases seemed artificial and gave only thinness to parts of the work without attaining the archness and coquetry of the poem. The end was especially weak in this respect. But the young composer has proved that she does not often lapse into an inconsequential vein.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson) The Gazette found the piece “a little work, graceful in its tunefulness, but not equal to other things of the kind that we have had from the same source. It is over-elaborate for so simple a thing, and is somewhat confused and unsatisfactory in its effect.” (Gazette, unsigned and undated review) This piece, “ingenious in waltz form, [was] written for the club by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, [and is] …delicately wrought up from parts which have much independence and even some apparent contradictoriness, but which, when sung according to the writer’s injunctions, blend into a flowing and graceful tissue.” (Globe (?), undated review by Howard Malcolm Tichnor) “Miss Lang’s new piece is a subtle composition; the melody is constantly shifting in the parts, which move quite independently throughout. The composition is original, and, in view of the youth of the composer, we are led to say daring; it is trying to the voices, particularly the first tenor, who are asked to sustain a high note pianissimo in the closing measures…The design by Mr. Ipsen on the programme cover was symbolic of Miss Lang’s piece; a compliment to her and the club’s director such as the club’s secretary, Mr. Reed, is continually think of.” (“Musical Matters,” undated and unsigned) Thayer’s Heinz von Stein was repeated from its premier by the choir at the April 27, 1888 and May 2, 1888 concerts. The piece is “founded on two themes from Die Walkure, all sung with due spirit and humor.” (Ibid) “The Apollo has sung humorous matter as if they were all Scotchmen, and had not undergone the necessary preliminary of trepanning to get the jokes in their heads; but this time they not only saw all the funny points themselves, but really made other people see them.” (Ibid) Thayer was present at the concert and he and B. J. “shared the honors of repeated applause.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) B. J. made a rare appearance as a soloist playing “Chopin’s Etude in C-sharp minor, Schumann’s Abend, and Mendelssohn’s Fairy Revel caprice, the performance of which would be unpleasant and unprofitable to discuss.” (Ibid) However, Elson noted that none of the pieces were very difficult but “were shaded with a refinrment and played with an expression for which the pianist has not always received sufficient credit. The Menddelssohnian Fairy Revel was delicacy personified.” (Elson, Op. cit.). The program book for the second performance of this concert lists the date of Monday evening May 6, 1889 (116 Concert total-6th. concert of the 18th. Season), and the assisting artist was the singer Miss Flora E. Finlayson with Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. as the pianist.
The 1889 season involved the Apollo Club in a rather unusual performance. The New York Times reported on April 27, 1889 of “BOSTON’S FANCY BALL. THE SOCIETY OF THE HUB ARRAYED IN BRILLIANT COSTUMES. Boston, April 26. -The Artists’ Festival of the Art Students’ Association, for which the social world here has been preparing for two months, took place at the Museum of Fine Arts, while outside the wind howled and the rain poured down as it has not done before since the big gale of last November. Among the patronesses were Mrs. J. L. Gardner and Mrs. B. J. Lang, all patronesses wearing Venetian costumes of the sixteenth century. The Apollo Club, all dressed as pilgrims, sang, among their selections being the grand chorus from Tannhauser. B. J. Lang was listed among the members of the “Committee of Arrangements.” (New York Times, April 27, 1889)
With the 1888-1889 season ended, the choir had the annual supper at their rooms in the Chickering Building. A report appeared in the Musical Courier, published in New York City, probably written by Louis C. Elson. It was the custom to invite all former members to this event, and Thomas Hall, the sculptor, who sang the part of Elijah at the first American performance performed. “He still has an agreeable baritone voice, and sang The Protestant by Hatton, with fine effect.”(Musical Courier, May 12, 1889, “Music in Boston”) Other notable members were mentioned-A. Parker Browne, “a veteran in musical work”; Allen A. Brown, “who possess a musical library that causes me to break the tenth commandment every time I visit him”; John Winch who, had an active singing career and also great success in the “wholesale shoe trade”; B. J., who in addition to “his enormous work in teaching, may be called the king of clubs, for he is active in almost all of the leading musical clubs we have and have had;” Will Winch, “whose voice is as sweet as his ways are hearty.” (Ibid)
The 19th. Annual Meeting took place at the “club rooms, 151 Tremont Street” on Tuesday, June 4, 1889. Among the officers elected were President-Hon. John Lathrop, Vice Presiden-George H. Chickering, Treasurer-Charles Howard, Clerk-Arthur Reed, and Committee on Music-Harry Fay. (Journal (June 5, 1889): 3, GB) Soon after this meeting, the club was told that Harvey and Co., their landlord, that Apollo Hall was needed for piano storage. The officers felt that Chickering Hall would not be an appropriate rehearsal space, and so they decided to share the room with the pianos, moving them to one side each Tuesday night, and then, at the end of the rehearsal, moving the pianos back. This arrangement lasted one year. By June 1890 a new rehearsal space had been found at 2 Park Street.
For the Apollo concerts of Friday evening December 6 and Monday evening December 9, 1889 at the Music Hall, Margaret Ruthven Lang did an orchestration of the male choral piece Estudiantina by Paul Lacome
[1838-1920] “the accompaniment to which was arranged in a very dainty and charming manner for orchestra.” It was given “most delightfully, and was redemanded.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) The Post review said that the orchestration “was delicately done; so prettily that the absence of the castanets was but a pleasing relief from the usual methods”. (Scrapbooks) For this concert, the chorus numbered 75 and the orchestra 44. (MYB, 1889-90, 14) The major work in this concert was the American premiere of Damon and Pythias by the English composer Ebenezer Prout which filled the first half of the concert. It had been written just a year before. The piece “makes a good impression upon a first hearing, and promises to wear well.” (Transcript, Op. cit.) After a long list of Prout’s education and professional career highlights, and after generally positive comments about the piece, the Traveler ended: “The feeling left after the performance was one of disappointment and regret that he had not more fully availed himself of his opportunities in the handling of so grand a subject .” (Traveler, undated and unsigned review) Estudiantina was repeated at the March 5, 1893 “Miscellaneous Concert” which was also accompanied by an orchestra. (MYB 1892-93, 15)
Words from the Program of Friday night, December 6, 1889 at the Music hall: 107th. Concert, 1st. Concert of the 19th. season. Johnston Collection.
