Madrigal and Glee Concert: James A. Johnson Benefit

Event Information

Steinway Hall

Dr. [amateur musician and conductor] Brown

Price: $1; reserved seats $.50 extra

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
21 January 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

29 Dec 1868, 8:00 PM

Program Details

Additional unidentified works by Orlando Gibbons, Wilbye, William Byrd, Dr. Calcott, Flemming, Proch, Hess, and Hatton.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Jubel overture; Jubilee
Composer(s): Weber
Participants:  Samuel P. Warren [organ]
Composer(s): Unknown composer
aka There is a ladie sweete and kinde
Composer(s): Ford
aka Hör mein Bitten, Herr, neige dich zu mir; Oh for the wings of a dove
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Composer(s): Barnard
aka Dorothy
aka Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone; Fair Phillis
Composer(s): Farmer
aka Drei Volkslieder; Old romance, An
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
aka Summer song
Composer(s): Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Text Author: Goethe
Participants:  Chorus, unidentified
Composer(s): Graves
Composer(s): Festa


Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 18 December 1868, 8.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 25 December 1868.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 27 December 1868, 7.
Announcement: New York Herald, 28 December 1868, 5.

A madrigal and glee concert will be given tomorrow evening at Steinway Hall.

Announcement: New York Post, 28 December 1868, [2].
Advertisement: New York Sun, 28 December 1868, 2.

“A madrigal is a species of composition that one has little opportunity to hear in this city, and when that opportunity is present those who really love music should for their own sakes neglect it. The singers are a picked company, and the glees are among the finest of those of Bishop, Ford, Morley, Stevens, and the other great madrigal writers.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 28 December 1868, 4.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 28 December 1868, 8.
Announcement: New York Post, 29 December 1868.
Review: New York Herald, 30 December 1868, 5.

“There was a rare and most acceptable musical treat at this place last evening. The occasion was a complimentary concert to Mr. James A. Johnson, of this city, tendered by and participated in by a few professional, but principally amateur, singers of distinguished reputation. The programme, which was quite a lengthy one, consisting of twenty-four pieces, consisted of glees and madrigals—the latter a quite uncommon feature in connection with metropolitan concerts, but, as well known, the kind of vocal music most practiced and encouraged in England during the last half of the sixteenth and early part of the seventeenth century, and which kept its ground even long after the introduction of music in theatres. Both the madrigals and glees, as usual with this kind of music, were sung without accompaniment. After an organ solo, ‘Jubel Overutre,’ from Von Weber by Mr. Warren, bringing out the grand harmonies of this grand instrument with his accustomed exquisite skill the madrigal, ‘Now is the Month of Maying,’ was sung by the whole choir of sixty performers. To say that the singing was fine is but feebly describing its accurate and artistic execution. Next came a glee, ‘A Sailor’s Song,’ sung by Mrs. Miller, Mrs. E. Leveridge and Messrs. Rockwood, Aiken and Hall--a most charming glee, most finely sung. The madrigals, ‘Down in a Flowery Vale’ and ‘The Silver Swan,’ by the whole choir, which elicited an encore, and after this a recitation and air, ‘They Mourn Me Dead’ and Ah! Maiden, Cease Those Pearly Tears,’ by Mr. Johnson. He was warmly applauded as he made his appearance and at the close, as he deserved, for the dainty and touching sweetness with which he sung. The madrigal, ‘Since First I Saw Your Face,’ sung by the whole choir, the glee, ‘Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind,’ by Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Miller, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hall, were both most excellently sung. Then came the song, ‘The Wanderer,’ by Mr. Johnson, which was sung with delicate feeling and expression. Then a quartet and chorus; two new madrigals, ‘There is a Ladie Sweete and Kinde’ and ‘My Bonny Lass, She Smileth;’ next the song, ‘A Stranger Dart,’ by Miss Caroline V. Hutchins, one of the most delightful musical gems of the evening, and lastly, a close to the first part, that grandly swelling hymn, ‘Hear My Prayer,’ by Mendelssohn, by Mrs. G. W. Brown and chorus. And thus, alternating madrigal and song and glee and ballad, was finished the evening’s programme. The ballad, ‘My Heart Is On the Sea,’ by Mrs. Eustaphieve, was sung with extraordinary sweetness. The quartet, ‘An Old Reverie,’ sung by Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Miller, Mr. Rockwood and Mr. Hall, was never better rendered, and the glee, ‘Go Idle Boy,’ sung by Mrs. Leveridge and Mrs. Miller and Messrs. Johnson, Brown and Miller, was the merriest sort of merry music most artistically rendered. There was a large and appreciative attendance. It is very rarely so much of real and enjoyable music is crowded into an evening’s entertainment.”

