Reflections on Music Appreciation

Reflections on Music Appreciation

My last article concluded a chronological progression of music appreciation in the PNEU from its conception in 1905 through the last half of the 20th century. As I traveled on my journey through the PNEU music programmes, I reflected on my original questions. The results of my research answered many of them and prompted new ones. What conclusions can we draw? What patterns, if any, are evident in looking at the programmes of music over fifty years? What are the key elements essential to the method?

My preferred approach is to search out what the PNEU did and look for patterns and recurring elements in an effort to understand the principles behind the method. Only then do I choose the practices and resources to use with my family today. If there is anything you learn as you dig deeper into Charlotte Mason’s writings and programmes, it is that there are always underlying principles much more comprehensive than appear at first glance. When examining PNEU practices, it is a good policy to look at them within a historical framework if possible. Copying exactly what they were doing (using the same books, studying the same composers, etc.) may or may not be in line with the principles behind their practices. The factors which drove their decisions back then may not apply to us. We may have access to things they did not.

Due to the absence of PNEU programmes prior to 1921 we are not able to see a detailed progression of how most subjects changed over Charlotte Mason’s lifetime. With music appreciation, however, we have the rare opportunity to see the very first music programme written in The Parents’ Review in 1905 and follow subsequent ones through the years until well after her death in 1923.

In my first article I mentioned my reasons for pursuing what music appreciation looked like in the PNEU. My understanding when I began my research was that we should listen to the works of a single composer and read a biography from a living book about him. Up to that point I had never seen one of The Parents’ Review articles referenced in the Parents’ Union School programmes. I discovered those articles contained essential information for the teacher’s use. After viewing Mrs. Glover’s initial music programmes, I realized I had been missing out on some basic components of music appreciation. Later music programmes contained even more details about the composers and compositions selected for study:

The month before the opening of each term, an article on the composer to be studied appeared in the “Review.” Names of books on the subject were given and a programme of music to be performed for the children to listen to, with suggestions as to easier pieces which children might play themselves. Notes on each of the pieces in the programme were given—more particularly on things which were not to be found in books. (E. Glover, 1922, p. 508)

In order to put further reflections in their proper perspective I thought it would be beneficial to remind my readers of the progression of music appreciation in the PNEU with a brief outline of music programme authors (and the corresponding curriculum programmes if available):

  • 1905-1908 Mrs. Howard Glover (multiple composers)
  • 1908-1911 Mrs. Howard Glover (format changed to single composer)
  • 1911-1914 Miss H. M. Cruse
  • 1914 Miss Alice Mary Henderson
  • 1915-1917 Miss M. Beatrice Parker
  • 1917-1920 Miss C. Harris Amey
  • 1921-1924 Mr. Cedric Howard Glover – programmes 90-100
  • 1925-1927 transition– programmes 101-107
  • 1927-1953 Miss K. E. Limbert – programmes 108-127

For more details and historical context you can read my previous articles on:

Selection of Composers

Which composers were studied in the Parents’ Union School? Why were they chosen? Did the students ever study more than one composer at a time?

The answers to these questions are useful to us in determining our selections of composers for study today. In reviewing the various composers assigned in the music programmes it was obvious some occurred more frequently than others. In 1925 Cedric Glover, in the introduction to his book, The Term’s Music, cautioned against studying minor composers too often and thereby missing out on the more significant ones:

The method employed in the selection of composers for study needs perhaps some elucidation. The number is purposely restricted to twelve, partly to conform to the customary school span of four years, and partly to ensure by means of a short cycle that all pupils at some period of their school life should make acquaintance with the work of the greater composers; to extend the number far beyond that selected would probably result in some pupils studying a string of minor composers and never reaching Bach and Beethoven at all. (C. Glover, 1925, p. 9)

The great masters were scheduled more often, many of them with a frequency on average of fourteen terms. Other composers seemed to appear more sporadically. Although this rate of occurrence did not originate with Miss Limbert, her obituary provided confirmation that the design was intentional:

This series covered twelve terms (thirty-six programmes). In order to maintain a sense of proportion, articles on each of the great masters recurred at intervals, two or three times during the series, while composers of lesser importance would be represented by only one article each. She sometimes repeated articles, making variations in the choice of gramophone records and bringing her criticism into line with the temper of the times; this she did until the present term. (PNEU, 1952, pp. 316-317)

Sometimes the number of terms in between a recurring composer varied quite a bit. Haydn, for example, during Limbert’s tenure (1927-1945) and afterwards until her death in 1952, was repeated after twenty-nine, sixteen, twelve, and twenty-seven terms respectively.

An alphabetical list of all composers included in music appreciation from 1908 to 1953 is available here. They are grouped by great masters and composers of lesser importance. For our purposes I used Miss Limbert’s criteria, taking an average of the intervals:

  • “great masters” (2 or 3 times out of 36…every 18 terms or less)
  • “composers of lesser importance” (1 time out of 36)

As it is entirely possible that some of the lesser composers were chosen because they were English, I have designated this in the tables of composers.

Although the main format for music programmes changed from multiple composers to a single composer in 1908, occasionally multiple composers were chosen to be studied simultaneously after the change. Two composers were scheduled together for six different terms from 1908 to 1953:

  • Weber & Schubert (Music Programme 16) in 1910
  • Chopin & Brahms (Music Programme 19) in 1911 – probably selected for joint study because Mrs. Glover’s main biography resource, Studies of Great Composers by Sir Hubert Parry, combined the two composers into one chapter.
  • Spohr & Weber (Music Programme 27) in 1913 – chosen because they were contemporaries:

Contemporary with Beethoven (the musician studied last term), were several good composers; it will increase our knowledge and enjoyment of music if we now get to know something of two of these—Spohr and Weber. (Cruse, 1913, p. 950)

  • Moussorgsky & Borodin (Music Programme 58) in 1924 – Russian contemporaries.
  • Haydn & Chopin (Music Programme 68) in 1927 – chosen in order to look at the whole period of music encompassed by both lives as Chopin was born the same year Haydn died:

These two composers may seem to be a strange couple to be yoked together for a term’s consideration, and there may be even a vague misgiving as to whether they would have resented this juxtaposition! But let us think a moment about the dates. Joseph Haydn was born in the night between 31st March and 1st April, 1732, … and died at Vienna, on 31st May, 1809. Frédéric Chopin was born on 1st March of the same year, … so the two composers were not very long upon this planet at the same time! But their two lives cover a long and interesting period. Bach and Handel, both born in 1685, were in full flow of their work when Haydn was born, and when Chopin died,—well, people still live who were born about that time. (Limbert, 1927, p. 318)

  • Delius & Holst in 1946 – both were English composers who lived at the same time.

