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'A New Impetus to the Love of Music' : The Role of the Town Hall in Nineteenth-Century English Musical Culture

Milestone, Rachel Elizabeth (2009) 'A New Impetus to the Love of Music' : The Role of the Town Hall in Nineteenth-Century English Musical Culture. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

On 6 March 1884 an article appeared in the Birmingham Gazette that reflected positively on the active musical life of the town, attributing much of the success to the town hall, and stating that the building had given 'a new impetus to the love of music' . Representing a link between municipal and artistic life, the nineteenth-century town hall was intended to be a monument to the glory, abilities and achievements of the town in which it was built. Due in part to the increase in and growing demand for public concerts at this time, such town halls also emerged as a new type of performance space for music, particularly in recently industrialised areas, and many became integral to the musical life of the town. To investigate key aspects or stages of this development, the town halls of Stalybridge (1831), Birmingham (1834) and Leeds (1858) are selected as case studies, and present an informative comparison. Town-hall performances were a regular phenomenon in all of these towns, playing a large part in general local music-making. However, this similarity conceals a number of underlying differences in the use of the three town halls as music venues. The main distinction between the town halls of Stalybridge, Birmingham and Leeds can be seen in their conception and design. Stalybridge Town Hall was designed as a market, the town hall of Birmingham was built specifically as a concert hall, and Leeds Town Hall housed a complex of facilities for local government. At Stalybridge for much of the century, musical activity was held in the 'large room' that, although built with an 'orchestra', had no organ and no proper performance facilities. In stark contrast, Birmingham Town Hall was a purpose-built concert hall containing one of the best organs in Europe, with every necessary facility for the performance of music. Although Leeds Town Hall was designed' as a local government building, the large hall was specifically designed for music-making, again housing an organ that was at the forefront of modern technology. Often a town hall would enable or encourage the holding of a musical festival, prompting the engagement of international artists and the commissioning of new repertoire. Such events hold an integral place in the history of music in nineteenth-century Britain, and here the town hall played a central role. Stalybridge differed from Leeds and Birmingham in not hosting a musical festival, however. In addition, a festival was only a small part of the musical function of many town halls, and such events often overshadow the vast range of performances that were held in all three buildings in the intervening years. The frequent use of the building by local musicians in particular ensured that all three town halls worked as a great stimulus to the musical life of the town in which it was placed, even overcoming competition from rival commercial venues. The nineteenth-century town hall was a new performance space and a distinct cultural phenomenon. It was a symbolic building that stimulated the creation and performance of some of the most important works in the nineteenth-century repertoire, and that allowed thousands of people to hear music they could never have otherwise experienced. Through the town hall a local government could act as patron, bringing the community together through musical provision designed to 'improve' the citizens of all classes. In an age of diversity and division, the nineteenth-century town hall played an important unifying role, open to all members of society and uniting them in one common cause - 'the love of music'.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Music (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.509011
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2018 14:13
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2018 14:13
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21107

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