Preston Social Singing

Livesey, Joseph (1852) Preston Social Singing. [Image]

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This article, from 1852, gives an account of alternative Saturday night entertainment in teetotal circles in Preston.

Preston Temperance Saturday Night Social Singing Meetings

So successful has been our experiment upon a Saturday-night Singing Meeting, that our Temperance Hall, which has served our ordinary meetings for twenty years, threatens to be too small to accommodate the numbers who attend. At our first meeting we had thirty present ; we have increased every week, till we have now upwards of 400. I look upon this as a valuable auxiliary to our cause. It brings teetotalers together in good spirits ; it affords a retreat to those who are in danger of public-house temptations ; and it elevates the feelings of our members, and stimulates their zeal for additional efforts. It is altogether different from the cheap concerts which have been got up in various towns, and which were tried in Preston, but always proved a failure. In the concerts, teetotalism is not directly recognized; in our meeting s it is the foundation, the bond of union, and the stimulus to effort. In the concerts, first-rate talent in professional singers is sought after as indispensable, and consequently the attendance is not so much on the part of the lower class, as tradespeople and men of taste and refinement. In our meetings we prefer such singing as is plain, homely, and well-known, and that which we see and know takes the best with the working-classes. There is about as much difference betwixt the one and the other, as there is betwixt a first-rate college-trained minister and the plain, earnest, local preacher from the loom. Again, though they are called cheap concerts, they are not cheap enough to tempt the masses. Our charge is a penny only, and they often get a temperance paper in at that price ; and this is about the maximum that will secure a large attendance of the proper sort of people. The managers of these concerts often pay large sums to the singers, some of their vocalists receiving five or ten guineas a-night. We pay nothing, and hence our low charge ; and hence, too, the fund we raise for distributing tracts. So far, instead of having any deficiency of singers, we have had rather more than could be accommodated. First one starts up, and then another; some singing, some giving recitations ; many of them persons snatched from the public-house. A party of glee-singers has several times favoured us with pieces, and some good anthems have been sung with decided effect. We occasionally admit a single short speech from some new convert. It will be seen, therefore, that there is a striking difference betwixt the Saturday-night Temperance Social Singing Meeting and the cheap concerts. I have long wished that our town should be inundated with tracts, as I think all our towns ought to be, if much good is to be done; but till now we have never had means sufficiently abundant for this purpose. We spend the proceeds of our meetings upon tracts, and these are delivered to our visitors and speakers at the close of the meeting. We are now distributing at the rate of 16,000 per week of our small hand-bills, or in that proportion where larger ones are given away.

I may observe that this movement is not under the management of the regular temperance committee, but of myself and one or two others who were determined to give it a fair trial. This, I think, is a good regulation, for the temperance committee, by asking funds from the public, are almost pledged to the public that they will adopt no plans but what will meet the approbation of their subscribers. We are under no tie of this sort ; our motive-power is so portable, and our machinery so simple, that we can easily make any change we think desirable. I should like to see a singing-meeting in every place where there is a body of teetotalers. In small towns and villages they might commence in a private house ; and if entered into with spirit, they are sure to succeed.

J. Livesey.

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