American Institute Coliseum
1 November 2021
“The Musical Jubilee.
The preparations for this affair are proceeding. Mr. S. P. Gilmore was in town yesterday arranging his share in the work. The other eminent names associated with the enterprise, as conductors and assisting artists, are in every way calculated to strengthen public confidence in the matter. Among the vocalists the names of Kellogg, Parepa, Lefranc and Brignoli are prominent. The choral forces of this city and vicinity will be strengthened by five hundred singers from the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, and the heavy tones of the Boston Coliseum organ will aid in the accompaniments.
All amateur and other vocalists who wish to join in this Jubilee should promptly call upon or send their names to the secretary of the chorus, at the Beethoven Centennial office, No. 8 Union Square. The secretary will be in attendance every evening from six to nine o’clock to receive names. There are many good singers in the city not at present connected with any musical society who gladly avail themselves of this opportunity.
A marked feature of the Jubilee will be the performance of operatic selections by the united forces of five or six operatic companies. The lovers of oratorio will have the opportunity of hearing the ‘Messiah’ and the ‘Creation’ sung in a style hitherto unequalled in this city.”
“The members of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society have accepted an invitation to be present at the Boston Festival to be held in this city next month. As Boston has always enjoyed a pre-eminent position in this country as a musical metropolis, the prompt readiness shown by her amateur singers to come to this city will increase the confidence entertained in the success of the coming musical demonstration. Our own singers will find in these visitors worthy rivals, and will, no doubt, give them the cordial reception that they deserve. The Boston vocalists will find that their reputation has preceded them, and that they will be honored guests while here.”
“There has been a gratifying response from the neighboring towns to the invitation to join in the Beethoven Festival. Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury will be represented in good force. The Boston Handel and Haydn Society met last night to rehearse the music. The society will be here in large numbers.
Henry Erben has built a large organ for the festival, it having been found impossible to procure the Boston Coliseum organ in time. This great organ of Erben’s will contain two sets of keys, two and half [sic] octaves of pedals, thirty-one stops and fifteen hundred pipes.”
“Boston, June 1.—At a special meeting of the Handel and Haydn Society last evening, Loring G. Baines, Carl Zerrahn and G. W. Warren were appointed a committee to visit New York and confer with the managers in relation to the societies joining in the proposed Beethoven festival in that city. A general feeling was manifested by the society in favor of the project. Paprea Rosa has expressed her willingness to attend if the Handel and Haydn Society decide to do so.”
“The committee from the Boston Handel and Haydn Society is in town to-day, closing up the arrangements for the participation of the Boston vocalists in the coming musical festival. Mr. Gilmore has nearly concluded his arrangements, and will hold a rehearsal next week of the pieces that he will conduct. The first oratorio rehearsal took place last night at Steinway Hall, under the baton of Dr. Pech.”
“To-morrow the full details of the coming festival will be made public. The list of artists engaged seems to include everybody that can be known or mentioned. The names of Kellogg, Parepa, Richings, Gazzaniga, Brignoli, Lefranc, Fillippi, Castle and Campbell lead the list, and to these will be added a number of other admirable vocalists.
The oratorios selected for performance by the united choral force are Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and Haydn’s ‘Creation,’ with various selections from other oratorio works. Dr. James Pech will conduct in this part of the programme. Mr. Gilmore will take charge of the more miscellaneous music. Mr. G. S. Weeks will organize a large force of Sunday school children, to sing on the closing day of the festival. Mr. Maretzek will conduct the operatic selections, and Carl Bergmann, we understand, will be responsible for the symphonic performances. Mr. Bristow’s overture ‘Columbus’ will be included in the programme.
On Saturday evening there will be an oratorio rehearsal at Steinway Hall, to which all singers able to take part are cordially invited.”