Review: New York Post, 30 December 1868.

“Steinway Hall last night was the scene of one of the most interesting musical events of the year.  Sixty or more of the best resident vocalists of New York—most of them amateurs—united to sing the quaint madrigal music, familiarity with which, two centuries ago, was a necessary accomplishment on the part of every well educated person.

“The programme of last night was in itself a charming little eight-page brochure containing the words of the pieces sung, and a few explanatory notes in regard to madrigals. The composers represented were Morley (1595), Festa (1541), Orlando Gibbons (1608), T. Ford, (1605), Wilbye (1609), William Byrd (1585), Dr. Calcott, Flemming, Mendelssohn, Proch, Hesse and Hatton. The singing throughout was exquisite, whether in full chorus or quaretet—accompanied or unaccompanied.  Special applause was awarded to a quartet, ‘Dorothy,’ harmonized from a Swabian melody, and to Morley’s madrigal, ‘Fair Phillis I saw sitting all alone.’ Mendelssohn’s quartet, ‘An Old Romance,’ was beautifully sung by Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Miller, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hall; and the chorus of men’s voices, ‘Integer Vitae’—adapted to graceful original English words—was another admirable performance. Altogether the concert was a marked success, and should be repeated. The part singing, we should add, was varied by solos from various vocalists, and by the organ performances of Mr. S. P. Warren.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 31 December 1868, 8.

“The concert given at Steinway’s on Tuesday night as a compliment to Mr. James A. Johnson, introduced to the New-York public a style of music almost unknown to our public halls, and rarely heard even in private in a style which gives any fair idea of its excellence. The charming little love-songs in which the old English and Italian composers lavished all the poetry, the tenderness, and the delicacy of their genius; which the gentle and well-bred of both sexes two or three centuries ago practiced as a favorite amusement, and in which proficiency was as essential an accomplishment for young gentlemen and ladies as is now-a-days croquet or dancing, are among the excellent things of antiquity which have fallen almost into oblivion, but richly deserve a revival. There is an indescribable charm in these little pieces. As the poetry was light and graceful and full of happy conceits; as the books which contained it were luxuriant little volumes, embroidered with all the delicate arts of the printer, the paper maker, the binder, and the draughtsman; so the music itself was characterized by that appearance of elegant simplicity which is attained only by the consummation of art, and that beauty which is the product of inspiration jointly with labor. True, they have a slightly artificial air, suggestive of Watteau landscapes, and shepherds in colored satin, and shepherdesses in brocade. But there is a charm in these unnatural scenes of pastoral fashion, as everybody knows, and he must be neither a lover of nature, or of sweet sounds, nor of any of the refinements of gentle life, who can listen, say to old Thomas Ford’s exquisite madrigal, ‘Since first I saw your face,’ or to Morley’s ‘Fair Phillis I saw,’ or to the ‘Down in a flow’ry vale’ of the Venetian Constanzio Festa; without a smile of pleasure. Of the execution of these antique gems on Tuesday night there is not a word to be said but praise. The madrigal differs from the glee principally in that it is meant to be sung by a chorus, instead of by a single voice for each part. The ladies and gentlemen who appeared on this occasion were about 50 in number—most of them amateurs—and their performance was as near perfection as anything in the world can be. We have never heard such admirable ensembles in New York before, and they produced a volume of sound far superior to that generally given by our oratorio choruses. They made no mistakes; they attacked the notes in strict time; they all knew what they had to do, and one never waited for another to lead the way; their expression was broad and intelligent, and the quality of the voices was excellent. All the madrigals and most of the glees were sung, as they should be, without accompaniment. Much of the precision of the performance was due to the firm and every way admirable leading of the gentleman who occupied the conductor’s stand. We regret that his name was not mentioned.

