Posted by: Sherry Goodwin | May 24, 2008

Harmony–In Different Ways

IN 1865-6 Miss Havergal went to Germany, and also remained for some time with her parents at Bonn.  At this time she was just discovering her musical talents, and her old friends, the Schulze-Berges, begged her to go to the Musical Academy of Cologne.  This, she declared, was out of the question, and then they suggested Ferdinand Hiller, the greatest living composer and authority, in their opinion.  Miss Havergal at first was appalled at the idea of showing her songs to such a great man, but at length concluded to do so, for if he did not approve of them she would not waste more time upon them.  She and her mother went to see him, by his appointment.  He gave Frances a book of poetry to amuse herself with, and himself sat down amid all his musical litter to read her songs, scaring her not a little by doing so.  She does not seem to have been very deeply engrossed in the book of poems!
When Ferdinand Hiller was about three-quarters through her compositions he began to question her as to the kind, and the amount, of education she had had.  His verdict on her work, particularly her power of harmonisation, was that it was unusually good.  Of the harmonies he said he could give them almost unlimited praise.  He was astonished by them.  He assured her that it would take but a short time to place her in a state to give a good form to her musical ideas.
This was all very surprising to Miss Havergal.  She had always been too humble-minded to believe what Dr. Marshall, at Oakhampton had said of her musical talents.  With regard to this she writes:  “I thought, if I had the talent he said I had I should feel cleverer, somehow, than I do.”
She was able to play much of Handel, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn from memory, and her powers as a solo-singer were very much in request in the Philharmonic Society at Kidderminster.
But, ever watchful of her spiritual state, she says:  “A power utterly new and unexpected was given me (singing and composition of music), and, rejoicing in this, I forgot the Giver, and found such delight in this that other things paled before it.  It need not have been so; and in better moments I prayed that if it were hindering me the gift of song might be withdrawn.  And now that, through my ill-health, it is so, and that the pleasure of public applause, when singing in the Philharmonic Concerts, is not again to exercise its delicious delusion, I do thank Him who heard my prayer.”  How intensely her heart yearned to keep in touch with her Lord, and how keenly sensitive her conscience was to anything which came between her soul and Him.  Very deep and real must her love have been that she could rejoice in the loss of her singing power, and in the loss of her “delicious delusion.”  How many of us would have cheated ourselves into the belief that to earn applause under such circumstances was all right, instead of recognising Satan in his robes of light, and praying the courageous prayer for the temptation to be removed?
In 1866 her health was very bad, and she had to leave off most of her work.  She writes:  “My ill-health this summer has been most trying to me.  I am held back from much I wated to do in every way, and have had to lay poetising aside. . .I have a curious, vivid sense, not merely of my verse faculty in general being given me, but also of every separate poem or hymn, nay, every line being given.  It is peculiarly pleasant thus to take it as a direct gift, not a matter of effort, but purely involuntarily. . .”
In “Finis,” a verse of which I have already quoted, she expresses the same thought:

“I look up to my Father, and know that I am heard,
And ask Him for the glowing thought, and for the
fitting word:
I look up to my Father, for I cannot write alone,
‘Tis sweeter far to seek His strength than lean upon
my own.”

And surely it is on this account that her writings in poetry and prose have been so wonderfully blessed.

Excerpt from SINGERS OF ZION
Pickering & Inglis


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