A long article providing all of the details about the festival that have been released to the public thus far. Subheadings include “Handel and Haydn Society,” “The Operatic Music,” “The Oratorios,” “Miscellaneous Music,” “Sunday School Day,” “A Galaxy of Conductors,” and “Arrangements for the Audience.” Portions are as follows:
“…There were many who feared that the very brief space of time allowed by the managers for the preparation of so colossal a festival would be inconsistent with a thoroughly good performance; but, on the other hand, the music selected, however novel much of it may be to a New York audience, is already familiar to most of the artists, choristers and orchestral performers who participate in its interpretation…
Every year in the leafy month of June there is, under the vast dome of St. Paul’s, London, a celebration by charity children, and the music evoked from their thousands of little throats is of the most striking and effective character. The greatest musicians of England have not disdained to write appropriate music for these occasions. The Sunday school children of New York are not charity children, but they have musical throats and sing vigorously and joyously. The closing of the centennial will be allotted to them. It is expected that five thousand children from the different Sunday schools of New York will, on the last day of the festival, make the Coliseum ring with their vocal strains. Lively, tuneful, familiar hymns which all Sunday scholars know, have been selected…
Though presented on the last day of the festival, the little ones will not be neglected, as far as other features of the programmes are concerned. They will be aided by the bulk of the festival chorus, by the grand orchestra, the organ, the drum corps and the electric artillery. We confidently anticipate that this ‘Children’s Day’ will be one of the most interesting features of the whole festival—certainly the parents of the five thousand little ones will think so…
There is undoubtedly a widespread and increasing interest in regard to this musical festival. Perhaps if the ghost of Beethoven could be consulted, that ‘dear departed shade’ would claim a greater actual proportion of the programme than is allotted to him; but as he lends his illustrious name to the entire affair, it is quite permissible for other, and—we scarce dare whisper it—more popular composers to share the programme with him.”
“The arrangements for the great Beethoven centennial jubilee are very nearly complete, and the rehearsals which have thus far been held indicate that the promises of the managers will be fulfilled in every essential particular. The opening will take place on Monday, and the festival will be continued until the close of the week. Of the artists who are to take part, the choral assistance and the instrumental feature of the grand affair, frequent reference has been made in the Evening Post in the proper department. It only remains to be told that the Rink, or Coliseum, as it is called, has been enlarged, so as to accommodate the thousands who will flock to the metropolis during jubilee week.
For two weeks past a force of three hundred carpenters have been at work, who have succeeded in transforming the Rink into a vast theatre. Seats for eight thousand persons have been placed in position on the lower or parquette floor, which, with the gallery, will accommodate thirteen thousand persons, independent of standing room. Wide aisles and lobbies have been provided, and thew hole work is in such a forward state as to indicate that there will be no delay in the opening.
The stage will be 115 by 180 feet and will seat an orchestra of eight hundred musicians and a chorus of thirty-five hundred voices. On the stage the seats will be so arranged as to give a perfect view both to the persons engaged and to each of the auditors.
The auditorium is to have a clear length of 430 feet, and a width of 200 feet, unobstructed by pillars or other obstacles to the sight or hearing. The roof forms a clear space from wall to wall, and is supported by iron arches which converge and join together at a height of one hundred feet from the ground. The building itself is of corrugated iron, possesses great durability and will probably accommodate, sitting and standing, fully twenty thousand persons. The interior is to be handsomely decorated with the flags of all nations, and will contain busts and statues of Beethoven, Handel, Haydn, Weber, and the other great composers. One of the features of the jubilee will be the performance of the ‘Anvil Chorus,’ when fifty stalwart arms will ‘sling’ the sledges, and a park of artillery will join in the bass notes of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ which is to be sung by Parepa Rosa, assisted by a chorus of over 3,000 voices. Everything present betokens a successful opening on Monday.”
Long biography of Beethoven with reflections on his legacy.
“The musical festival at the Coliseum is over. It has afforded to our citizens a week’s entertainment which, in its line, has never been surpassed here; for never before has such a congress of first-class vocal artists been assembled in one entertainment in New York. The chorus has also been without a precedent here in point of numbers, and the orchestra has been fully up to the requirements of the occasion. A series of monster concerts have been given on a really colossal scale. All the leading conductors in the country have taken part. Everything was there excepting the audiences, for though on several occasions the Coliseum contained assemblages of auditors that anywhere else would have been considered prodigious, they did not come up to the anticipations of the projectors of the enterprise.
