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Disputing Choruses in 1760s Halifax: Joah Bates, William Herschel, and the Messiah Club

Cowgill, Rachel (2007) Disputing Choruses in 1760s Halifax: Joah Bates, William Herschel, and the Messiah Club. In: Music in the British Provinces, 1690-1914. Ashgate, Aldershot, pp. 87-113. ISBN 9780754631606

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Contribution to peer-reviewed collection co-edited with Peter Holman - the first detailed investigation of British provincial musical life across two centuries. (i) Originality: this article focuses on a 28-page pamphlet - not previously examined in detail - which was printed in Halifax (1767) and illuminates circumstances surrounding the first Yorkshire performances of Messiah, involving the impresario/director Joah Bates, the future knight-astronomer William Herschel, and choristers from an early amateur singing-club (the Messiah Club). Elements of the 1784 Handel Commemoration are prefigured in these performances, allowing contextualisation of existing scholarship on Handel veneration in the metropolis (e.g. Weber) and confirming the high Anglican/Tory complexion of Messiah's early reception. The essay affords insights into the dissemination and significance of Messiah in the emerging provincial festival circuit, and the disputes surrounding these performances shed light on broader cultural themes - music, sociability, and class identity, payment for musical labour, and shifts in the structures and organisation of provincial music-making. (ii) Significance: this contributes substantially to discussion of performance practice in eighteenth-century English oratorio - principally matters of ensemble direction, instrumentation, and choral forces (especially recruitment of female sopranos) - but it also informs understanding of the place, nature, and role of music-making in the rapidly expanding textile towns of the north. Important detail is established for the early careers of the central protagonists (Bates, Herschel), and a musical dimension is added to observations from class, social, and urban historians (Clark, Borsay, Smail). (iii) Rigour: the research is informed by a network of diverse sources (printed and manuscript) assembled through intensive exploration of regional archives. These are brought into dialogue with documents already familiar to specialists in eighteenth-century music, such as Herschel's diary/memoranda and Burney's account of the 1784 Commemoration, thereby facilitating new connections and interpretations.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: Also Editors' Introduction, co-authored with Peter Holman, pp. 1-7
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
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Depositing User: Rachel Cowgill
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2014 15:03
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 11:41


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