It seems that people leaving concerts during the final number had become a problem. To deal with this, a sentence was placed in the program just before the words of the final piece: “Those who wish to leave the hall before the end of the concert are respectfully, but earnestly, requested to do so during this pause.” (Program December 3, 1890-Johnston Collection) Then the length of the final piece was then given so that the concert-goer could decide if leaving was really necessary.
Around 1889 the group was described: “the Apollo Club still occupies an honorable position in Boston, the concerts being sold out at the beginning of the season, the audiences being distinguished for elegance and musical appreciation-a combination rare outside the limits of Boston. The standard of vocal work in this society has always been high, and it was one of the first to introduce many of the better class of compositions of this school.” (Howe–One Hundred Years, 428)“Among the names on the list of the original fifty-two members is that of Henry Clay Barnabee of “The Bostonians” fame; also Myron W. Whitney, the great bass.” (Syford, 165)
From the Program Book for the 116th. Concert, Monday Evening May 6, 1889. Johnston Collection.
The February 19 and 24, 1890 concerts again included a world premier-The Knights and the Naiads by Templeton Strong for Soprano, Alto and Bass soloists, male choir and orchestra was sung. This piece had been written for the Apollo Club. The poem was originally in German; “But German humor is often another name for German rudeness…The result is an exhibition of ingenuity; but where is the music? This trivial subject is treated as though it were a symphonic poem…The composition throughout is musical hifalutin…Truly there is ingenious writing for the orchestra; but it is labored, often irrelevant and sometimes impertinent; while the voice parts are inexcusably uninteresting and difficult. (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review, but probably by Hale) The “German rudeness” referred to by the first reviewer is described in more detail by the Beacon. “It is a setting of a long and not attractive German ballad, the point of which is a feeble mother-in-law joke, and its most interesting and valuable portions lie almost exclusively in the orchestral score, which is often fanciful, quaint and absolutely original.” (Beacon, undated and unsigned review) This writer found the chorus and solo parts unmelodious and unvocal. “The orchestra did pretty well with their share, and the singers, considering the difficulties they had to meet, did wonders.” (Ibid) Also sung was Whiting’s Henry of Navarre, Opus 48 for tenor solo, male choir and orchestra which was originally written for the Apollo Club. “There are effective passages of a descriptive nature for the orchestra, but the work is too heavily scored. There is little contrast; the brass and the drums are too busy. The orchestra is so used that the voices are covered.” (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review) “It is an extremely elaborate composition, not always easy to sing or to hear, the accompaniment contains many bold and brilliant suggestions of battle and its excitement, but it really does not add much. (Beacon, undated and unsigned review) Arthur Weld in the Post disliked the Whiting. “This composition is openly uninteresting and so noisily scored, as far as the orchestra is concerned, that at times one’s ears suffered severely.” The choir he praised: “The work was sung in a conscientious and painstaking manner by the club, and the orchestra (especially the brass) played very well.” (Post, undated review by Arthur Weld) Elson was disappointed in Strong’s work, especially after he had praised an earlier work, The Haunted Mill by calling it “an honor to the American repertoire…The female voices in the trio of the Naiads were not quite in Character. Naiads can swim, but these sank distressingly.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson) Whiting’s work was also compared negatively to his earlier Monks of Bangor. “Taber’s Cannibal Idyl was one of the great successes of the evening, its pretty waltz theme for first basses and its direct humor charming everyone.” (Ibid)
At the choir’s mid-winter supper a parody was performed where the club’s secretary, Mr. Arthur Reed combined texts from the Knights and the Naiads and Cannibal Idyl which resulted in a new poem of three stanzas, The Knights and the Cannibals. “The music was a bit of patchwork, made out of original tunes by Mr. Arthur Thayer.” (Ibid) The poem began: “Twelve cannibal Naiads loved too well, Twelve helpless Knights of old. And charmingly their love did tell, For passion made them bold; But the Knights held back, for they were poor, And had nothing in the bank. And the maidens’ wardrobes seemed to be Almost a perfect blank. ‘T was a problem vexing, vexing quite, For every maid and every Knight…But a youth appeared, to their great surprise, Who had known the girls of old…And those twelve Maids each lost a Knight.” (Ibid)
The April 30 and May 5, 1890 concerts featured the famous violinist, Maud Powell, and the third appearance of B. J.’s only piece for men’s choir, Hi-fi-link-i-le. It had been premiered in February of 1884 and sung again in May of 1887. Its humorous style was appropriate for the end of the Apollo season. “It was written with a decided bias toward the bass parts, and it has as much unison work as a chant of the third century, but, all the same, it is jolly, and it shows that the man who has done so much for the club music of Boston is as yet a youth as any of us.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson)
“Musical Matters” noted: “As for directing from the piano, Mr. Lang does it all the time at rehearsals, and the club likes it.” The Post reviewer, Arthur Weld seemed to be in a bad mood: “There is no denying the fact that there is very little good music written for men’s voices…The smaller pieces are all more or less dreadful.” (Post, undated review by Arthur Weld) Weld made reference to the accompanist but said it was Mrs. Marsh [a Lang piano pupil] which brought forth the following Letter to the Editor: “The enterprising musical critic of the esteemed Post must have heard the Apollo concert rather with his imagination than his senses, for he confounds Mr. Lang with a woman and attributes to Mrs. Marsh, who was ill at home, the piano accompaniments, which were all played by that gentleman, undisguised by any feminine apparel. He also says, “Mr. Lang was recently quoted in a contemporary as having uttered some very sound and sweeping statements with regard to the granting of encores, but last night he seemed to have forgotten these remarks, or else has changed his mind. The most feeble and scattering applause was sufficient to insure a repetition, and it was hard to keep count the number which were granted.” The fact is, that but one encore was given by the club and this after Mr. Lang had been called out three times, while the solo artists-with whose encores the conductor had nothing to do, of course-Miss Powell yielded once and Miss Howe repeated the last page of her first air and added a new song after her second selection upon almost universal demand.”