Sometimes multiple composers were grouped by a theme. Themed studies appeared to be a favorite of music programme author Miss M. Beatrice Parker. These occurred eight times during the same time frame (1908-1953):

  • Five Old Masters 1653-1753 – Music Programme 21 in 1911
  • Modern Music – Music Programme 33 in 1915
  • Some Music Before 1625 – Music Programme 34 in 1916
  • Stuarts/Early Hanoverians – Music Programme 35 in 1916
  • Early French Composers – Music Programme 46 in 1919
  • Purcell and His Contemporaries – Music Programme 47 in 1920
  • Some Russian Composers – Music Programmes in 1940 and 1948

It is not known whether any of these themes correlated with the historical time period being read about by the children during the same terms. This complete list of the composers studied by the PUS from 1908 to 1953 includes those studied alongside multiple composers with the corresponding theme(s) for the term(s).

What about modern composers? How recently had the composers studied in the PNEU been living? Were any still alive when they were assigned?

In 1930 César Franck, who lived from 1822-1890, was assigned for the Autumn Term—forty years after his death. Miss Limbert said he was of “the day before yesterday:”

Some people may think this composer hardly to be placed amongst the first few of famous musicians brought to  the hearing of young children, for his name has not the familiarity to the multitude of that of Handel or Bach, and in the scale of values he is not always easily placed. His dates show that he is modern. He is not of yesterday, but of the day before. (Limbert, 1930, p. 523)

How many times were composers scheduled within forty to fifty years of their death? Twenty-five times including the following composers: Borodin, Brahms, Debussy, Dvořák, Elgar, Franck, Grieg, Moussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner. In addition to the single and dual composer studies, three multiple-composer themed music programmes included composers of the day before yesterday: Gounod, Rimsky-Korsakov, A. Thomas, and Moussorgsky again.

Delius, who lived from 1862 to 1934, and Holst, who lived from 1874 to 1934, were studied jointly for the Summer Term 1946—twelve years after their deaths. They were categorized as composers of “yesterday:”

The names of the two composers that are selected for consideration this term must be fairly familiar to most people, whether musical or not, themselves. For the B.B.C. nowadays pervades to almost every household, and works by these men are not neglected. As the dates show, they belong definitely to yesterday. (Limbert, 1946, p. 113)

Eight different times composers were scheduled when the term was within fifteen years of their death. These composers of yesterday included: Grieg, Brahms, Holst, Delius, Debussy, and Elgar. “Some Russian Composers,” a themed study, also included Glazunov. Miss Parker’s “Modern Music” programme included many such composers.

How many composers were assigned while they were still alive?

Besides those who were a part of the “Modern Music” study, four composers were still living the first term they appeared in a PNEU music programme: Elgar, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, and Stravinsky.

What kind of biographical information was utilized?

Every music programme I looked at included biographical information or recommended a book for that purpose, and sometimes both. Initially reading through the biographical information contained in the music programmes I was struck by how the presentation of each composer was extremely integrated with other composers and the historical events of their lifetime. This was true of both the books used and the relevant Parents’ Review articles. The biographies we have been reading today tend to deal with each composer’s life in a vacuum, for the most part, only briefly mentioning another composer if they were intimately involved in their life. The biographical readings used in the PNEU revealed how the political and social events of their lives influenced their music, compared their music and their lives to other composers, and even offered opinions on these comparisons sometimes. Later Parents’ Review articles were also written with this model—intentional connection with other composers.

Was there a chronological pattern to composers selected? Or another general pattern or order in which composers were studied?

There did not seem to be a chronological pattern to the composers chosen for study. The only possible exception was Mrs. Glover’s selections which mostly followed the order in Parry’s book. Cedric Glover’s book, The Term’s Music, arranged the terms of composers in a roughly chronological order by date, but the music programmes did not follow his order. Nor did there seem to be any hard and fast rule for selecting composers, although each new composer was related back to the previous one studied. Even Miss Limbert, whose music programmes were used for decades, did not follow the same sequence each time through.

Composers and History

Were composers and artists from the same time period studied concurrently? Did the PNEU choose composers and artists to correlate with the specified time period scheduled for their history books for the term? If so, in what forms did this occur?

Over the years I had come across conflicting opinions regarding answers to these questions so I decided to find out for myself. In his paper, entitled “Miss Mason’s Methods of Teaching in Practice,” which he presented in 1926, H. W. Household suggested there was an attempt to associate artists and composers with the same period being read about in their history books:

He will have French and general European history side by side with English. Geography and History will be in close touch and he will follow the explorers across the globe. Maps are no longer hated but are used daily. The novels, the plays, the poetry read will be associated with the same period—so if possible will the pictures and the music—for picture study and musical appreciation have their place. (Household, 1926, pp. 9-10)

Were composers and artists from the same time period studied concurrently?

In comparing the life span of the composers to the artists scheduled during the thirty-eight terms of programmes contained in the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection (CMDC), only eight of those included artists and composers which aligned with each other.

Did the PNEU choose composers and artists to correlate with the specified time period scheduled for their history books for the term?

