Spectator November 01, 1902
What is going to become of the Hamilton church choirs when the present leading sopranos retire from active service? In this city of sweet singers and skilled musicians there ought to be no difficulty in supplying the vacancies as they occur, yet the musical committees have had a hard job of it when they come to examine candidates, and many times, in sheer despair, they make temporary appointments, hoping that Divine Providence will open the way by the time a permanent selection must be made. One of the old-time singers concluded that she would retire before the congregation would say; “Why, under heavens, does not that old woman quit when she can’t help but know her voice is getting wheezy and her high notes bass gutturals?” She was a good singer in her day, but her time has passed. The lady handed in her resignation, which the committee positively refused to accept, and the whole congregation and the pastor seconded the objection of the committee; but the lady was determined on her course; she would retire with flying colors, and while her voice was yet clear and resonant. For months the committee wrestled with the selection, and the sweet singer of old had to retain her place at the head of the choir, till finally she determined to break away and compel the committee to fill the vacancy – not her place, for few can do that yet. Her last Sunday as choir leader her voice, like the dying notes of a swan, was clearer, sweeter than ever before. Now and then she sings for the pleasure of her friends, in church and in the social circle, but her professional career is a thing of the past.
When one comes to sum up the really leading voices in Hamilton for church work, the number is very few. There is Mrs. Martin-Murphy, Mrs. Fenwick, Mrs. George Vallance, Mrs. Robert Campbell, Mrs. J. B. Browne, Mrs. Fuller, Mrs. Frank Wanzer, Mrs. Papps, Mrs. Pringle, Mrs. Palmer, Mrs. Mackelcan, Miss Lock, Miss Gayfer and Miss Grace Watson, some of whom are among the younger class of singers. We would not dare to say how long some of the ladies have had leading places in the choir lots, but that they are equal to the work is evidenced by the determination of choir committees and congregations not to let them retire. One of the number is so popular in the church in which she sings, that, recently, she was presented with a valuable gold watch and chain, and a handsome piece of cut glass. There may be others that deserve a place in the honor, and we would gladly give place to their names did we but know them. When the older ones retire, who are to take their places? Probably the church committees will have to let out the job to the lowest bidder and praise God in song by contract. It is getting pretty close to that day in Hamilton. It is a pleasure to listen to the old singers, for they warble in nature’s true tones. The singers that are now coming to the front wobble their voices, as though they were suffering from an attack of ague contracted from the nuisance of Dundas swamp. No wonder the church committees that are responsible for the song service every Sunday are in despair when the time comes for them to select new leaders for their choirs.
And while on the church question, would it not be a good idea to call the attention of congregations to the straits which the official boards are often called to paddle their way through in looking after their finances? One would think that in these days of prosperity, when money ought to be as plentiful as autumn leaves, that the Sunday collections would be as heavy as to require the steward to take hold of the plate with both hands in order to carry back to the altar the offerings of dimes and quarters and half dollars that such a thing as casting a five cent piece into the treasury of the Lord would be considered the height of economy. Not so; the church treasurer declares that the Sunday offerings are growing smaller and beautifully less considering the increased numbers in the congregation. One must admire the liberality of John D. Rockefeller, the multi-millionaire, who was not worth a dollar forty-five years ago. The other dayhe gave a donation of $500,000 as a thank offering that his health, which has been very poorly, was measurably restored and for the blessing of health which his family enjoyed. Now, this was the right spirit. We cannot all be Rockefellers in liberality, but in place of cutting down contributions to churches and benevolences, as the complaint is, those who gave nothing before should begin now, and those who felt that five cents or a dime about paid for the benefits they received from fine music and intellectual sermons, should at least double up their thank offerings. Try it tomorrow and you will leave the church after church feeling the better for your liberality. There be some wealthy men among the congregations who feel that if they gave a dollar or a dollar and a half once a quarter toward the expenses of the church they attend regularly, that the recording angel should give them a big mark for liberality. Last Sunday a congregation that is composed of men and women well-to-do in this world’s goods got a raking from one of the official brethren for the smallness of the Sunday plate and envelop collections. The church promises a decent salary to its minister, and is liberal in expenses for music and in keeping up all the appointments, yet the official board finds that it’s resources are growing smaller each week, which the congregation is as large as usual. The majority of church goers who are not members do not feel the responsibility they ought to in the matter. The churches represent our highest civilization, and no one would want to live in a city or community that had no churches. People will go to a lecture or concert and expect to pay an admission fee; they attend church every Sunday and hear fine music and instructive sermons and rarely ever think of contributing a five cent piece toward paying the preacher or the musicians, or heating and lighting the building. This real down, and if the reader is in this class, let him or her at once promise the Lord that on next Sunday, they will turn over a new leaf and throw their mite on the plate when the collection plate is being taken up. Young people of both sexes are prone to let the plate pass without even adding a five cent piece to its weight. They like the old deacon who sang, “Fly abroad, thou blessed gospel,” with his eyes tightly closed when the collection basket was being passed. He could not see it. Keep your eyes open next Sunday.
It is an outrage that the frauds that are practiced upon innocent people to relieve them of what little money they may have. A short time ago an enticing advertisement was inserted in one of the papers in this city for men and women to act as agents, to whom a salary of $10 a week would be guaranteed. Such advertisements are more to catch the eyes of people anxious to find employment. A young widow, who walks with a crutch, and who has a child to support, made application for the job. The agent who was offering this soft snap of $10 a week gave the widow a roseate picture of the work, who was to canvas for two subscription books published by a Philadelphia house and sold at #3.50 each. The widow was to do her best for the first thirty days, when she would receive the promised salary and seven per cent added, provided her sales amounted to $50 or more – the more, the better. But as a guarantee of good faith on the part of the widow she must pay a fee of $7.50 for her outfit – which cost less than a dollar – and then the agent signed a contract giving her the city of Hamilton and the County of Wentworth as exclusive territory. The oily-tongued agent persuaded the widow that it was the chance of a lifetime, and besides getting a regular salary of $40 a month, she would receive seven per cent of her sales. The widow signed the contract, parted with her $7.50 and then started out to canvas. Some sympathizing friends, in order to help her swell her first month’s sale, subscribed for eight copies of the books, and then the sales stopped. To get the books the widow will have to pay the express charges and the duty, even though the publishers allow her forty per cent. The widow is out the $7.50 she paid for her appointment as sole agent and two or three weeks of hard work in soliciting for subscribers. These alluring advertisements catch a good many.