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Popular Music in England, 1840-1914

Popular Music in England, 1840-1914

Dave Russell
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Popular Music in England, 1840-1914
    Book Description:

    Russell's discussion reflects the broad categories of popular music activity during this period. His first section describes the musical activity generated by moral crusaders, philanthropists, educationalists, and reformers who sought to use music as a method of instilling habits of mind and body in the English working classes. The second studies the musical forms developed by entrepreneurs, particularly in the music halls. The third section focuses on the music and musical institutions produced by the community, illustrating the popular capacity for making as well as enjoying music.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6106-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Dave Russell
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Chapter 1 Introduction: music and society
    (pp. 1-14)

    It seems useful at this stage to provide an outline of the main patterns of popular music between 1840 and 1914, and the one offered here concentrates especially upon size, geography, class and gender. Many of the points touched on will be explored in detail later. There then follows a sketch of the contemporary historical setting giving a partial explanation for the emergence of these particular patterns.

    Three key processes,expansion, diversificationandnationalisation, can be identified operating within the field of popular music during this period. There was clearly a huge expansion in musical activity of all types, as...

  7. Part 1 Control:: music and the battle for the working-class mind

    • Chapter 2 Music and morals, 1840–1880
      (pp. 17-32)

      To most middle-class Victorians it was axiomatic that music should be more than a mere artistic experience or a form of amusement. John Spencer Curwen’s assessment of his father’s tonic sol-fa sight-singing method illustrates clearly the overtly moralistic approach to music so common in the nineteenth century.

      The method was the indirect means of aiding worship, temperance and culture, of holding young men and women among good influences, of reforming character, of spreading Christianity. The artistic aspect of the work done by the sol-fa method is indeed less prominent than its moral and religious influence.¹

      Certainly, there were clear signs...

    • Chapter 3 Music and morals, 1880–1914
      (pp. 33-60)

      The period from about 1880 saw both a great revival of public debate over the ‘music for the people’ movement and a broadening and altering of its scope and aims. Certainly many of the tried and trusted features were still present, and the old clarion calls for class unity and moral regeneration were still strong. In December 1883, Viscount Folkestone of the London-based People’s Entertainment Society stated the Society’s intention ‘to cultivate a taste for good, high-class amusement among the poorer classes in the hope of withdrawing them from lower places of resort, to introduce an element of brightness into...

  8. Part 2 Capitalism:: entrepreneurs and popular music

    • Chapter 4 The popular music industry
      (pp. 63-86)

      The favourable musical climate of Victorian England offered numerous opportunities for the fertile imagination of the entrepreneur. Old musical institutions were restructured and new ones born as the music ‘industry’ came of age. Obviously, the music-hall represents the greatest achievement of this period and it is the halls, and more especially their influence upon contemporary social and political attitudes, that form the core of this section. But the music-hall was only part of a great span of entrepreneurial musical activity ranging from the musical and organisational simplicity of a street musician’s performance to the complexity of a London concert, and...

    • Chapter 5 The music-hall and its music
      (pp. 87-95)

      The music-hall was never devoted entirely to music. The advent of ‘variety’ in the Edwardian period produced a rash of acrobats, jugglers and strongmen as well as dogs, birds and baboons which on occasions relegated the musical element to a clear second place.¹ Sketches became increasingly common from the 1890s, and, incidentally, offer a rich source to the historian. Moreover, the music in the halls was, especially in the 1850s and 1860s and again after 1900, drawn from a much wider repertoire than is often appreciated. Something which can be referred to as a ‘music-hall song’ did not really emerge...

    • Chapter 6 Social and political comment in music-hall song
      (pp. 96-111)

      Music-hall songs were replete with contemporary references, even after the increased performance of the socially and geographically more indeterminate American ‘Tin Pan Alley’ songs from the early 1890s. Love, marriage, poverty, leisure, class and many other topics were dealt with, sometimes overtly but often more obliquely, in innumerable songs.

