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“Brightening the lives of the people on Sunday”: the National Sunday League and Liberal Attitudes towards Concert Promotion in Victorian Britain

McVeigh, Simon. 2019. “Brightening the lives of the people on Sunday”: the National Sunday League and Liberal Attitudes towards Concert Promotion in Victorian Britain. In: Sarah Collins, ed. Liberalism and Victorian Music Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108628778 [Book Section] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

There were few overt restrictions on concert promotion in Victorian Britain, a laissez-faire attitude towards regulation and an international free trade in music that apparently represent archetypal liberal positions. Yet social and cultural barriers of all kinds were hidden assertions of power, and one glaring obstacle still remained.

Sunday concerts were a social, political and religious issue to the end of the century. The National Sunday League – an anti-sabbatarian alliance of working-class radicals with social reformers, secularists and Unitarians – regarded music as an essential tool. ‘Intellectual and Elevating Recreation’ was offered through oratorio selections at Sunday Evenings for the People, while free band concerts in the parks allied music to the philanthropic open-air movement.

Free Sunday concerts of a different kind – serious chamber music – were offered by the South Place Ethical Society, and towards 1900 the cause was taken up by Queen’s Hall, leading to a flood of commercially-oriented orchestral concerts on Sundays. The issue became intertwined with debates about public subsidy of national culture and working-class ‘improvement’, whether through permanent orchestras on the rates or subsidized outdoor band concerts: a striking example of the transition from Victorian voluntarism to the statist interventions of New Liberalism.

Item Type:

Book Section

Keywords:

sabbatarianism, rational recreation, Sunday question, National Sunday League, London concert, South Place

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music

Dates:

DateEvent
2019Accepted

Item ID:

24449

Date Deposited:

28 Sep 2018 12:19

Last Modified:

07 Mar 2019 11:10

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/24449

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