Scottish Vocal Music Association’s Tonic Sol-Fa Demonstration, City Hall, May 1857

The Glasgow Herald has advertisements, including on the 6th and 7th of May, 1857, for the Scottish Vocal Music Association’s Tonic Sol-Fa Demonstration, which was to be held at the City Hall, on the evening of Tuesday the 12th of May, at half-past seven. Mr W. D. Read, of London, was the conductor; William Euing was in the chair; and the Rev. W. Curwen was expected to be present and address the Meeting.


Tickets were sixpence each. Reserved seats were one shilling. and Programmes of the Words to be Sung cost one penny. These were available from the Members of Mr. Read’s Classes, at Mr. Bryce’s, Mr. Gallie’s, and at the Religious Institution Rooms.

W. D. Read is listed in the 1858-59 Post-Office Glasgow Directory, page 222, as a teacher of singing, Crawford Place, Rottenrow.


On Wednesday the 13th of May, the Herald has the following, on page four:



Many of our readers will be at a loss to understand the meaning of the strange combination of syllables which we have written; and it is not easy to explain, in the limits of a newspaper paragraph, the peculiarities of the system of musical tuition and notation known by the above designation. Suffice it that it is a method of teaching music by syllables instead of notes, and the radical principle of the method is tonic, – that is, that it depends upon a key-note. In this it does not differ from any method hitherto in use, because the ability to read any music consists always, and necessarily, in the knowledge of the relation of all the notes in the scale to the tonic or key-note. But enough. Last night was the first grand exhibition of what pupils and students are able to do after a course of twenty lessons in the Tonic Sol-Fa method. Twenty lessons have been given in Glasgow, by Mr. W. D. Read, of London, to somewhere about, as we were told, thirteen hundred pupils, out of which number five hundred or so met in the City Hall last night, and performed, without accompaniment, some two dozen pieces of vocal music, including extempore exercises upon the scale, or (according to the Tonic Sol-Fa nomenclature) the modulator.


To say we were delighted is an easy matter, because the phrase is almost a stereotyped one; but we were charmed – wonder-struck! The precision of the singing was marvellous; and whether it was a consequence of the method or of Mr. Read’s own manner in imparting musical knowledge, we know not, but we must, without the slightest hesitation, give it as our deliberate opinion, that we never before heard such admirable choral vocal music in this city. We have small space to say more; but, before concluding, we would urge upon all who desire to see music made a part of the education of the rising generation to go to Mr. Read’s classes and judge for themselves what a simple method and a competent teacher can do.”