The December 3 and 8, 1890 concerts, which opened their twentieth season, included the premiere of The Jumblies. The Transcript of December 8 noted that in spite of the stormy night, the audience at the Music Hall was full. “The programme was carried out in a manner that reflects great credit upon all concerned. The parts were well balanced and, and all the numbers were sung with precision and steadiness.” Margaret’s piece was “given with spirit,” by the reviewer didn’t find much humor in the piece, although he did admit that it was very difficult to create humor through “musical tones and harmonies.” Louis Elson in the Advertiser of December 4 also didn’t find much merriment in the work, and “felt sorry to find a brilliant young composer giving a set of merely correct harmonies to a succession of nonsense verses.” (Scrapbook 1887-1906) Another premier was Hymn to Apollo by Mr. A. W. Thayer. The Courier recorded: “This number was excellently given, and cordially received;” it was the longest work on the program. Of the Lang, it wrote: “Considering the light humor of the subject, the music seemed somewhat heavy and labored, and the elaborate pianoforte accompaniments…also appeared to be the result of too much deliberate calculation.” The actual performance was poor. “Doubt and uncertainty seemed to affect the minds of chorus, players, and, presumably, conductor.” Mr. Cutter and Mr. Nevin were the pianists playing very “artistically.” (Courier, undated review by T. P. Currier)
Text as it appeared in the December 3, 1890 program. Johnston Collection.
The poor reviews continued. The Home Journal printed: “Miss Lang’s composition written expressly for the club is not at all in the spirit of the words and is barren of melody. The pianoforte parts are more interesting in her piece than the parts allotted to the voices.” (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review) Philip Hale had moved to the Post and began his review with praise for the chorus whose performance was “marked by precision of attack, steadiness in tempo, correct intonation and an agreeable balancing of parts.” (Post, undated review by Philip Hale) After the three lines of praise were ten lines of criticism which included “each singer seemed to tie his voice in a hard knot and throw it from him.” (Ibid) The Jumblies he called the “Novelty” of the evening. “The text calls for simple, jolly music…The voice parts are not always graceful, and this is surprising, for, in songs already published, Miss Lang has shown no mean skill in writing for the voice. The composition lacks clearness, directness and humor; its frenzy is out of place.” (Ibid) Finally, another reviewer felt: “Miss Lang’s possible purpose was to develop a mock-heroic style. But since there is very little of the positively funny in music, and especially since subtieties of humor are almost impossible of expression in musical tones and harmonies, successfully to carry out with vocal or instrumental means the droll conceits of a rhymster requires both native humor and a mastery of the science of music on the part of the composer.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) The reviewer felt that Margaret possessed neither qualification. B. E. Woolf of the Gazette was not a Lang supporter. His evaluation of The Jumblies was: “It is curious as a total misconception by the composer of the spirit of the words to which she has set music. It was all too earnest, and was not over clear, especially in the contrapuntal part-writing for voices, which was in itself very ‘jumbly’ in effect. It does not do justice to Miss Lang, who has achieved far better work.” (Gazette, undated review by B. E. Woolf) Woolf didn’t like the Hymn to Apollo either. “It is an over-long and rambling composition, a bit of high aspiring nothingness, manufactured with much industry, a little skill, and no taste. It does not say anything, and it says it with noisy dullness. It was sung with great fire, but made no very favorable impression.” (Ibid) The reviewer “G. H. W.” heard both performances of Margaret’s piece. “Miss Lang’s imagination is considerable, but her humor is wanting…[the piece] is well written for the voices, ambitiously so, it is true, with unexpected harmonies…In parts it swings along confidently, the rhythms are all effective, and it has both color and contrast. A second hearing gives one a better idea of the work.” (G. H. W. undated review with no newspaper information) Of the Thayer work he wrote: “Arthur Thayer’s Hymn only needs judicious condensing to show how strong are its ideas and how excellent is the workmanship.” (Ibid)
The February 11 and 16, 1891 concerts included three repeats; the Free Lances by Whiting, The Haunted Mill by Templeton Strong and three movements from the Language of Flowers by Cowen. The Courier wrote of Free Lances: “This work is ingenious and tuneful, and shows again the fondness of its composer for stirring, martial effects which he has before demonstrated. its spirit and brilliancy, as well as its novelty, at once established its popularity; and it was enthusiastically received.” (Courier, undated and unsigned review) Of the Strong piece, he noted: “Mr. Strong has illustrated with much exquisiteness of touch in the orchestral part of the score; his combinations of the various instruments, producing effects that are exceedingly picturesque, as well as artistic. The vocal portion is charming in fancy, and, though difficult, well adapted to the voices.” (ibid) The Gazette referred to these two pieces; “Free Lances, with its impressive scoring and its pervading fire and brilliancy,” and “Strong’s The Haunted Mill, the orchestration of which again pleased by its grace and fancy.” (Gazette, undated and unsigned review) A long review by G. H. W. mentioned all eleven pieces in the concert pretty much equally. “Strong’s The Haunted Mill was most important. It is a charming and imaginative piece of writing. The voices are handled normally, and in detail, and are ever musicianly…Free Lances, a martial piece with a too extended episode of revery, is always welcome, yet it revives a regret we have before expressed concerning Mr. Whiting’s present tendency to neglect composition; he writes so well and has such a manly and virile manner that it is a pity his vocation as a teacher should take his energy and time.” (G. H. W., undated review in the Traveler) G. H. W. also mentioned that Margaret had done the English translation of the opening number by Cornelius, a chorus from his opera Barber of Bagdad. (Ibid) C. L. Capen of the Advertiser wrote: “Mr. Whiting always writes with a free hand, a warm heart and a clear head,” and Capen found Free Lances to be melodious, skillful and ear-catching. (C. L. Capen, undated review in the Advertiser) The Haunted Mill was “simply exquisite; is pregnant with delicious harmonies and enchanting strains, with mystically harmonious and melodic breathings…Both compositions were charmingly well sung.” (Ibid) To Philip Hale goes the last word. “Free Lances is an ambitious and original work. It opens admirably, but the interest is not sustained unto the end, and the arrangements of words is occasionally clumsy…Strong’s Haunted Mill is full of fantasy and the instruments are treated with skill which is no so marked in the vocal parts.” One of Cowen’s orchestral pieces was encored. ‘The Yellow Jasmine,’ a charming piece of orchestral uniting, was repeated, so pleasing was it to the audience.”(Philip Hale, undated review with no newspaper cited)
At the April 29, Monday evening May 4, 1891 concerts at the Music Hall Mr. G. L. Parker, tenor, sang B. J. Lang’s Nocturne in a program with orchestral accompaniment that opened with Chadwick’s Song of the Viking and ended with Schumann’s The Dreamy Lake and Mendelssohn’s “Bacchus Chorus” from Antigone, the last two pieces with the additional help of “fifty former members of the Club.” (Yearbook, Vol. 10, 15) Also in the program was Chadwick’s The Boy and the Owl. (Program-Johnston Collection)
The officers elected at the end of April 1891 were: President-Arnold A. Rand, Vice-President-George H. Chickering, Secretary-Arthur Reed, Treasurer-Charles T. Howard, Librarian-John N. Danforth and Conductor-B. J. Lang. The Committee on Music-Allen A Brown, Harry Fay and George J. Parker; Committee on Voices, John H. Stickney, George C. Wiswell, L. H. Chubbuck and Henry Carey; Honorary Members, Charles James Sprague, George H. Chickering and B. J. Lang. The membership was listed: 35 tenors and 37 basses. There were only 8 original members still in the chorus. Included was the photograph of Charles James Sprague, a non-member who had done so many of the English translations of the pieces that Apollo had performed.