“The best of the madrigals were the three we have named. There were several excellent pieces, sung by four, five and six voices; a few solos by Mr. Aiken, Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Eustaphieve and Mrs. Johnston; and some miscellaneous part songs which though different in character from the rest of the programme, were sufficiently in harmony with its spirit not to be out of place.  Such was that exquisite hymn of Mendelssohn’s ‘Hear my prayer’ (from the Psalm LV), in which Mrs. G. W. Brown did justice to the solo, and such, too, was the ‘Integeri Vitoe,’ for male chorus, which, to our thinking, was the best executed piece of the evening.  The force and delicacy of the chorus, in this, were remarkable.

“Mr. S. P. Warren played two organ solos, which would have been much better if there had been an organ for him to play them on.  Mr. Steinway’s old box of windpipes is becoming an insufferable nuisance.  Let a subscription be started among musicians to buy it and burn it up.  Mr. Connolly was the accompanist on the piano.  We should not omit to say that the pleasure of the entertainment was neatly rounded off by the rarest of good things, a good programme, whereon, decked with all the attractions of delicate type and paper, and red margins and silken stitching, the words of all the songs were printed in full, with the dates of their authorship, and a pleasant preface gave an account of the characteristics of the madrigal.  The hall was very full, and we are satisfied that a repetition of the concert would be highly advisable.”

Review: New York Sun, 04 January 1869, 2.

“Among the Christmas entertainments of the past week none was more charming than a glee and madrigal concert given at Steinway Hall by a chorus made up of about sixty of the best singers we have among us. What a pity it is that the frequency with which we are permitted to hear this old English madrigal music is exactly in an inverse proportion to its beauty! There is nothing more pure, simple, melodious, and touching in the whole range of vocal art than these ancient compositions. As the violin sprung at once to be the perfect instrument it is, and modern science and genius, having pondered over it and experimented on it for two hundred year, has not only failed to make a single improvement in it, but actually is unable to produce as good an instrument as the Amati brothers and old Stradivarius made in those remote times at Cremona, so it is with these madrigals and glees. They were made at once perfect in their way, and no modern composers have been able to reach the heart through the ear by any straighter road. At the time when Shakespeare was writing his ‘Macbeth’ and Raleigh was equipping his ill-fated expeditions to that El Dorado of his dreams, Virginia, a full century before Handel had commenced to write his ‘Messiah,’ two centuries before Beethoven has composed his great symphonies—in those distant times it was that Thomas Morley, ‘Bachelor of Music and Gentleman of Queen Elizabeth’s Chapel,’ and Thomas Ford and William Byrd wrote the lovely madrigals—some blithe and merry, some tender and full of sentiment—that were so admirably sung last week. It is to us a source of great regret that these compositions are so little known. Let any one with the slightest love for music but once hear them and they cannot fail to be captivated and be compelled to confess to a sensation of pleasure such as all the Offenbachs that over wrote could not give. For these madrigals are in no way difficult to understand. Simplicity and melody are their first elements. They are short; the phrases are such as can be easily caught and retained by the ear; their modulations are full of quaint surprise and unexpected delight, but never harsh or forced; the effects that are obtained from the contrasting of a phrase sung fortissimo against the same phrase repeated pianissimo are most telling. The audience at Steinway’s was a very intelligent one, a large one too. There were very many of the clergy present and many musical amateurs. In fact, it was composed of those who know something of the nature and delights of English glee and madrigal music. As for the public at large, they probably supposed it some heavy concert where people who affected to love music went to be bored. It is not more than once in three years or so that such a concert is given; and how can the general public be expected to know much of the matter with so few opportunities of judging. That these opportunities will be made more frequently is our earnest hope, and we notice the concert now, not for any purposes of criticism, but to urge upon those to whose labors we owe the pleasure we received last week to repeat it. It must have been then a pecuniary success, and there is no reason to believe but that it would be so again. The programme is hardly capable of any change for the better. The Mendelssohn male voice quartet, the ‘Summer Song,’ was not very well sung, and is not an effective concert piece—half a dozen of his other male voice part songs are better for the purpose, for instance the ‘Turkish Drinking Song,’ or the ‘Cheerful Wanderer;’ nor had so trivial an air as ‘My heart is over the seas,’ any place in so excellent a programme. With this exception and that of the madrigal, ‘As I saw fair Chlora,’ for two voices, for which we should have been glad to see ‘My dear mistress had a heart,’ or some other equally stirring piece substituted, the selection seemed almost incapable of improvement. The matter was evidently in masterly hands, and the gentleman who conducted, whose name is unknown to us, not being given on the programme, though it well deserved to be, led with an evidently consummate knowledge of the work in hand, half his chorus squarely up to their work, and brought out all the points. One trick the chorus had however, which was to hold on to the final note after their conductor had given the signal to stop. The basses always like to do this in every chorus; having got a good hold of a low notes, they are not disposed to let it go when the time comes. Will not the gentlemen who had this matter in charge exert themselves in the interest of art and for the benefit of the public at large to repeat it. Mr. Johnson, especially, that enthusiastic friend of music, in compliment to whom the concert was given—a compliment most fitly earned and fitly rendered—might require the obligation by urging a repetition for the sake of the public.”