I did not find evidence that music appreciation was required to fit with history after comparing the dates of composer’s lives with the time period under history in the curriculum programmes. Although most of the time two forms, and many times three forms, were covering identical time periods in history, it was rare that all the forms were studying the same dates during the term. This generally occurred most often with Forms II and III. Therefore, it was an unusual occurrence when the composer’s life coincided with the history being studied by everyone. Programmes 115-127 are the only available programmes for Forms V and VI, somewhat limiting our scope. Approximately one-third of the time the composer chosen fit with the time period for the term as can be seen from the following breakdown:

1921-1929 (Programmes 90-114; 25 terms)

  • 5 terms composer’s life overlapped with artist’s life
  • 9 terms composer’s life occurred during a historical time period being studied
  • 5 terms neither artist nor composer aligned with history

1929-1933 (Programmes 115-127; 13 terms)

  • 3 terms composer’s life overlapped with artist’s life
  • 5 terms composer’s life occurred during a historical time period being studied
  • 4 terms neither artist nor composer aligned with history
If the composer did align with the historical time period studied, in what forms did this occur?

This table shows when the lives of the composers or artists corresponded to the historical time period specified in the programmes from 1921 to 1933. All forms at different times were studying composers whose lives aligned or overlapped with their historical time period. This appeared to be random and no pattern was evident.

It is possible that some of the historically themed studies on multiple composers fit in with the assigned history books, but this cannot be proven as none of these occurred during the terms of the existing curriculum programmes.

Based on this evidence we can make the assumption that the composers chosen for the children to study did not need to coincide with the history they were currently coming in contact with through their books. Rather, over time, as they formed relationships with composers and other great minds, events and people would fall into their proper place in the timeline of history:

A consecutive idea of history comes by forging links in the historical chain anywhere, the link is the important point, whether man or event. As the links increase in number they fall into their proper order, join link to link, and because the links are strong the chain will be strong. A consecutive idea of history only comes with wide reading and strong impressions which link each to each backwards and forwards, but the process takes a life-time. (Kitching, 1921, p. 49)

This gradual build-up of knowledge was assisted by the connection of the music and composers to their relevant time period. While a composer did not have to be studied by the children at the same time they were learning about his historical time period, it was important that his life and music were placed in their proper historical context:

A knowledge of world history from the beginning of time is gradually built up, and where possible, this is linked with the creative work, in original and unabridged books, art or music, of the period studied, and story books illustrating the life and environment of the people are also suggested…The works of an artist are studied each term and the children listen to the music of a great composer. (Till, 1965, pp. 36-37)

In 1919 Music Programme 45 focused on Schumann who lived from 1810 to 1856. The Parents’ Review article included additional information on music during the Elizabethan time period (1553-1603) as it was relevant to the history being studied by the children:

As the Term now takes the Elizabethan period, I should like to add a few words on the music of that time. It has been called the “golden age” of music, which it certainly was for England.

The one toned “monadic” movement had given way to polyphonic music, and one of the first to start counterpoint had been an English musician, John Dunstable, who had the reputation of being the greatest musician of his time all over Europe. He has been called “the inventor of counterpoint.” He died in 1453. After Dunstable’s death there was a pause in the progress of music in England, while the Netherlands produced some great composers, but about a hundred years later there appeared three great English composers: Tye (1541-62), Whyte (died about 1567), Tallis (1515-85). The music of the two first was all written for the Church, but Tallis turned his attention to secular music and especially Madrigals, which form of composition many other composers now took up. These Madrigals originally came from Italy under the name of “Frottole,” but attained in England a pitch of beauty of perfection unknown in any other country. The singing of Madrigals was a special study at court and among the aristocracy, and Morley says that being able to sing them at sight was considered the test of a “gentlemanly education.” Great composers of Madrigals and Cansonets were also Byrd (1542-1623), Morley (1558-1602), and Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625). These Madrigals have been collected and edited by Ed. H. Fellowes. They can be had singly (Stainer and Bell, Ltd., London).

A little later came the “Ayres” for one voice with accompaniment of lute, viol di gamba or Orpherian. Also the compositions for the Virginals, an instrument on which the daughters of Henry VIII. are said to have performed very well. These compositions have been arranged for the piano and are very interesting to play (Augener: in 5 vols. at 2/- each). (Harris Amey, 1919, pp. 623-624)

What about Marjorie Ransom’s three-year course of study of literature and art laid out in the Parent’s Review in 1923 in her article “Art and Literature in the Parents’ Union School”? Was her course taken from a sequence of actual programmes?

I started by looking at the composers and their corresponding artists in her schedule to see if the same names were paired in any of the terms of curriculum programmes in the CMDC. Programme 90 (May-July 1921), the very first available programme, was a match with Mozart and Millet (Music Programme 50) in the fifth term of Ransom’s course. The remaining four terms in Ransom’s list also matched up sequentially with the curriculum programmes. Incidentally, all of the literature titles also corresponded with the same programmes. Working backwards from Mozart: Bach matched Music Programme 49 (Spring Term 1921), Handel with Music Programme 48 (Autumn Term 1920), and Purcell with Music Programme 47 (Summer Term 1920). However, the two terms previous to Purcell and His Contemporaries were Early French Composers (Music Programme 46) and Schumann (Music Programme 45), although it was actually the forty-fourth programme of music for the PUS. Mendelssohn, Ransom’s first composer scheduled, was used in the term before Schumann, labeled Music Programme 43. Although her three-year course does indeed give a sampling of the art and literature studied in the PUS, the composers included were not always studied in conjunction with the same artists as evidenced by this table.

Composition (Music) Selections

How many pieces of music were studied each term?
Parents’ Review vol. 44 p. 566

Mrs. Glover’s initial launch of music appreciation included “a list of six pieces” (E. Glover, 1905, p. 71). Although she started off choosing the six compositions herself, later music programmes seemed to give options and leave the choice up to the teacher:

In the autumn of 1908, it was proposed to study one great composer each term, beginning with Handel. Sir Hubert Parry’s Studies of Great Composers and Mrs. Emma Marshall’s The Master of the Musicians were recommended, and also various albums from which pieces or songs were to be selected. (Hugman, 1952, p. 135)

Usually between six and ten works or records were listed, sometimes with a “representative selection for a six-record group” marked with an asterisk (PNEU, 1933, p. 566).