The annual dinner “was the most interesting of any in the series.” (Undated and unsigned article) The club’s “witty” secretary had prepared a four-page program with the title “Musical Ear Book.” It contained everything that one needed to attend concerts successfully. “Copies will be sent to every alleged musical person whose address is known.” (Ibid) Reports of the activities of important musicians were also included. For B. J.: “Ho for Europe. Small commissions will be undertaken this season at London, Paris, Bayreuth and Vienna, and a select party personally conducted at Cook’s prices. Grand pianofortes will accompany the excursion and lessons will be given daily. Refers to the menagerie of 1888. While on shipboard instruction in penmanship will be given. A legible and beautiful hand guaranteed.” (Ibid)
In the same spirit of fun, the club presented a Minstrel Show as part of its 20th. anniversary events. Twenty members took part. “Howard M. Ticknor covered himself with glory as interlocutor. The jokes were positively new and original…Arthur Thayer, whose sedate dignity of appearance and manner is exceedingly deceptive, had arranged a howlingly funny burlesque on the Hymn to Apollo [his own work] which shows him to be as clever in a literary as in a musical way. Indeed, everybody and everything was burlesqued, even to the recent sacred rite of the Parsifal performance. The programme was a caricature of the Apollo concert programmes. (Undated and unsigned article)
There were no reviews saved from the May 4, 1891 concert.
The first home of the Club would seem to have been in the Odd Fellows Building. “The Apollo Club will have a new hall in [the] Odd fellows Building, at a rental of three-thousand dollars a year.” (Folio, June 1872) Then, ten years later the June 2, 1882 issue of Music reported: “It [the Apollo Club] has for nearly ten years occupied very pleasant and convenient rooms, with a small hall for its rehearsals, all of which were specially built for the club at No. 151 Tremont Street overlooking the Common.In its hall the “Cecilia,” a mixed-voice club, formed on the plan of the “Apollo holds its rehearsals, and many chamber concerts have also been given here.” (Scrapbook) Madame Marie Bishop used the “Hall of the Apollo Club” for a Complimentary Concert on Monday evening, May 17, 1875 in which B. J. Lang was one of the assisting artists. In the first half he played the piano part in Rubinstein”s Trio in B Flat major (first movement), and then accompanied Wulf Fries, cellist, in the Sarabande and Gavotte by Bach, while he opened the second half with two piano solos, the Bouree in G Major by Handel and a Diversion in C Major of his own composition. He also was the accompanist to August Fries, violin, in the Cavatina by Raff and the Leid by David (HMA Program Collection). “The July 5, 1890 issue of the Traveller noted the change of the club”s rooms to a location over Doll and Richards Print Shop.”The Apollo Club, after seventeen years” occupancy of Apollo Hall and the club-rooms which were arranged for their use when the building Nos. 151 to 153 Tremont Street was erected, have been obliged to move, as Harvey and Co., the present lessees of the building and successors of Chickering and Sons in their retail business, have decided to use Apollo Hall for a pianoforte wareroom. On the fourth, the club took possession of their new rooms in Warren Building, No. 2 Park Street, formerly known as the Hawthorne Rooms, and the active members had a very jolly house-warming. The rooms, which are beautifully located, with five windows on Park Street and two in the rear are admirably arranged for the club use, both for rehearsals and social purposes.” (Baker, 14)
Handel and Haydn History, Vol. 2, 24.
On November 18, 1891 the choir sang at the funeral of John H. Stickney who was the only surviving member of J. C. D. Parker’s original twelve singers of the Chickering Club. Such changes were reflected in Phillip Hale’ review of an 1892 concert where he wrote, “the first tenors are not now as strong as of old. Death and resignation took away valuable old members” (Baker, 15) However H. M. Ticknor (bass in the choir and on the Harvard faculty) wrote in the Globe “of first tenors applying for membership, 31% are accepted, 26% of second tenors are accepted, and only one out of every five basses who apply are admitted to membership.” However critics grew more negative as reflected by this 1894 comment from B. E. Woolf in the Gazette-“B. J. Lang’s prevailing weakness as a conductor is evident…[he is] somewhat of an anachronism.”(Baker, 15)
The December 2 and 7, 1891 concerts featured the violinist Maud Powell as the main assisting artist with Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. as her accompanist. She played three pieces in the first half. Margaret translated Serenade Conradi.
