ADMIRABLE MUSICAL PROGRAMME FOR ion "NATIONAL" FROM the musical point of view the National Eisteddfod to be held at Bangor next year promises to attain a higher standard than the festival has ever reached before. At first sight this may seem to be an extravagant claim, but an examination of the programme provides an abun- dance of data in its support. The most cursory glance through the list of test-pieces is sufficient to reveal the working of cultivated and musicianly minds among those responsible for its selection, and it cannot be doubted that the high musical level of the programme is largely to be attributed to the influence of Mr. E. T. Davies, the head of the music department at Bangor University Col- lege, who is also the musical adviser to the eisteddfod committee. A change of revolutionary import has been made in the chief choral and chief male voice competitions: the test-pieces are all to be sung unaccompanied. This is certainly a radical de- parture from the practice which has been fol- lowed during recent years of selecting at least one piece to be sung with orchestral accompani- ment. That this policy has been successful from the musical standpoint no one who has attended recent festivals will for a moment deny. The principal objection to the employment of an orchestra in choral competitions is that many of the choirs sing with an orchestra for the first time when they appear on the eisteddfod platform, while it is often painfully obvious that the con- ductors have not even an elementary knowledge of the art of handling an orchestra. Usually they adopt the discreet course and leave the orchestra to its own devices while they devote the whole of their attention to the choirs. The result is that at the beginning of a competition there is fre- quently a lamentable want of unanimity and co- hesion between choir and orchestra. This lack of unity tends to disappear as the competition ad- vances and as the orchestra become surer of their ground, but such a state of affairs is not likely to encourage the earlier choirs to do full justice to their powers, with the result that to sing at the beginning of a contest is equivalent to conceding a start to the entrants who come later. There is also the effect of an unfamiliar orchestral accom- paniment on the singers themselves to be con- sidered. More than once it has happened that a choir has been temporarily thrown out of its stride by hearing an accompaniment decked out in all its wealth of orchestral colour for the first time. That is the case against orchestral accompani- ments in choral competitions. To state the case in favour of retaining them one need only point THE PROMISE OF BANGOR by Llewelyn C. Lloyd to some of the performances at recent eistedd- fodau-to the singing of Hubert Parry's "Blest Pair of Sirens" at Treorchy, and of Holbrooke's "City of the Sea" at Llanelly, for instance. These contests provided memorable and thrilling renderings of a vigour and dramatic strength which would have been unattainable in unaccom- panied singing. The Bangor authorities, how- ever, have apparently decided that unaccompanied choral competitions are at any rate worth a trial, and it will be of the highest interest to see how the experiment works out. Madrigals occupy a position of considerable importance in the Bangor programme. Not only is there a madrigal competition, but madrigals are among the test-pieces in the chief contest for male choirs and in the competitions for ladies' choirs and rural choirs. This is one of the most significant things which have happened recently in Welsh music, for madrigal singing represents choralism in its purest and most delightful form, and it is an art which has been rather neglected in Wales. The English school of madrigal com- posers which flourished during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries is one of the glories of music, and the Bangor authorities have made their choice with such catholicity of taste that the best of the school is represented in all its aspects. In the madrigal competition and in the class for ladies' choirs appear examples of the work of Thomas Morley, who has been described by Dr. E. H. Fellowes, the principal musical adjudicator at Llanelly and the greatest living authority on the English madrigal school, as "without doubt the leading personality of the English school of madrigal composers." Morley's style leaned to- wards the severe and the classical, and it will find a striking contrast in the five-part madrigal, "On the plains, fairy trains," of Thomas Weelkes, which is set in the madrigal com- petition. Weelkes has been described by Dr. Fellowes as "possibly the greatest madrigal writer not only of the English school but of all nationalities." He was, further to quote Dr. Fellowes, "especially conspicuous in his boldness and originality in discovering new possibilities of harmonic usage and these new harmonic devices enabled him the more readily to exercise his wonderfully fertile imagination and to express his ideas through the medium of his music." Among his contemporaries Weelkes must have occupied much the same position as is held to-day by such revolutionaries as Schonberg or Stravinski John Wilbye, the supreme stylist among Eng- lish madrigal composers, shares with Weelkes a