What types of musical works were selected?

Both songs and instrumental pieces were selected in almost every music programme. These songs were in addition to all the others listed under Singing in the programmes. Sometimes if the composer was British, The National Song Book, also set for English songs in the curriculum programme, was mentioned in the music programme.

What criteria was used to make the selections?

Most of the time we are not told how the music was selected in the individual music programmes. However, Mr. Glover does tell us his method of selecting the music listed in his book, which I assume also applied to his PUS music selections:

In this book, therefore, while attention will be drawn to examples in the music under discussion of general principles of composition, the music will be selected rather for its importance in the artistic development of the composer and not for its fortuitous exhibition of matters solely associated with the technique of music. (C. Glover, 1925, p. 1)

Several factors influenced the programmes over the years, especially in the earlier years of music appreciation:

  • “the limited technique of the average amateur player” (C. Glover, 1925, p. 7) or singer
  • Available gramophone records or sheet music
  • Whether compositions had been adapted for current instruments such as the pianoforte
Did all the forms study the same compositions?

This seemed to depend on the preference of the music programme author. Henderson, Parker and Harris Amey usually separated the music selections by the different forms or classes, while Mrs. Glover, Cruse, Cedric Glover, and Limbert chose the same compositions for everyone.

Music Appreciation Lessons

What did a music appreciation lesson look like?

Mrs. Glover’s first music programme in 1905 predicted “a daily musical half-hour of this nature [referring to a teacher or parent playing the compositions, one part at a time if necessary, to the children] will be found to awaken keen musical enthusiasm in the children” (Glover, 1905, p. 71).

The May 1914 issue of L’Umile Pianta contained an article written about two specimen lessons for Classes IB and II and Classes III and IV conducted by Miss Cruse. Classes IB and II corresponded to Forms IA and II respectively, Class III to Forms III and IV, and Class IV to Forms V and VI (Mason, 1989c, pp. 272-294). The assumption is Class IA, or Form IB, did not participate in music appreciation lessons. In these lessons, which provide a valuable opportunity to “see” music appreciation lessons in action, she mentions music for both Christmas and Sundays (PNEU, 1914, pp. 75-77).

It seems the daily musical half-hour was treated separately from the lessons in Miss Cruse’s examples as Mrs. Howard Glover mentions a weekly lesson in 1922. In her lecture on “Musical Appreciation,” later published in the Parent’s Review, she gave a brief description of music appreciation lessons:

Musical Appreciation lessons should be held every week for half-an-hour. Ten minutes of this might be given to ear-training. Saturday morning often proved a good time and several families could join for this Class. To have Musical Appreciation three times a term was little good, and to play through the programme once a term was no good at all—this merely became a school concert. The children must not be given too much at a time; they would listen to a certain amount and then they would not want to hear any more that day. No piece must be left before the children were able to recognise it and really knew it. (E. Glover, 1922, p. 508)

Marjorie Ransom gave another summary of music appreciation lessons in her 1923 article entitled “Art and Literature in the Parents’ Union School”:

About six works by some great composer are chosen for study each term. These compositions are played or sung to the children constantly and studied carefully. The children are taught something about the form, harmonic structure, thematic development of the composition and some information is given about the life of the composer. An article appears every term in the Parents’ Review on the composer and his works, which is a great help to the teacher or parent who is giving the musical appreciation lessons. (Ransom, 1923, p. 81)

Cedric Glover broke the music appreciation lesson down into four divisions in his introduction to The Term’s Music:

1.) Ear Training

2.) Musical Terms and Instruments

…attention should be focussed chiefly on such things as the historical growth of the different musical forms, the evolution of the orchestra and the keyboard instruments, not on the nomenclature of chords or the different species of counterpoint. (C. Glover, 1925, p. 6)

  • a short space of time
  • The Listener’s Guide to Music by Percy A. Scholes
  • “information imparted should be of a severely practical nature” (C. Glover, 1925, p. 6)

3.) Composer

The composer must be made a living personality, and should be linked up as far as possible with any pre-existing facts in the minds of the pupils regarding the times in which he lived, composers being too often regarded as so many isolated figures, entirely dissociated from common experience and knowledge. (C. Glover, 1925, p. 6)

  • biographical details in book to be supplemented

4.) Music

The pupils should be familiarized with the thematic material of the movement, each tune in turn being played through several times, until the class can hum or whistle it without assistance. (C. Glover, 1925, p. 7)

  • climax of lesson
  • played by teacher (or gramophone), not pupils
  • gramophone used for orchestral works in preference to arrangements for pianoforte solo or duet
  • mastery more important than getting through all the compositions in the syllabus

It is better to work thoroughly at two or three items in the syllabus than to attempt to compass the whole superficially… (C. Glover, 1925, p. 7)

  • dissect the structure of the music (after pupils are familiar with piece)

After discussing ear training and the rudiments of music, he writes, “The remainder of the time available should be devoted to studying the composer of the term” (C. Glover, 1925, p. 6). This implies that that particular lesson is finished after the biographical information is covered. Later, “having prepared the ground, as the climax of the lesson, we turn to the actual music of the composer” (p. 7). Thus, my conclusion is that a daily musical half-hour would be separate from the music appreciation lesson.

Kathleen Hugman cautioned against talking too much before the children hear the music for the first time:

Very little talk is needed before a first hearing; experience teaches just how much, but in the same way that we allow a present or a beautiful picture to be enjoyed without explanations at first, so we should anticipate the first hearing of music as little as possible. Afterwards come the direction of attention to the ‘beauties of form and the characters of expression . . . Simple music calls only for simple explanations . . . and by such explanations the lessons are made more interesting,’ to quote F. V. Niecks once more. In these days of wonderful recordings and miniature scores, the sound of the individual instruments can also be learnt very readily. (Hugman, 1952, p. 135)

What time of day were music appreciation lessons conducted?

