Britain 1876–1953

Music played a major role in the life of a global ideological phenomenon like the British Empire. This book demonstrates that music has to be recognised as one of the central characteristics of the cultural imperialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It begins with an account of the imperial music of Sir Edward Elgar and Sir Arthur Sullivan and the establishing of an imperial musical idiom. The book discusses the music composed for or utilized by official occasions: coronations, jubilees, exhibitions, tattoos, Armistice Day and Empire Day. Community singing was also introduced at the Aldershot Military Tattoo in 1927, sponsored by the Daily Express. The book examines the imperial content of a range of musical forms: operetta and ballet, films, music hall songs, ballads, hymns and marches. In one of the scenes depicting ballet, Indian dancing girls are ordered to reveal the riches of the land and the Ballet of Jewels. There were two staples of song in the second half of the nineteenth century: the drawing-room ballad and the music-hall song. Sir Henry Coward was Britain's leading chorus-master, and his 1911 musical world tour with Sheffield choir was the high point of his career. The book concludes with a discussion of practitioners of imperial music: the divas Emma Albani, Nellie Melba and Clara Butt, and the baritone Peter Dawson.

Popular culture is invariably a vehicle for the dominant ideas of its age. Never was this truer than in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when it reflected the nationalist and imperialist ideologies current throughout Europe. It both reflects popular attitudes, ideas and preconceptions and it generates support for selected views and opinions. This book examines the various media through which nationalist ideas were conveyed in late-Victorian and Edwardian times: in the theatre, "ethnic" shows, juvenile literature, education and the iconography of popular art. It seeks to examine in detail the articulation and diffusion of imperialism in the field of juvenile literature by stressing its pervasiveness across boundaries of class, nation and gender. It analyses the production, distribution and marketing of imperially-charged juvenile fiction, stressing the significance of the Victorians' discovery of adolescence, technological advance and educational reforms as the context of the great expansion of such literature. An overview of the phenomenon of Robinson Crusoe follows, tracing the process of its transformation into a classic text of imperialism and imperial masculinity for boys. The imperial commitment took to the air in the form of the heroic airmen of inter-war fiction. The book highlights that athleticism, imperialism and militarism become enmeshed at the public schools. It also explores the promotion of imperialism and imperialist role models in fiction for girls, particularly Girl Guide stories.

The importance of films in the cultural and social life of both Britain and the United States has long been recognized. Although radio survived in Britain more or less intact, by 1960 it too had taken second place to television as the prime domestic medium. This book begins by analysing the very different relationships between cinema and radio that emerged in Britain and the United States. It moves on to examine the ways in which cinema adapted radio programmes in the fields of comedy and detective fiction and then how radio dramatized films. When radio first took off in the United States in the late 1920s, it was regarded by the film industry as a rival, something to keep people at home and away from the cinema. But during the 1930s, Hollywood began to appreciate the value of radio in publicizing and promoting its films. The British broadcasting service was set up in 1922 with a monopoly and finance from a licence fee following negotiations between the Post Office, which controlled the air waves, and the radio industry, which manufactured the equipment. Radio in wartime was informational and inspirational. It provided news, entertainment, and propaganda. The book concludes with a look in detail at the ways in which the two media have dealt with three popular fictional characters, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes.

Abstract only
Empire and music

In view of the ubiquity of imperialism in fiction, painting, poetry and theatre, it would seem intrinsically likely that it has left its traces in music. Research indicates that there was a veritable ocean of imperial music from the classical to the popular during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most of it now forgotten. The nineteenth century was the century of musical nationalism, when countries like Russia, Hungary, Bohemia, Norway and Poland each developed a musical style that was seen to reflect the national identity. In Britain there began to be insistent calls for the promotion of English national music. Typically an editorial in The Musical Times set out the case for nationalism in music. George Grove and his campaign promote English music and the notion of 'Englishness in music' which launched the English Musical Renaissance.

in Imperialism and music
Abstract only

Sir Arthur Sullivan acknowledged his Irish roots in his Irish Symphony, composed after a visit to Ireland though it is a work which owes as much to Mendelssohn and Schumann as to Irish folk-song. Sullivan's biographer Arthur Jacobs noted that his diary contained few references to public affairs or politics. But Sullivan was conservative, a monarchist and a patriot at a time when patriotism also embraced Empire. Sullivan had been an infant prodigy, already composing anthems and psalm settings while still one of the children of the Chapel Royal. Sullivan set several Lord Tennyson verses as songs: St Agnes Eve, O, Swallow, Swallow, The Sisters, What Does Little Birdie Say? and Tears, Idle tears. He provided incidental music for Tennyson's Robin Hood play The Foresters and set Tennyson's Ode for the opening of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition.

