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Glee Club Has Done Immeasurable Service to Cause of Good Music Declares Mason in Comment on 'Lamp of the West' Row


The following letter has appeared in the New York Times. It was written by Mr. Daniel Gregory Mason '95 Associate Professor and head of the Music Department at Columbia University, who comments favorably on the recent action of the Glee Club.

Have not those who have been discussing the Harvard Glee Club rather missed the central point of the whole situation? It would seem that the service rendered by the glee club in developing fine taste in the younger members of our public is so fundamental, so vital to our musical welfare, that we might well regard any minor mistakes in the method of rendering it as negligible.

Who shall judge whether the club has or has not occasionally shown the trying Harvard snobbishness? Quite possibly it has; but if so, all we have to remember is that the highbrow is only a little absurd and rather amusing, while the lowbrow is devastating to all that might be fine in our life. The glee club is doing an essential work in the spirit of those lovers of the best men like Charles Eliot Norton and William James, like Royce and Wendell and Santayana--who have created the noblest of Harvard traditions: and it is sad and strange to see Harvard graduates who are willing not only to refuse such work their support but actually to impede it by higgling criticisms because it does not devote itself to ministering to their infantile fixations.

As for the song, "The Lamp in the West," anyone who will take the trouble to examine it will see that it is a piece of sentimental platitude the music as bad as the words, which is saying a good deal. Mr. Walter Kramer questions the "etiquette" of a Harvard man's making such criticisms of a Yale man's productions, but what have these college-boy partisanships to do with serious matters of artistic beauty where large and vital loyalties are at stake? Suppose a Yale critic were to impugn the taste, which should set up a piece of poetic sentimentality like, let us say. Longfellow's "Psalm of Life" as a model and touchstone for young lovers of poetry. Should we not, Harvard and Yale men alike, regard him as performing an important public service? Yet the "Psalm of Life" is almost good as compared with "The Lamp in the West", and musical standards among us are intolerably low as compared with poetic.

After all, however, the main point is that all these arguments about details are trivial and irrelevant, unworthy in idealistic people like ourselves. The Harvard Glee Club is doing an invaluable and sorely needed service to our higher esthetic life. It behooves us to be duly grateful, and to support so important an influence up to the limit of our resources.

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