The Home Orchestra
( Originally Published 1906 )
IF I ever have to " board out," I mean to hunt up a musical family ! They will be sweet-tempered there. And unselfish. And jolly.
I don't mean a family where one member—usually the grown-up daughter—does up the music for the entire household, strumming on the piano of an evening, to the destruction of all conversation and the confusion of the whole family life, while mamma looks up proudly from her sewing, and papa's nerves, racked by his day in the office, jump and twitch almost beyond endurance, and little Jack begs in vain for " just one game of carroms."
No, not that ; I mean a family in which every member, from grandmother to the baby, has some share in the orchestra, adds one strand to the harmony. The baby can come in with the rattle and the goo-goo.
I have known such households. One boy would play the flute, another the violin, a third the cornet or clarinet. One girl would preside at the piano, a second at the aollo-harp, while a third fingered the guitar or the banjo. To be sure, it might be necessary in' most cases to call in a neighbor or two, not all fathers having so many arrows in their quivers. In that case, call it a neighborhood orchestra, and play with all the more animation.
We are very careless in this matter, we parents. We take it for granted that every child must learn the piano, if she is a girl, or the violin, if he is a boy. We take no thought for the family enjoyment, but only for the possible chance to show off in some one else's parlor. There is only one piano at home, and that, with the exception of an occasional duet, accommodates but one performer at a time. The social side of music is lost in the egotistic side.
It is just the same with singing. Let your two boys learn to sing both base and tenor—though some low notes or some high notes must occasionally be sung an octave away from their proper places ; and let your two girls sing alto and soprano. Pitch in, your-self, wherever it seems weak! How much better that is than for Susie alone to chase her tra-la-la's up and down the scale, while the rest of the family are bored.
The value of music as a softener and sweetener of home life is inestimable. The home is enriched with a multiplicity of interests, continually varying. Its powers of self-entertainment and of entertaining others are enormously increased. Minds are quickened, hearts are made more happy, differences of temper are merged in the flood of melody. Old and young are knit together, and the saloon and ballroom would have no attractions for the young folks of such a household.
These advantages have been so beautifully set forth by the music-loving poet, Sidney Lanier, that I can do no better than quote his eloquent words : " Given the raw material,—to wit, wife, children, a friend or two, and a house,—two other things are necessary. These are a good fire and music. And inasmuch as we can do without the fire for half the year, I may say that music is the one essential. After an evening spent around the piano or the flute or the violin, how warm and how chastened is the kiss with which the family all say good-night ! Ah, the music has taken all the day's cares and thrown them into its alembic, and boiled them and rocked them and cooled them till they are crystallized into one care, which is a most sweet and rare and desirable sorrow—the yearning for God. We all, from little daughter to father, go to bed with so much of heaven in our hearts, at least, that we long for it unutterably, and believe it."