In this compilation of PUS time tables neither music nor music appreciation is listed. In the same 1926 article mentioned previously, H. W. Household provided an analysis of the time tables. Afterwards the following note appeared:

Music, Handicrafts, Field Work, Dancing, Nature Note Books, Century Books, are taken in the afternoons. (Household, 1926, p. 11)


It might be beneficial to begin here by looking at the implementation and purpose of examinations in the Parents’ Union School. In A Philosophy of Education Charlotte Mason wrote:

Let the child (up to any age while he is an infant in the eye of the law) tell what he has read in whole or in part on the instant, and again, in an examination paper months later. (Mason, 1989f, p. 258)

How did teachers receive and administer these exams? Did teachers know ahead of time what questions would be asked of their students at the end of the term? Was is it possible to “teach to the test”?

A 1922 Parents’ Review article, “The Work and Aims of the Parents’ Union School,” provided some answers. The examination questions were mailed out at the end of each term and the students’ answers returned to the PNEU for outside examiners to review:

We will now pass to a week before the end of term. One morning an envelope marked “House of Education, Ambleside,” arrives. It contains the examination questions. As soon as the day you have fixed on comes round you open the envelope and the examinations begin. … is then sent up to Ambleside with the written examination papers. After a few weeks this report and papers are returned together with a report from Ambleside on the written work, and from this report you are able to judge where your child stands in comparison to others of its own age. Each subject is marked—100 being the maximum—and there are remarks by the examiner and by Miss Mason who sees the papers and signs the report of every child in the P.U.S. which amounts to some thousands. (O’Ferrall, 1922, pp. 783-784)

Was there more to exams than requiring students to recall information at a later date?

After Miss Mason’s death some of the Parents’ Union Schools appeared to be struggling with exams and, as “a criticism is so often the result of a want of understanding,” Miss Kitching thought it was important to revisit the purpose of the examinations in a special report later published in the Parents’ Review (Kitching, 1929, p. 453):

…it seems necessary to try to put before our members what Miss Mason had in mind in instituting the examination at the end of every term. It is not meant to take the place either of a public examination or of individual teaching, either in the home schoolroom or in schools. It is, on the other hand, meant to act as a guide, both for parents and teachers, not only as to the standard it is possible to attain but as to the standard that is attained by many hundreds of children at work in every possible kind of circumstances. (Kitching, 1929, p. 450)

Some questions about the “conduct and method of the P.U.S. examinations” at a PNEU conference in Southampton prior to January 1929 prompted the publication of that special report (Kitching, 1929, p. 450). The PNEU was very intentional with the questions included in the exams sent out at the end of each term. Careful thought was put into those questions asked of the students in each form:

One teacher suggested (a), that in cases where two or three Forms were using the same book—Plutarch’s Lives, for example—the child might be allowed to select his question from those set for the various Forms. Another teacher thought (b), that the Examiners might mark questions substituted for those set. This takes no account of the fact that the questions set (a), have in view the ages, and the work to be expected from children of different ages, and also that answers given, say, on “Alexander” by a child of ten, of twelve, or of fourteen, must be considered from a different standard; and, (b), are upon work that is part of a definite course. (Kitching, 1929, p. 451)

While “the P.U.S. Examiners report[ed] upon only two out of the three examinations” parents or teachers were encouraged to review the whole of the years’ exams once a year for each child (Kitching, 1929, p. 452). The exams were also intended to be a tool for the parents, not just the PNEU:

Another point Miss Mason made was that the parents themselves should get from the examinations a more intimate acquaintance with their own children’s work. (Kitching, 1929, p. 452)

The purpose of the PUS exams proves to be a helpful tool to us today as we look through the available programmes with their accompanying examinations from 1921 to 1933 in the CMDC. They show us what the expectations of students were:

We must beware of letting our examination become an end in itself to the children, parent, or teacher. It should be merely a test of the term’s work, both as to the amount of ground covered and the standard reached, and it would lose both its present value and the spirit of Miss Mason’s principles if it were placed in any way on a level with the ordinary public examination. (Kitching, 1929, p. 452)

The questions posed at the Southhampton conference were put to two examiners whose written responses were published as part of the report. The PUS standard was not determined by the same criteria as other schools:

A standard is quite definitely here being sought. But it rests upon no abstract conception of what a child at a certain age ought to know but on the actual relation to one another of a given set of children taking the papers at a given season. (Kitching, 1929, p. 455)

Miss Mason has taught us not to press for such intense competition: one hundred per cent. means the paper is good and the work done as it should be, not necessarily the best or a perfect one. (Kitching, 1929, p. 456)

The second examiner warned against attempting to make Miss Mason’s methods conform to the methods employed by other models of education:

It is an attempt to conventionalise a system whose characteristic is that it is a break away from convention. (Kitching, 1929, p. 458)

Prior to her death in 1923 the exam questions were “set by Miss Mason herself” according to H. W. Household (1921, p. 16). With the exception of the sample question on Haydn taken from the Easter 1912 Examination included in “Reading and a Wide Curriculum,” the only exam questions from Miss Mason’s lifetime that can be viewed today (Programmes 90-95) were issued during Cedric Glover’s tenure as music programme author (Mason, 2015, p. 92). The questions on music appreciation about Mozart (Programme 90– Forms III and IV), Beethoven (Programme 91– Forms III and IV), Schumann (Programme 92– Forms II, III and IV), Greig (Programme 93– Forms II, III, and IV), Brahms (Programme 94– Form IV) match almost verbatim with the specimen examination questions included in Mr. Glover’s book, The Term’s Music (C. Glover, 1925, pp. 172-176). However, regardless of whether she herself created the individual questions for music appreciation, we can probably safely assume they received her approval before inclusion in the exams.