The February 17 and 23, 1892 concerts included orchestral accompaniment for The Trumpeter by Templeton Strong and the March of the Monks of Bangor by Whiting. The Strong work was “rendered unsatisfactory by the careless and oft noisy playing of the orchestra…although the club sang-well, as only the Apollo club can; for better singing from an ensemble of male voices is difficult to imagine.” (Home Journal, undated and unsigned review) “The only new selection on the program was a cradle song by MacDowell. It was sung unaccompanied and with exquisite delicacy and refinement.” (Ibid) Warren Davenport, who had previously sung in the club, wrote of the Strong piece: “The Trumpeter, by Mr. Strong, one of our townsmen, is bold and vigorous in the orchestral treatment and weak in the vocal score. It don’t [sic] seem to be placed in the voices just right to bring out the desired effect to balance the orchestral work…The March of the Monks of Bangor, by Mr. Whiting, is a familiar number of the Apollo repertoire and is an effective piece of writing brilliantly scored, the contrast being found in an episode, ‘O Miserere Domine.'” (Globe, undated review by Warren Davenport) The Journal also mentioned the orchestra, “the obtrusiveness of the brasses, the trumpeters being, apparently unduly impressed with their responsibilities and failed to always blow ‘so sweet a tone.'” (Journal, undated and unsigned review) The MacDowell “was beautifully sung, and received merited applause. The concert closed with George E. Whiting’s March of the Monks of Bangor. It was sung several years ago by this organization, but it was practically new to the audience and to many of the chorus.” (Ibid) This is but one example of how Lang supported local composers, not only with premier performances but with repeat performances. Louis C. Elson wrote of Strong piece: ” After hearing several of Mr. Strong’s compositions I believe him to be the foremost of the young American composers in ease of treatment of orchestra and in spontaneity of ideas, but I found this work more prolic than his beautiful Haunted Mill, in spite of some romantic touches.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson) He also wrote highly of Whiting: “Mr. George E. Whiting has not yet been accorded the rank in the East that his compositions entitle him to…[the] Monk’s of Bangor is a work which, by itself, might make him famous.” (Ibid) However, he did not praise this particular performance. It “was taken at a helter-skelter pace, as if the monks were in the direst hurry, and, as a consequence, the orchestral work had many blemishes, and the noble work took on a perfunctory character which was by no means the fault of the composer.” (Ibid) The Transcript devoted one/fifth of its space to the music: “Mr. Whiting’s March of the Monks of Bangor has been heard before; it is unquestionably a brilliant piece of writing, although one finds here and there a touch of triviality.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) The remaining four/fifths was given over to a diatribe about the fact that the Apollo concerts did not have assigned seats. This created a situation not found at other concerts-in order to get a good seat, people came early. Then, when the critic arrived at the last minute, he was stuck in the remaining poor seats. “To ask a critic to wait in the queue before the doors are opened, in order to get a good seat, or to put up with what pickings he can find, if he arrives strictly on time, or after time, is simply a breach of ordinary ‘showman’s’ etiquette. Critics are accustomed to be treated with a certain consideration. It is no good answer to say that the critic has as fair a chance at an Apollo concert as anyone else in the audience; elsewhere he has a better chance, and, we may add without undue presumption, he has a perfect claim to it.” (Ibid) Warren Davenport took the opposite position. He noted how good it was to have everyone seated before the concert began. “Take, for instance, the last Cecila Club concert; people were coming in and demanding their places as late as 9 o’clock, one whole hour after the concert began. Take the Symphony concerts, also. Every Saturday evening, after the first piece is over, there is a disturbance caused by a hundred or more latecomers, who would probably not come on time, if the hour of beginning were as late as 9 o’clock. And so it is at every other entertainment, except the Apollo. This argument alone should encourage the club to never change the plan, especially as the recent talk of changing to the reserved-seat plan arose only from the complaints of a very few members and the grumbling of a critic or two.” (Undated article by Warren Davenport, probably from the Globe)
The final concerts of the season were held on April 27 and May 2, 1892 with the violinist, Camilla Urso, as the main instrumental soloist. The concert opened and closed with a double chorus from Mendelssohn’s Antigone. Foote’s partsong, I Love My Love, was encored as was Thayer’s Heinz von Stein. Also encored was a new partsong by the choir’s accompanist, Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. entitled Farewell. The work “showed not only originality in the composition but rare skill in the vocal placing of the parts. There was a most effective and sustained climax in the piece, and the club have [sic] never sang [sic] with greater effect anything in its repertoire than was gained in the performance of this fine piece of writing by M. Cutter.” (Traveler, undated and unsigned review) Elson felt that Foote’s piece deserved its encore, “although more directness and less contrapuntal imitation in the refrain would have improved the composition.” (Advertiser, undated review by Louis C. Elson) The Beacon felt that Cutter’s piece was “the vocal gem of the programme, for although unpretentious in manner, it was imbued with such fine poetic sentiment and grew so naturally to climax of feeling, that the men sang it as if they were almost inspired, and the audience received it with deep and warm enthusiasm.” (Beacon, undated and unsigned review) This was followed by eighteen lines of technical analysis!
Tuesday, June 7, 1892 the club held their 22nd. Annual Meeting “at their rooms, 2A Park Street.” Among those elected were: Arnold A. Rand-President, Vice President-Geroge H. Chickering, Clerk-Arthur Reed, and Committee on Music for three years-Henry Fay, (Journal (June 8, 1892): 3, GB)
The opening concert of the twenty-second season was given Tuesday, November 22, 1892 at the Music Hall which “was filled as usual with an audience that applauded heartily the club and the soloists.” (Journal (November 23, 1892): 7, GB) Philip Hale found the opening Longbeard’s Saga by Lloyd “longwinded and tedious” although he did remark that “as a whole, the concert was worthy of the reputation of the club.” (Ibid) Again Lang was repeating compositions that he believed deserved a second performance.