in Imperialism and music
Abstract only

Few composers have become so encrusted with myth and misrepresentation as Sir Edward Elgar. The first thing to say is that Elgar was a patriot, a monarchist and a Conservative, and his imperialism was a logical extension of these values. Elgar is appalled by the First World War, retires to Sussex to write string quartets and comes to hate Land of Hope and Glory, which had become a second national anthem during the war. Michael Kennedy has pointed out that there is no evidence that he ever hated Land of Hope and Glory. Elgar's Caiactacus was a deeply patriotic piece, a heroic cantata about the British race and its resistance to the Roman invader. Undoubtedly The Dream of Gerontius was one of Elgar's major religious works, along with the oratorios The Apostles, The Kingdom, The Light of Life and the dramatic cantata King Olaf.

in Imperialism and music
Coronations and jubilees

The national anthem has a particular significance. Where other countries' anthems celebrate the fatherland or the flag, the British national anthem celebrates the monarch-'God Save Our Gracious Queen'. The anthem was widely published in song collections and journals. It was extensively sold by street hawkers. Towards the end of the First World War, the Royal Colonial Institute ran a competition for an imperial verse for the national anthem. As Philip Ziegler wrote, 'The coronation of a British monarch is the event which brings him more dramatically than any other to the forefront of his people's consciousness.' The oath to defend Protestantism underlines the importance of that faith to the maintenance of Empire. The crowning of King Edward VII in 1902 was the first Coronation of a British monarch in the twentieth century and the first for over sixty years.

in Imperialism and music
Abstract only
Armistice Day and Empire Day

The traumatic experience of the First World War required both formal commemoration and ritualized mourning to salve emotional and psychological wounds. 'Everywhere there was mourning, sorrow and thanksgiving', reported The Times. Thereafter the two-minutes' silence became the centrepiece of the ceremonies on Armistice Day and of its successor after the Second World War, Remembrance Sunday. Music played a vital role in the construction of remembrance, in the evocation of memory, in the provision of consolation. For several years the musical centrepiece of the British Legion's Remembrance activities was a work directly inspired by the war and now largely forgotten. The first Daily Express-sponsored British Legion Festival of Empire and Remembrance took place at the Royal Albert Hall on 11 November 1927. From 1927 to 1932 the Daily Express, which strongly supported the Empire and imperial causes, sponsored an annual Empire Day Festival of Community Singing in Hyde Park.

in Imperialism and music
Exhibitions and festivals

One of the great cultural phenomena of the age of Empire was the exhibition. The Great Exhibition of 1851 attracted over 6 million visitors; the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886, 5.5 million; the 1924-25 Wembley Exhibition, 27 million. The emphasis of the 1951 Festival of Britain was very largely domestic, and confirmed the decline of the imperial sentiment that had animated the exhibitions before the war. Music was a significant element in the entertainment provided at these exhibitions. At most exhibitions military bands were ubiquitous. The Pageant was one of the principal attractions of the Exhibition and was intended to bring home in vivid visual form the heroic history of the Empire. The Pageant began with an evocation of 'Pre-Historic London' with a pastorale composed by Bell and a Druid prayer and processional music by Frank Tapp.

in Imperialism and music
The Aldershot Tattoo

The prototype of the royal tournament provides the activities that were combined with the musical elements of the Aldershot Tattoo. The tournament was first staged in 1880 as the Grand Annual Military Tournament of riding and swordplay. The participation of the cavalry was stepped up to increase the spectacle and cavalrymen were shown delivering despatches, evacuating the wounded and exchanging fire with the enemy. Physical drills and gymnastic displays were introduced in 1888, performed to music, usually Faerie Voices and Two Lovely Black Eyes. The tournament also helped to introduce the excellent army bands and their music to the public. By 1914 the Aldershot Tattoo had become a major event, repeated over four nights, involving 1,500 bandsmen, pipers and buglers and twenty-three musical items from The First Post to God Save the King. The Tattoo was suspended during the Great War.

in Imperialism and music