Most of our experience with PUS exam questions involve a literary subject or showing specimens to a parent or outside friend. But what about subjects, such as music appreciation, that involve more than reading a book? What kind of questions are appropriate?

I think we can take Elsie Kitching’s advice and apply it while developing questions to assess the work done by our students in music appreciation:

Mind does not function under the taking down or learning up of notes, questioning, or any effort to remember what has been heard or read. It responds to an idea and reproduces according to its kind, and it is possible to see from a child’s face and manner whether he is putting forth mind work or trying to remember. Questions are admissible occasionally, but they must contain an idea that sets the mind at work and does not merely ask for information. Children enjoy examinations set to find out what they know and giving them scope for a page or more on each answer. An examination paper in which not less than fifteen questions are set in each subject and in which not less than fifteen questions are set in each subject and in which the answers require less than half a dozen words (such papers are not uncommon) only sets the memory to work. (Kitching, 1943, p. 62)

1921-1924 Music Programmes authored by Cedric Glover

Form I either had no questions on the exam or was asked a general question, such as, “Tell about some composition by [composer] you have heard.” Mr. Glover’s earlier programmes asked the same detailed questions of Form II students as Form III and Form IV students. His later programmes asked them to list the works studied that term and to tell about one of them.

Form III students were asked to “write a few lines on any three of the compositions of [composer] you have enjoyed” or one or more of the detailed questions Form IV students were asked. The specimen questions from The Term’s Music were only used during the time Mr. Glover was writing articles, although not all of questions used during this time were included in his book, nor were all the questions eventually listed in his book used in earlier PUS exams.

1925-1927 time of transition

Beginning with Programme 102 in 1925, when Glover’s book was first published, through Programme 107 in 1927, The Term’s Music was assigned in the curriculum programmes. Although there were sometimes detailed questions in the examinations, none of them were taken from the appendix in The Term’s Music during that time. No examination questions were included for Form I.

1927-1933 Music Programmes authored by Miss K. E. Limbert

The Term’s Music gradually dropped off the curriculum programmes and none of the examination questions from the book were used. Form I students were not asked to answer exam questions in music appreciation. Form II students were generally asked to name the music by the term’s composer they had studied and to describe or tell about one of them. Questions for Form III students fluctuated between more general questions similar to Form II or more specific ones. Our first exposure to the type of questions asked of Forms V and VI students is from the Autumn Term in 1929. They were asked, “What works of [composer] have you heard this term, and what have you learnt?” In addition they were asked to write fully on a composition.

You can view a complete compilation of PUS music appreciation exam questions from Programmes 90-127 here.

Relationship to Music in the Programmes

I have focused my research on Music Appreciation, rather than Singing or Music. However, none of these were studied in isolation. Music Appreciation was especially integrated with playing the piano and other instruments, or Music in the programmes. Mrs. Glover’s instructions included in the very first music programme suggested the compositions and songs chosen for music appreciation provided opportunity for more than just listening:

The pieces selected this month do not present any great difficulty, and might be studied and performed by the more advanced pupils themselves. (E. Glover, 1905, p. 71)

Agnes Drury alluded to an important reason for the students playing some pieces themselves:

Such arrangements, of course, all make one feel the inadequacy of the piano. To come to its proper use, and the music composed for it, how helpful it is that the Parents’ Review now suggests pieces suitable for playing to children, or for our more advanced pupils to study themselves. The children do enjoy them immensely, are ready to listen again and again, know clearly which they prefer, and like to hear about the composers and their characteristics. I think this will all help them to take advantage of good lessons later on, as well as to enjoy great artists. But, of course, appreciation comes best of all through trying oneself. (Drury, 1905, p. 7)

Subsequent music programme authors included advice for selecting and playing different pieces by children in the various forms in their Parents’ Review articles.

This intention for the students to play works from the current term’s composer was evident in the curriculum programmes dating from 1921 to 1933. Instructions under Music in these later programmes directly tied into Music Appreciation. Forms III and IV were directed to “choose and learn a suitable composition from the Programme of Music.”  Occasionally students were instructed to choose more than one composition.

Over the years there was some shuffling around in the curriculum programme headings, but Music Appreciation always remained a separate subject. In Programme 119 Music was renamed Ear-Training, Piano, Etc. for Forms I and II, and then combined with Singing in Programme 125. Music became Music, Piano, Etc. in Programme 119 for Forms III and IV, and eventually Ear-Training, Singing, Piano, Etc. in Programme 125.

Since we can only view Programmes 115 through 127 for Forms V and VI, it is difficult to perform any kind of in-depth analysis, but there were some interesting variations in the Music portions. In Programmes 115 through 118 some of the same books listed under Music Appreciation were mentioned under Music and a specific composition was given to play. However, the composer selected from the biography book under Music differed from the composer selected for Music Appreciation from the same book for all but one of these programmes. The same applied to the individual Music compositions. Programmes 119 through 122 did not mention any specific composers or playing compositions. The instructions for Programmes 123 through 127 matched those for Forms III and IV stating, “choose and learn suitable compositions by [the term’s composer].” Programme 126 even suggested playing the songs on bamboo pipes.