Review: New-York Times, 04 January 1869, 5.

“One of the most enjoyable entertainments recently given in this city took place at Steinway Hall on Tuesday evening last.  The occasion was complimentary to Mr. JAMES A. JOHNSON—a gentleman whose name is associated with much earnestness in the cause of good choral singing. If we may judge of his industry by the result attained, he is certainly worthy of the daintiest of compliments, and the concert on Tuesday was dainty in all its particulars. The programme was not only inviting in what it contained, but it was a model of good taste in typography and in mechanical arrangement. There were about fifty singers present. Of this number, excellently well balanced, a good proportion was of that semi-professional class which sings in churches, and the rest were amateurs. Amateurs, it may be here remarked, are frequently accomplished artists. They sing for love of art, and generally have enjoyed advantages in acquiring its practice. Most assuredly no chorus in the city has sung with greater promptness and delicacy than this band of enthusiasts, who, for a single occasion, have brought themselves to a degree of rare perfection. Modest merit has never been more triumphant. We trust sincerely that Dr. Brown, who conducted with perfect steadiness, will from this nucleus be able to establish a permanent society. Failing in this, it is certainly due to the community to give a few more performances. The English possess a wealth of madrigal and glee music. It is characterized by vivacity and melodiousness, or, where the sentiment requires it, by great earnestness. The habit of composing this class of music has by no means died out, although good Madrigal Societies are not numerous even in England.

“Bishop, Hatton, Macfarren, Hullah and many others have contributed nobly to the repertoire. The pieces on Tuesday night were contrasted very skillfully, but the old numbers were the most enjoyed, owing perhaps to their graceful quaintness and the extraordinary ability with which they were rendered. It is not, however, our purpose to criticize a concert which in its way was perfect. Although there were twenty-four numbers in the programme, there was not the slightest faltering from beginning to end. The singers observed the nicest gradations of coloring, and the tempi throughout were correct and salient. The solos were intrusted to competent hands, and gave abundant satisfaction.  Mr. S. P. WARREN presided at the organ, and Mr. E. J. CONNOLLY played the accompaniment. Most of the madrigals and glees were of course given without accompaniment.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 16 January 1869, 383.