For the 136th. concert, performed on Wednesday, January 18, 1893 at the Music Hall with the violinist Franz Kneisel, concertmaster of the Boston Symphony as the assisting artist. B. J.s piano student Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. was the accompanist. The concert opened with St. John’s Eve by Rheinberger, and also in the first half was the world premiere of Margaret’s Boatman’s Hymn ” written for the Apollo Club.” The baritone solo was sung by Mr. T. E. Clifford. In the second half was Proposal by the Boston singer/conductor/composer, George L. Osgood. (Concert Program, Johnston Collection) Davenport’s review began with praise for the chorus. “It is but to repeat the old, old story to speak of the delightful singing of the Apollo Club and to again praise the careful and conscientious training of the chorus by Mr. Lang that has year after year brought forth such admirable results.” (Globe, undated review) The Boatman’s Hymn was mentioned in this review. “The piece can be praised for its originality and effectiveness, generally speaking, although it is not always well sustained in the writing; still, however, it is a credit to the youthful composer, who has written many lesser pieces with marked success, and bids fair to shine in more extensive works.” (Ibid) Osgood’s piece was not mentioned. The Transcript wrote: “Miss Lang’s song with its quaint Irish words was given with a rollicking dash, but the pianoforte and the voices disagreed in the matter of pitch, and the effect was somewhat marred. Everything else was finely given and enthusiastically applauded. Mr. Kneisel’s solos were in his best style, with all the artistic sincerity that places him in the foremost ranks of violinists…The artist was recalled again and again.” (Transcript, unsigned and undated review) Elson devoted one-third of his apace to Margaret’s work. “Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang’s setting of the Boatman’s Hymn (and an odd ‘hymn’ the dashing lines make) was not altogether up to the wild spirit of the poem. Yet it had its points of great excellence. The beginning was rich and original in its harmonies, and the imitative passages, flung to and fro in the vocal parts, were thoroughly in keeping with the subject. The solo (sung by Mr. Clifford) was tame in comparison…But the effect of the refrain, ‘Tide top, on the tide top, ho!’ was inspiring and inspired, and the young composer has again shown good promise in her work.” (Louis C. Elson, undated review in the Advertiser) An anonymous reviewer also found the solo weak. “Miss Lang’s Boatman’s Hymn, which is musicianly in idea and treatment and full of spirit in its earlier portions. The solo is less excellent and less characteristic.” (Anonymous review, undated and no paper cited)
On March 5 and 8, 1893, for a “Miscellaneous Program with Orchestra,” Margaret Ruthven Lang prepared a second “orchestral accompaniment” for
Estudiantina by Paul Lacome. (Yearbook, Vol. 10, 15) The first arrangement had been made and performed on December 6, 1889. (Program-Johnston Collection) “Miss Lang’s second scoring of the accompaniment of Lacome’s Estudiantina is very effective-the first was quite good enough, for matter of that-and shows no little skill in handling the orchestra.” (Transcript, undated and unsigned review) (Why did Margaret destroy all her orchestral pieces?) The first half of the concert was Bruch’s Scenes from Frithiof’s Saga (with orchestra), which was “a work ever welcome, perhaps the best thing the composer ever did.” (Ibid) There was also a piece by John R[einhold, 1859-1925) Lund entitled March to Battle for choir and orchestra. “Of the pieces with orchestra Estudiantina was the most successful and required an encore. In the Frithiof the voices were overburdened by the players, so that much, if not most, of the vocal effect, was lost. A most questionable arrangement of singers and players was had by which the forces were divided, the voices being on the left of the conductor, and the instruments on the right.” (Globe, Davenport undated review). This proved to be very unsatisfactory. The Gazette also mentioned the awkward placement of singers and orchestra. Pieces by Chadwick and MacDowell were also performed. The Gnome Dance by Mr. MacDowell, is a quaint and exceedingly clever idea, worked out with fine skill and humor, and Mr. Chadwick’s The Boy and the Owl is delightful fooling. Both compositions were cordially received. MacDowell did not attend the concert and he regretted this as it was reported that his piece had an “enormous success.” This was confirmed in an unusual manner. When MacDowell later met Chadwick he was looking very sour (Chadwick’s piece had followed MacDowell’s). (Bomberger, MacD, 176) “Miss Lang’s orchestral arrangement of Lacome’s Estudiantina shows admirable understanding of instrumental effects, and is an able and a dainty bit of work, that was redemanded and repeated.” (Gazette, undated and unsigned review) Philip Hale mentioned that Lang had to turn to face the orchestra and then turn back to direct the choir. “As a result, there was a lack of precision, and the orchestra, as a rule, overpowered the singers.” (Journal (March 9, 1893): 10, GB) Hale then suggested his solution: “The singers should be close to the audience; the orchestra should be seated on an inclined platform behind the singers. Then the conductor can control the men; he can govern the singers and subdue the noble rage of the players.” (Ibid.)
The May 3, 1893 featured Henri Marteau, violinist, as the assisting artist; Mr. E. Cutter, Jr. was the accompanist. Elson called the program “musical confectionery.” (Louis C. Elson, Advertiser, undated review) G. L. Osgood’s new part song, In Picardie, was premiered; it had been written for the Apollo Club. “This resident composer has a gift for melody that is sure to win popularity for everything he writes…the graceful harmony causes the musician to be satisfied.” It was encored (Ibid) Also encored was Arthur Sullivan’s “Friar Tuck’s Song” from Ivanhoe with the solo sung by club member Mr. Ivan Morawski. Davenport commented on changes in the club. “As the amateur element has entered more and more into the ranks of the club supplanting the older musicians, that wonderful tone quality and artistic breadth which was indemnified with its singing when its membership embraced many of our best professional talent, has gradually disappeared never to be restored…The skillful handling of capable amateur talent can, however, be made to bring good results, and it is upon this basis that the future of the club must rest.” (Globe, Warren Davenport, undated review) Other reviewers had made comments on the first tenor sound being less glorious than in years before. The Journal, in speaking about the Osgood piece, noted that “the lights and shades in this number were deliciously artistic…Mr. Lang is to be congratulated for the season’s success and for the fitting close to which his skill has brought the season.” (Journal, unsigned and undated review)