Other Interesting Observations

Upon reviewing the PNEU music programmes a few additional observations came to light—music for Sundays or holidays, the use of sheet music, and comparison of the various compositions. Sundays were treated as a special day from the other days of the week:

Only one point more—a word as to the manner of keeping Sunday in the family. Do not let the young people feel themselves straitened by narrow views: give them freely the broad principle that what is right on Saturday is right on Sunday—right, but not in all things convenient; the Sunday has pursuits of its own; and we are no more willing to give up any part of it to the grind of the common business or the common pleasures of life, than the schoolboy is to give up a holiday to the grind of school-work. (Mason, 1989e, p. 210)

Different books designated for “Sunday Reading” were listed under the Bible Lessons portion of the programmes. Just as there were different books selected for “Sunday Reading,” different music was selected for listening to on Sundays in many of the music programmes. Miss Cruse gave specific instructions on how Sunday music was treated in her specimen lesson for Class III and IV students:

At this point Miss Cruse explained how the “Elijah” is taken on Sundays. First, the pupils find the libretto of each part in their Bibles, and then each with a copy follows first the air, then the accompaniment as each is played in turn. Next, they sing themselves. (PNEU, 1914, p. 77)

In addition to Sundays, occasionally special music was set in the programmes for holidays. Miss Cruse also included one of these in her specimen lesson for Class IB and II students:

The Christmas pieces were next mentioned, and the idea of the title explained. One of them was played through for the children to name pulse-measure, then again that they might notice how many times the principal theme occurred. (PNEU, 1914, p. 76)

In the beginning of music appreciation, the Parents’ Review exclusively listed sources for sheet music in order for a parent or teacher to play the compositions to their students. Volumes containing easier adaptations of the compositions were suggested for children of different abilities to play themselves. However, even after gramophone records had been listed as a resource for years, teachers were still encouraged to have students study some of the scores in addition to playing some of the pieces:

The record is full, and the quieter portions can be heard at home, but the fine effect of the opening symphony will be better appreciated when the score is followed, or studied separately. (Limbert, 1933a, p. 262)

If a score is used and children are made familiar with the words, and gain some knowledge of the themes from study at the piano, they will appreciate these records all the more and prepare for full appreciation of the great work when the time arrives for them to hear it in its entirety. (Limbert, 1933b, p. 530)

Students were encouraged to compare individual pieces of music with other compositions. Sometimes this entailed looking more closely at other compositions scheduled for the same term. Other times the comparison involved music learned in previous terms by different composers. The premise appeared to be that there should be a gradual building up of knowledge concerning composers and their music that could be called on.

The Philosophy Behind Music Appreciation

The basic idea foundational to this part of the wide curriculum offered by the PNEU was that understanding was essential in order to truly appreciate music. In an address given about “The Parents’ Union School and Its Founder” Mrs. Franklin referenced this:

She [Charlotte Mason] also felt that in order really to enjoy going to a picture gallery one must know something of the pictures beforehand, so she arranged Picture Talk and showed children in the School reproductions of the great pictures so that when they went to a gallery they would understand the artist’s message. She did the same with music: through Musical Appreciation she prepared children to understand and enjoy concerts. (Franklin, 1923, pp. 113-114)

A crucial element to gaining an understanding of music was ear training:

If culture flows in through the eye, how much more through the ear, the organ of that blessed sixth sense, which appears to be distributed amongst us with partial favour. A great deal of time and a good deal of money is commonly spent to secure to the young people the power of performing indifferently upon an instrument; nor is even an indifferent performance to be despised: but it is not always borne in mind that to listen with discriminating delight is as educative and as “happy-making” as to produce; and that this power might, probably, be developed in everybody, if only as much pains were spent in the cultivation of the musical sense as upon that of musical facility. Let the young people hear good music as often as possible, and that under instruction. (Mason, 1989e, p. 235)

The programme of music appreciation developed over time and gradually grew to include other components, but it always involved more than just knowing a composer’s name and listening to his music in the background:

Whatever fault there may be in the Parents’ Union it is certainly not lack of enthusiasm. This enthusiasm springs from contact with the great mind of our founder Miss Mason, who has discovered again for us the great truth which Christ taught in his Gospel, that we must not OFFEND, DESPISE OR HINDER little children. Parents and teachers are constantly doing this when they give children the wrong mental food.

We show our respect for the child’s mind when we give him the best in Literature and Art and assist his mental growth by putting him into communication with the Great Masters. We have only to read the lives of great men to learn that their knowledge and insight was derived by coming into contact, while young, with living and dead masters through their books and works. (Ransom, 1923, p. 78)

Charlotte Mason wanted to put children directly in touch with the worthy thoughts and ideas of great men:

Education is of the spirit and is not to be taken in by the eye or effected by the hand. Mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought, and that is how we become educated. For this reason we owe it to every child to put him into direct communication with great minds, that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and here let me emphasise the importance of using first-hand books; all compendiums, digests, compilations, selections, all books at second-hand should be eschewed. The method of vital education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many books, should read and hear and see. (We give much attention, by the way, to cultivating the power to appreciate pictures, music, etc. Miss Drury, in a paper which is to follow, will indicate our methods.) (Mason, 1916, p. 652)

The books set for History, Literature, and Geography are, of course, used for reading aloud as well as for composition and dictation. But to return to the object of our Literature lessons. It is to let poems and books themselves speak to the children; and therefore its purpose links Literature with Picture Study and listening to Music. Great use is made of these in the Parents’ Union School, because children unconsciously form a taste for what is beautiful simply by contemplating the best. “We needs must love the highest when we see it.” (Drury, 1916, p. 674)

Some of these great men communicated their ideas through music:

Many great men have put their beautiful thoughts, not into books, or pictures, or buildings, but into musical score, to be sung with the voice or played on instruments, and so full are these musical compositions of the minds of their makers, that people who care for music can always tell who has composed the music they hear, even if they have never heard the particular movement before. (Mason, 1989d, Book I, p. 31)

But we cannot hear what the composers are saying to us if we do not train our ear to listen:

Use every chance you get of hearing music (I do not mean only tunes, though these are very nice), and ask whose music has been played, and, by degrees, you will find out that one composer has one sort of thing to say to you, and another speaks other things; these messages of the musicians cannot be put into words, so there is no way of hearing them if we do not train our ear to listen. (Mason, 1989d, Book I, p. 31)

Key Elements of the Method

Each of the different authors of the music programmes over the years influenced the articles in The Parents’ Review and the music selected for study. However, the underlying principles remained the same and they remained true to the method Mrs. Howard Glover outlined in her first music programme in 1905, and improved upon in 1908.