“On Tuesday evening, Dec. 29, there was a concert of ‘Glees and Madrigals’ at Steinway Hall.  The solos and choruses were taken by some of the best professional and amateur talent in this city, and the result was an entertainment of remarkable excellence and interest.  Mr. S.P. Warren presided at the organ, Mr. E. J. Connolly at the piano, and the whole performance was conducted by Dr. Brown.

“Particularly interesting were a quaint madrigal (C. Festa—1541) called ‘Down in a flowery vale,’ which was most charmingly sung by the chorus of 57 voices; Mendelssohn’s hymn ‘Hear my prayer’ (Psalm 55) sung by Mrs. G. W. Brown and chorus; and a quartet ‘Dorothy’ a Swabian melody harmonized. This latter was exquisitely done, and was very earnestly encored. 

“Mrs. E. C. Eustaphieve sang—in a quiet, unassuming and careful manner—a ballad, ‘My heart is over the sea,’ and, in reply to a recall, ‘Nothing else to do.’ Mrs. E. has a voice of exceptional purity and sweetness, and has the great, and unusual merit of singing in tune.

“Mr. S. P. Warren gave two organ solos which were partially inaudible owing to the rudeness of the audience, which persisted din a very loud buzz and hum of talk and laughter.

“Miss Hutchings did well in her solo (in itself not pleasing) and it is evident that she has studied faithfully since last season.

“The piano accompaniments were, I regret to say, not excellent.  The audience was a very large one.  The programmes, little pamphlets of eight pages, were exquisitely gotten up, and were the subject of much admiration.”

Review: New York Musical Gazette, February 1869, 28.

“One of the most interesting musical events of the season thus far, was the Glee and Madrigal concert given December 29th, at Steinway Hall. About sixty singers of a grade not usually to be found in choruses, consented to waive all personal prejudices and feelings, and combine for the purpose of bringing out some of the finest of the old English madrigals, and also for the pecuniary benefit of Mr. James A. Johnson, a gentleman who has been long and enthusiastically devoted to the improvement of quartette and chorus singing in this city. A majority of the singers were actually soloists and thus a degree of finish was secured at the very outset, without a moments’ drilling, which could be expected of any ordinary chorus. But the conductor on this occasion, Dr. Brown (not a Doctor of Music, but a physician), is an amateur who made an enthusiastic study of this style of music, and was thus most happily fitted to make the best possible use of the material placed at his disposal. The result was all that could be expected from such a happy combination of favoring circumstances. The rendering of those old gems of Wilbye, Ford, Morley, Gibbons, and others of the same stamp, approached absolute perfection. In precision of style, distinctness of enunciating, and delicacy of shading, there was nothing to which even captiousness itself could raise an objection. The critic who cam there with his porcupine-quill all sharpened for use, found that his occupation had suddenly departed. He could only sit and listen and enjoy. In the pianissimo passages there was none of the faltering and blundering and unevenness of power so common in similar attempts of ordinary choruses, but the effect was as if the same chorus, absolutely unaltered, had been suddenly removed far away, and the music was stealing in upon the ear from a distance. We shall be surprised if this concert does not prove to have given a marked direction to public taste. Indeed there are already evidences of its having done so. One of these evidences is the fact that scarcely a copy of the glees and madrigals given upon this occasion can be found at any of the music stores in the city. It may reasonably be supposed that the various copies have not been purchased from mere curiosity, but that smaller musical circles here and there are now regaling themselves with the delights of ‘Sweet Honey-Sucking Bees,’ ‘Fair Phillis I saw,’ ‘Since first I saw your Face,’ &c., &c. Another evidence of the effect of this concert upon the public is the fact that a repetition has been demanded and acceded to. The second concert occurs just as we are going to press, and cannot, therefore, be noticed in this issue. We have dwelt so long upon that which was really the characteristic feature of this concert, that there is not space left to notice the various solos &c, except to say that most of them were well up to the general standard of excellence of this most enjoyable occasion.”