These gentlemen claim to have lost heavily by the affair. They entered into it as a speculation, and fortune was against them. Their management, excellent in general outline, was defective in its details. Those nominally in charge of the different departments did not have the authority necessary for carrying out what they undertook. The volunteer chorus singers thought themselves unkindly treated in the matter of complimentary tickets; and artists, paid choristers and orchestral players were ever screaming for money like hungry eaglets for food, exhibiting a distrust in the pecuniary success of the enterprise that was painful enough, from an art point of view. The audience, annoyed at the delays between the different pieces on the programme, little knew that behind the scenes obdurate vocalists were demanding checks or cash before they would appear on the stage, or that the ‘harmonious blacksmiths’ of the ‘Anvil Chorus’ were brimful with fancied grievances, even while they were singing their best.
Under all these circumstances the successful results of the festival were most surprising. There were changes in the programme, but the artists advertised were all present and all sang well. At the Boston Jubilee, Parepa and Miss Phillips were the only soloists of note. Here at the Coliseum we have heard Parepa, Miss Kellogg, Mrs[.] Paul, Miss Sterling, Mrs. Richings-Bernard, Anna Bishop, Brignoli, Lefranc and a host of artists of admirable ability, though less extended reputation. Some of the best solo and duet singing that the New York musical amateur can recall has been heard at these festival concerts. The chorus singing was good—sometimes excellent—always enjoyable.
It was a very poor policy which induced the management to hold all the seats as secured. Persons paying a dollar for admission were obliged to stand up during the entire entertainment, although there were a thousand or more of empty seats just before them. No management has a right in such a place to prevent the public from occupying these seats after a reasonable delay. On one night the tired auditors took the remedy into their own hands by rushing in a mass into the body of the hall and occupying the coveted seats; but on other evenings they stood up in silent suffering.
We have been much amused by noticing the tone of the Boston papers in relation to this festival. They at once assumed that it was intended as a rival to the Boston Peace Jubilee, and at once began to decry everything connected with the Festival, excepting the Boston element. In their eyes every conductor is worthless, excepting Zerrahn and Gilmore—every chorus singer inaudible excepting those of the Handel and Haydn Society. Now, these latter persons do sing well. They proved it in ‘Elijah,’ but they are capable of acting very shabbily. Their expenses to and from Boston were paid by the festival management, as well as their board and lodging while here. This involved them in a direct business obligation to sing at certain of the concerts; yet at the afternoon concerts fully half of them were absent from their seats. Only on the ‘Elijah’ night did they really try to aid in the success of the affair. The entire experience of the management with this Boston company proves that their importation was an error of judgment, which cost pretty dearly in solid cash.
Several indignant contributors have sent us communications protesting against the use of Beethoven’s name as applied to this festival. One writer asserts that ‘Beethoven was a man of absolutely no pretence [sic], indefatigable in perfecting his works, and a thorough despiser of shams. There are many by whom his compositions are held to be almost sacred. That the name of such a man should be used as a means for money making, and his birthday celebrated six months out of time, solely to fill the pockets of speculators, is not to be endured by any who have a shadow of regard for high and true art.’ This is all very well, but the fact remains that the public did not want Beethoven, and would not listen to him. The management of the Festival were quite ready to have given a large preponderance of Beethoven’s works in their programmes, but the Beethoven Centennial would then have been celebrated by the participating musicians alone. In mere point of fact, the musical week at the Coliseum might have been called a Verdi festival, for works of that composer predominated.
The managers of the Centennial having carefully kept their names from the public, there is no special reason for giving them now; but we think that the wholly impersonal manner in which the affair was conducted militated against its financial success. The public is a wicked and perverse generation that seeketh after a sign.
The moral of the festival is that New York can get up in one month what it would take an ordinary city—say, Boston for instance—six months to talk about and another six months to organize. Another moral is that our chorus singers must be sure of being treated with greater attention before they will consent to sing again on any similar occasion; and still another is this—that we possess all the elements for a colossal musical festival, for which the meritorious display at the Coliseum may be considered merely a preliminary rehearsal.”
Brief. “All the professional vocalists who failed to get engagements in the recent Beethoven Centennial Festival express the greatest dissatisfaction with the management.”
Article summarizing speculations about other Beethoven festival planned later in the year in America and Germany.