      What emerges most forcibly from a detailed reading of music-hall song is a profoundly conservative picture of life. Key social institutions are always present, on an unchanging backdrop. The existence of a huge gap between rich and poor was accepted, and indeed at certain stages, as in theLions Camiquesphase...

    • Chapter 7 Patriotism, jingoism and imperialism
      (pp. 112-130)

      There has been considerable debate in recent decades over the popular response to the ‘New Imperialism’ of the late nineteenth century. Given that some contemporaries, most noticably the anti-imperialist J. A. Hobson, saw the music-hall as a profoundly jingoistic institution, it is hardly surprising that a part of this debate has focused on the halls’ imperialist contribution. Some writers, usually after a decidedly cursory glance at the available materials, have minimised music-hall’s role. Others, after digging deeper, have found some justification for contemporary statements. No apology is made for raising the subject in depth here.¹

      First, it is essential to...

  9. Part 3 Community:: the music of ‘the people’

    • Chapter 8 The emergence of a popular tradition
      (pp. 133-161)

      Professional entertainment promoters, anxious to defend their product, were prone to see themselves as the major source of musical provision. (Some philanthropists had similar delusions.) Historians have sometimes concurred in their view. ‘At the beginning of the period (1800) the working classes were making their own music, while at the end of it (1914) their music was supplied by a large, commercially-organised population of professional entertainers’: so argues Nicholas Temperley.¹ However, although professionals had gained much ground by 1914, the largest single element in the popular musical life of all but the very poorest in the nineteenth and early twentieth...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter 9 Brass bands
      (pp. 162-198)

      The brass band represents one of the most remarkable working-class cultural achievements in European history. The exact number of bands will probably never be known. Contemporary estimates vary alarmingly and are of little value. In 1889, for example,Wright & Round’s Amateur Band Teachers Guideclaimed that there were forty thousand amateur wind bands in Britain. A few months later theBrass Band News, also published by Wright & Round, put the number at thirty thousand, thus eliminating ten thousand bands and perhaps two hundred thousand bandsmen!¹ The best that can be offered here is the impression that most communities of over...

    • Chapter 10 Choral societies
      (pp. 199-221)

      It is remarkable that while much has been written on the subject of choral music, almost nothing has appeared on the thousands of societies which performed that music. The following survey, while in no way definitive, suggests areas and arguments for debate.

      By mid century, choral societies had been established in most English towns with a population of 20,000 plus, and in many of much smaller size. At first, most choirs were mixed voice and comprised anything from fifty to one hundred voices. By the late nineteenth century three basic forms were apparent. The mixed-voice choirs of medium size had...

    • Chapter 11 Music and social change
      (pp. 222-248)

      A history of popular musical organisations must by definition focus upon music. It is impossible, however, to understand the appeal and influence of the amateur musical society without giving some attention to the many social and economic benefits which accrued to members.

      At the most simple level, but of great importance, choirs and bands offered endless opportunity for basic sociability, and sometimes more. Rehearsals, concerts and competitions gave plentiful opportunity for talking, smoking and drinking in between and after the musical activities, while romance flourished over the tops ofMessiahcopies and down amongst the violins. By the late nineteenth...

  10. Conclusions and epilogue
    (pp. 249-255)

    At ‘grass roots’ level, England (especially in the last two decades of the nineteenth century), was an intensely musical nation. There were considerable regional variations in terms of skill and taste, but a national musical culture was taking shape by the end of Victoria’s reign. Musical organisations often reflected contemporary class divisions and tensions, but class lines could be crossed, as in some choirs and some music-halls, and there was a considerable sharing of repertoire amongst classes. In general a catholic taste prevailed. Enthusiasts in especially ‘developed’ musical regions such as the Yorkshire textile district could enjoy what was, by...

  11. Appendix: Working-class composers
    (pp. 256-260)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 261-291)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 292-296)
  14. Index
    (pp. 297-303)