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The 'Land of Song': gender and identity in Welsh choral music, 1872-1918

Barlow, Rachelle Louise 2015. The 'Land of Song': gender and identity in Welsh choral music, 1872-1918. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis concerns Wales as the ‘land of song’. In particular, it looks at choral singing in Wales which has long been considered a male tradition. From definitions of Welsh musical traditions featured in encyclopaedias to the continued use of male voice choirs at cultural events (such as rugby matches), men are continually promoted as the only bearers of the Welsh choral tradition. By contrast, this thesis questions such an assertion by arguing that women were also key players in its development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this matter, I interrogate two gendered stereotypes: Wales as ‘the land of my mothers’ (with reference to the suffrage movement) and Wales as ‘the land of my fathers’ (with reference to music, sport and nationhood). Conceived as a historical ethnography, this thesis draws upon extensive primary and secondary sources to provide the first in-depth study of gender and identity in Welsh choirs. The core of the thesis is comprised of historical narratives of four case study choirs from the period under study, namely the South Wales Choral Union (led by ‘Caradog’), the Rhondda Glee Society (led by Tom Stephens) and the two Royal Welsh Ladies’ Choirs (led by Clara Novello Davies and Hannah Hughes-Thomas respectively). In each case, I provide a discussion of the choir’s origin and the social context in which it developed, details about performance practice, membership, social class, repertoire and each choir’s relationship to notions of gender and identity in Wales. Moreover, I present a new understanding of the choirs’ conductors through biographical accounts; information regarding Clara Novello Davies and Hannah Hughes-Thomas especially has not been featured in previous scholarly studies. Informed by my perspective as a Welsh woman, I present a nuanced reading of Wales as ‘the land of song’ by considering both historical narratives and personal ethnographic experiences today. In this manner, this thesis contributes to ethnomusicological literature on gendered discourse and concepts of nationhood.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Uncontrolled Keywords: Welsh music, ethnomusicology, gender studies, identity, Wales, male voice choirs, choral music, rugby, female choirs, Welsh history, First World War
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 6 June 2017
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2023 11:43

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