'A moral weapon': the civic organ tradition in the Midlands, 1834-1901

Berg, Mie Othelie (2022). 'A moral weapon': the civic organ tradition in the Midlands, 1834-1901. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

Text - Accepted Version
Available under License All rights reserved.

Download (10MB) | Preview


Following the 1834 inauguration of the William Hill organ in Birmingham Town Hall, England saw growth in the installation of organs in public buildings. These monuments to civic pride and ambition were constructed not just to entertain, but to improve, as local authorities sought to elevate the tastes and morals of their working-class population by providing affordable organ recitals as an alternative to other forms of leisure. This tradition, emerging amid the socio-cultural and musical tensions of the first half of the nineteenth century, was the product of a complex web of influences, rooted in the wider rational recreation movement, a secular organ tradition which had been evolving since the seventeenth century, middle-class mistrust of working-class leisure and the belief in the suggestive power of music.

In this thesis, I have examined the origins of this tradition and its development in England between 1834 and 1901 by looking at the wider trends that led to its conception, and the ways in which it manifested itself in four case study towns: Kidderminster, Worcester, Wednesbury and West Bromwich. In each of these town, civic halls and organs were constructed and organists appointed, with the aim of producing regular, moral recitals for a working-class audience, with varying outcomes.

The results of this tradition were not the broad moralising effect that its proponents intended, and its duration was limited by the march of technology and changing attitudes following the turn of the century. Instead, its lasting effects were a contribution to the democratisation of music and concert culture, to English organ-building and organ repertoire, and the construction of a large number of instruments throughout the country.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Music
Funders: Other
Other Funders: College of Arts and Law scholarship
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13115


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year