  1. Slow intentional listening in order to become familiar with each piece

The children must not be given too much at a time… No piece must be left before the children were able to recognise it and really knew it. (E. Glover, 1922, p. 508)

In any case each piece of music should be mastered before passing on to the next; the mere playing through of the music is in itself quite valueless and only the vaguest impressions result and as quickly disappear. (C. Glover, 1925, p. 7)

  1. Training the ear to listen
  2. Biographical information placing the composer and his music within their historical time frame
  3. Comparison and connections to other compositions and composers from previous terms
  4. Daily listening
  5. Rudiments of the music (musical form and history)
  6. Students playing pieces by the composer

Can we carry out Mrs. Glover’s vision of teaching our children to listen with understanding?

Music Appreciation in the 21st century

My hope is that this series of articles and links will be a reference for other Charlotte Mason educators, providing them with the relevant historical resources and context to evaluate current resources within the Charlotte Mason community. What can we do with this information? How does it apply to us today? How can we inspire our children to appreciate music? I’ll look more closely at these decisions in my next and final article.

The same Miss Drury who Miss Mason trusted to write about the practical application of her method reminds us to look at music as an art. I’ll leave you with her words on the importance of inspiring our children early on in this regard:

Occupied daily with the consideration of irritating details, inculcating the accuracy and patience necessary in practising, we are apt to forget that music is an art.

It is not merely a handicraft, though the piano gives most valuable manual training. Neither is it a science alone, though it consists of sounds. Music is a means of expression, and unless we can make our pupils feel this, by our own playing and our evident aim for them, we are degrading music to mere disciplinary uses, and not only failing to inspire the children, but possibly giving them a distaste for music.

Mr. Tates once said that there was always time enough later on to get technical knowledge of drawing and painting, but that childhood was the time for learning to observe and appreciate. I think this may be true of music too. And a teacher can do much by sharing her enthusiasm with her pupils. (Drury, 1905, pp. 5-6)


Cruse, H. (1913). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 24 (pp. 948-950). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Drury, A. (1905). Musical teaching. In L’Umile Pianta, June, 1905 (pp. 5-9). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Drury, A. (1916). A liberal education: no. 2 practice. In The Parents’ Review, volume 27 (pp. 661-680). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Franklin, H. (1923). The Parents’ Union School and its founder. In In memoriam Charlotte M. Mason. (pp. 111-118). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, C. (1925). The term’s music. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.

Glover, E. (1905). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 16 (p. 71). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Glover, E. (1922). Outline of a lecture on musical appreciation. In The Parents’ Review, volume 33 (pp. 506-512). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Harris Amey, C. (1919). Robert Alexander Schumann. In The Parents’ Review, volume 30 (pp. 619-624). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Household, H. (1921). Teaching methods of Miss Charlotte Mason. In The Parents’ Review, volume 32 (pp. 10-20). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Household, H. (1926). Miss Mason’s method of teaching in practice. In A short exposition of miss Mason’s method of teaching (pp. 5-27). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Hugman, K. C. (1952). Our music appreciation. In The Parents’ Review, volume 63 (p. 134-135). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Kitching, E. (1921). The meeting. In The Parents’ Review, volume 32 (pp. 44-54, 92-101). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Kitching, E. (Ed.). (1929). Notes and queries on the work of the Parents’ Union School. In The Parents’ Review, volume 40 (pp. 445-463). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Kitching, E. (1943). Children up to school age and beyond. In The Parents’ Review, volume 54 (pp. 16-27, 54-68). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Limbert, K. (1927). Haydn, 1732-1809—Chopin, 1809-1849. In The Parents’ Review, volume 38 (pp. 318-325). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Limbert, K. (1930). César Franck (1822-1890). In The Parents’ Review, volume 41 (pp. 523-530). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Limbert, K. (1933a). Henry Purcell (1658-1695). In The Parents’ Review, volume 44 (pp. 250-262). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Limbert, K. (1933b). Handel, 1685-1759. In The Parents’ Review, volume 44 (pp. 523-535). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Limbert, K. (1946). Delius 1862-1934 / Holst 1874-1934. In The Parents’ Review, volume 57 (pp. 113-117). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1916). A liberal education: no. 1 theory. In The Parents’ Review, volume 27 (pp. 641-660). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1989c). School education. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

Mason, C. (1989d). Ourselves. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

Mason, C. (1989e). Formation of character. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

Mason, C. (1989f). A philosophy of education. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

Mason, C. (2015). The reading habit and a wide curriculum. In J. C. Smith (Ed.), Essays on the life and work of Charlotte Mason, volume 2 (pp. 81-96). Roanoke, Virginia: Charlotte Mason Institute.

O’Ferrall, S. (1922). The work and aims of the Parents’ Union School. In The Parents’ Review, volume 33 (pp. 777-787). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

PNEU. (1914). Music appreciation class. In L’Umile Pianta, May 1914 (pp. 75-77). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

PNEU. (1933). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 44 (p. 566). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

PNEU. (1952). Obituary: K.E. Limbert. In The Parents’ Review, volume 63 (pp. 316-317). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Ransom, M. (1923). Art and literature in the Parents’ Union School. In The Parents’ Review, volume 34 (pp. 75-84). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Till, E. (1965). Characteristics of a P.N.E.U. school. In The Parents’ Review, volume 76 (pp. 35-37). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Dawn Tull has been homeschooling her children using Charlotte Mason’s methods since 2009. Although earning an MS in Business Management has left her underqualified to manage her own household, she has slowly been accepting the fact her four children were born unique persons. After relocating their family numerous times, she and her husband Donnie, currently live near Knoxville, TN in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Researching and pursuing the truth is important to her and has given her a heart for supporting and encouraging other homeschool families. She enjoys studying and discussing Miss Mason’s philosophy with a local study group and taking advantage of the outdoors with a natural history club.

©2019 Dawn Tull

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