The November 22, 1893 concert had Mrs. Emil Paur, the wife of the Boston Symphony, making her Boston debut. “Her performance was that of a conscientious, careful but impassive player.” (Globe, Davenport, undated review) Choral highlights of the concert included Mr. Frank van Stucken’s arrangement of Foster’s Old Folks at Home, which was called a “palpable hit,” and Arthur Foote’s Bedouin Song which ended the concert. There was a new accompanist, Mr. Arthur Bassett. The Journal began its review: “Mr. Lang has brought his forces to a degree of such enviable perfection that scarcely a defect can be found by the most critical.” (Journal, unsigned and undated review) This reviewer was more impressed by Mrs. Paur. Her first piece, by Mendelssohn, was “almost perfect, she seemed to have that rare gift, the true Chopin rubato,” and her final selection, a mazurka by Godard was “faultless in execution and rendering, ending a performance that was artistic in every respect.” (Ibid)
A review of the contents of the August 1893 issue of the magazine Music. devotes the longest paragraph to the article by Mr. Apthorp, critic of the Transcript entitled “B. J. Lang.” The writer begins with the evaluation: “Mr. Apthorp places his friend before the public in a very generous manner,” and after correcting some dates, he ends: “in most respects, Mr. Lang merits all that Mr. Apthorp has claimed for him. He has been a useful and worthy adjunct in the musical affairs of Boston for the past 30 years.” (Undated and undated review)
The club’s 140th. concert was given on January 17, 1894 with the singer Miss Marguerite Hall, taking the place of Miss Currie Duke, the violinist who was ill. Mr. Bassett was the pianist and Mr. A. J. Fairbanks the organist. Among the choral pieces the To My Turtle Dove by Henschel “won a hearty encore, and is in the clever composer’s best vein.” (Advertiser, Louis C. Elson, undated review) “Dudley Buck’s King Olaf’s Christmas was the most ambitious work of the evening. The accompaniment of piano and cabinet organ was very effective, and the uniting of these two instruments should be more frequently made by composers in America; it is a familiar combination in France.” (Ibid) The Transcript found the Buck not “successful, but it [the choir] cannot be blamed for not putting into the composition what the composer could not supply-dramatic force and color…The audience was large and appreciative, and evidently had a sweet tooth in matters musical.” (Transcript, unsigned and undated review)
The major work on the March 7, 1894 concert was the American premiere of The Sea by Jean Louis Nicode, a symphonic ode for male choir, soprano solo and orchestra-the words were translated from the German by Mrs. John P. Morgan. This was the first performance of the complete work; two orchestral numbers had been given in New York by Mr. Seidl. “A. A. B.” wrote a detailed description of the work that had been premiered in Dresden in 1888 and then sung all over Europe “wherever male choruses have been found sufficiently large and daring to attempt so great a work.” (Transcript, undated article by A. A. B.) Sixty-five men from the Cecilia Society aided this performance. The work was “by far the most important work for a male chorus and orchestra that has been published since the days of Mendelssohn. Even the Rinaldo of Brahms, the Frithjof of Max Bruch, or any of the important works of Rubinstein, Draeske, or Raff, fails to approach it either in sublimity of subject or in dignity of treatment. It is in every respect a colossal work [performance time c. 50 minutes], a monument to the genius of its composer, and worthy of a place by the side of the best-acknowledged masterpieces.” (Ibid) Davenport agreed with this position: “The Sea is a work of wonderful power, and the composer is a genius. I know of no similar composition that approaches it in beauty, dignity and spontaneity.” (Globe, undated review by Warren Davenport) Two partsongs by MacDowell were part of the second half. “Dance of Gnomes, brisk and unctious in its fine definition, and Cradle Song, delicate and soft in its effect, and of the flowing, cantabile description.” (Ibid) The Advertiser gave the total number of singers as 120, but even this number “was not equal to the gigantic task in power.” (Advertiser, undated and unsigned review) The work was described as: “The work is a stupendous one, splendidly conceived and treated with the genius of a master. In style, it is nearly akin to Wagner; as a tone picture, whether for voice or instrument, it is truly sublime.” (Ibid) The opposite view was taken by the Gazette reviewer (probably B. E. Woolf). “It is a work of slight interest, and of no permanent musical value. The Introduction, for the orchestra alone, fitly herds the noise, the dreadful cacophony and the sensationalism.” (Gazette, unsigned and undated review) Woolf did like the choral part writing: “The composer shows, throughout, rare skill in writing for voices in combination.” He wrote on a number of occasions a positive point in the first half of the sentence, only to negate it in the second half. “This composition is abundant in learning, especially in connection with the use of the orchestra and voices; but, as a whole, it is pretentiously blatant, uninspired and tiresome.” (Ibid) The final two-thirds of the review concerned a critique of Lang as a conductor. Even though he had made this point before, he felt it appropriate to restate it in great detail. “As we have suggested in this column, on many previous occasions, Mr. Lang is not possessed of the qualities that are essential to a good orchestral conductor. In the first place, he is without magnetism; in the second place, he is nervous and fussy; and in the next, he does not lead with the authority to inspire the performers with confidence in his ability, and hence he cannot hold them well in hand, and we, therefore, have the strange sight of an orchestra conducting their director, instead of their director conducting them.” (Ibid) Then, an additional forty-eight lines saying the same thing. The Advertiser also talked about Lang’s conducting: “The orchestra was only of moderate size, but quite adequately fulfilled its part, and read the difficult score in a manner highly creditable to Mr. Lang.” (Advertiser, Op. cit.) Congratulations continued: “In MacDowell’s group of part songs, unaccompanied, the club did its best work, shading exquisitely and preserving an ensemble that disarmed criticism. It seemed impossible to desire better blending of the parts.” (Ibid)
In April 1894 the Globe printed an article with the title, “Singing Organizations That Are Not Excelled and Probably Not Equalled in the United States—Handel and Haydn, Cecilia and Other Associations.” After an opening section on the Handel and Haydn Society, all five-hundred members of it, came the Apollo Club. The group had a Music Committee which selected all the repertoire, “but their plans are always submitted to Mr. Lang, who passes judgment upon them. Mr. Lang is an ideal leader for a singing club like the Apollo. He is notably careful of detail and sees to it that all the work done by the club shall be finished and smooth, and that he succeeds many delighted audiences who have had the privilege of listening to the club sing can testify…It has been said that Mr. Lang would never have been successful in drilling women singers as has been Mr. Zerrahn [conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society]. The story is told that at one time Mr. Zerrahn was ill. Mr. Lang took his place as director…During the evening he lost his temper. And the ladies in the chorus were the cause. Speaking on the impulse, he plainly told them that they were lazy. As may be imagined, the ladies did not like this. At the next rehearsal, Mr. Lang was seated at the piano [as he was the regular accompanist] when Mr. Zerrahn appeared in the hall. At the sight of him, the ladies immediately broke into applause. Their evinced joy at seeing Mr. Zerrahn was rather a damper to the spirits of Mr. Lang, which was exactly what they intended it should be. It wasn’t long after this that Mr. Zerrahn himself got a little testy one night and said to the ladies: ‘I heard what Mr. Lang said about you, ladies, and its all true, every word of it.'” (Globe article above)
There is a voice committee that auditions every new member. Of 100 first tenors who apply, only 31% are accepted- 69% are rejected. Of the second tenors, the number is 26% accepted, and of the second basses, 20% become members. The names of those accepted are posted for two weeks so that all the current members can review them. Then the full membership votes on the new candidates. “If there are any sound reasons why he should not become a member, his name is signally dropped.” (Ibid) There are 500 non-singing Associate Members-each pays $15 and receives four tickets to each concert. This system pretty much assures an audience of about 2,000 people for each concert. “There is always a big waiting list; sometimes there are 500 names handed in of men eager for membership.” (Ibid) The singing “members are not all men with exclusive social positions-many of them are business men-not particularly rich in the world’s goods, but rich in a big account of enthusiasm and good voices to sing.” (Ibid) The current President in 1894 was Arnold A. Rand “of Charlestown, a non-singer, but his social prestige lends a certain dignity to the club.” (Ibid)
During the 1900-1901 season, the club moved again, this time to the new Chickering Building at 239 Huntington Avenue, but in 1903 another move was made to 3 Joy Street. In June of 1901 B. J. retired. “Shortly after his retirement from the club he received honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale.” (Baker, 18)
In the spring of 1901 an insert in the Wednesday evening May 1, 1901 concert program at Chickering Hall (their 171st. concert) noted that Mr. Lang “positively declines a renomination” as conductor. This final program appropriately opened with Sullivan’s The Long Day Closes followed by two choral pieces by Margaret Ruthven Lang, Alastair MacAllistair (Old Scotch Song) and Here’s a Health to One I lo’e Dear (Old Scotch Song) while in the second half, two of Lang’s own solo songs, The Lass of Carlisle and The Chase were sung by Mr. Clarence E. Hay. (BPL Lang Prog., Vol. 7)
“Four concerts are given annually…with eminent soloists, vocal and instrumental, and often a full orchestra as well…Many part-songs by American composers have been prominent on the programs…The Club Rooms are at 3 Joy Street.” (Pratt, 116) Syford gives more detail about the club’s rehearsal venues: “The homes of the club have been various, each, however, with the general character of having a music-room for rehearsals and a set of rooms for social enjoyment. For a time they met at the Hallett’s music-rooms on Tremont Street; then for a longer time they were in the Chickering building; also in the Chickering Hall building on Huntington Avenue, and at present (1910) at Three Joy Street.” (Syford, 164)
Slowly B.J. succeeded in changing this attitude against orchestral accompaniment, and the Apollo Club can be proud to list first Boston performances of (among others)
Brahms’ Rinaldo (Boston Music Hall, December 15, 1883, Charles R. Adams, soloist)
Grieg’s Discovery, Mendelssohn’s Sons of Art, Antigone of Sophocles for Men’s Voices and Orchestra, Opus 55 (Tremont Temple, June 7, 1877, with Messrs. Dr. Bullard, Powers, Wilkie, Lincoln, Babcock, Allen A. Brown, and Aiken as vocal soloists with Prof. Churchill as reader and piano accompaniment by Arthur Foote. (Four choruses had been sung under Lang on 25 January, 1866; (Johnson, First Performances, 253)
Mendelssohn’s Oedipus in Colons by Sophocles for Male Voices and Orchestra, Opus 93 (Boston Music Hall on January 27, 1880 with Howard M. Ticknor as reader and an orchestra)(Johnson, First Performances, 256), and several premiers by the Boston composers Chadwick, Foote’s Farewell of Hiawatha, Thayer, and Whiting’s March of the Monks of Bangor, Free Lances, and Henry of Navarre.
An article in 1907 updating Apthorp’s article of 1893 included “A Partial List of the Important New Music First Performed in Boston Under Mr. Lang by the…Apollo Club” listed the following:
Berlioz: Arrangement of “La Marseillaise” for double chorus and orchestra.
Bruch: Frithjof: Roman Song of Triumph; Salamis
Chadwick: The Viking’s Last Voyage
Foote: The Farewell of Hiawatha
Goldmark: The Flower Net
Hiller: Easter Morning; Hope
Lachner: Evening; Warrior’s Prayer
Mendelssohn: Sons of Art; Antigone; Oedipus
J. C. D. Parker: The Blind King
Raff: Warder Song
Schubert: The Almighty; Song of the Spirits Over the Water
Schumann: Forester’s Chorus
Templeton Strong: The Trumpeter; The Haunted Mill; The Knights and the Naiada
A.W. Thayer: Sea Greeting
G.E. Whiting: March of the Monks of Bangor; Free Lances; Henry of Navarre (Gould Collection)
Under Lang’s successor, Emil Mollenhauer, the Club appeared in four different programs with the BSO during the ’06, ’10 and ’15 seasons. (Howe, BSO, 245)
In 1909 Arthur Foote’s evaluation of Lang was that “As a conductor, his influence was great in raising the standard of singing here. One of the first things he obtained with the Apollo Club was the clear enunciation which still distinguishes it; musically he believed (as Theodore Thomas did) that the way to educate the public was to coax and not to bully it; so that the Apollo Club pleased its audiences and was trained itself at first with German and other part songs, being thereby later able to give the great compositions for men’s voices and orchestra; in this, as often, his tact prevailed.” (Transcript, May 1, 1909)
The Apollo Club continues even today under the leadership Florence Dunn who had become the accompanist in 1955 and then the conductor in 1969. Rehearsals are still (2006) held on Tuesday nights in the Harvard Musical Association building concert room, with a repertoire of show tunes and lighter material that is performed for various service groups in the Boston area. (Telephone call with Ms. Dunn, January 2006) The club has established a very interesting site at http://apolloclub.org which also has aural and video examples of their work.
The Osborne article on the Apollo Club ends with “Perhaps the spirit of the whole enterprise can be grasped in this quatrain from Oliver Wendell Holmes that concluded the 1884-85 season:
So, with the merry tale and jovial song, The jocund evening whirls itself along, Till the last chorus shrieks its loud encore, And the white neckcloths vanish through the door.” (Osborne, 40)
Active Members as of 1891.
FIRST LIST OF PREMIERS. PREPARED BY HERB ZELLER, HISTORIAN OF THE APOLLO CLUB.