The listening experiences of John Yeoman (1748–1824)

David Rowland

David Rowland is Professor of Music, Principal Investigator for the Listening Experience Database (LED) project and former Dean of Arts at The Open University. He is the author of three books and numerous chapters and articles on the performance history of the piano and early keyboard instruments. He has also edited the first scholarly edition of Clementi’s correspondence, which provided the impetus for a much broader investigation of the London music trade during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, on which he has published extensively. David is also a performer on early keyboard instruments and Director of Music at Christ’s College, Cambridge.


John Yeoman was a Somerset farmer and potter who travelled to London in 1774 and 1777/8, recording in a diary his experiences of music in and around the capital. As a church choir director in his home village of Wanstrow he was particularly interested in hearing music sung by the choirs he encountered in a number of churches of various denominations. His account of them reveals much about contemporary performance practice, especially relating to the singing of psalms.

In addition to recording his impressions of sacred music, Yeoman was immensely impressed by a performance he heard on a visit to Drury Lane Theatre in 1774. He had never heard anything like it previously and the information he records is of importance to theatre historians and to musicologists, particularly what he describes of the orchestral and choral forces in the theatre. His descriptions also unwittingly tell us something about music making in his home village of Wanstrow.

The accounts of listening experiences in Yeoman’s diaries are written in a style usually found in travel literature of the period. They are detailed and factual, and rarely contain information about the author’s personal reactions to what he heard. But by examining the language he uses it becomes clear that he was excited by his experiences, especially those that were new to him.


The listening experiences recorded in John Yeoman’s diaries are intriguing for a number of reasons. Yeoman appears to have had little influence outside of his local community and his diaries have had virtually no impact on music history. Nevertheless, they are a rich source of performance history, specifically of church and theatre music of the late eighteenth century and they are also significant for listening history, because they illustrate how the impact of music on a listener can vary according to the context in which it is heard, especially its familiarity or novelty. Furthermore, detailed scrutiny of the varied ways in which Yeoman recorded his listening experiences provides insights that help us to explore the listening literature of the period more critically. But before we examine these issues in detail, and in order to understand his listening accounts as fully as possible, we need to understand who John Yeoman was – where he lived, his social standing and occupations, and his experience of music in his native county.

John Yeoman

John Yeoman was born in 1748 and died on 9 October 1824. 1[1] The few biographical details of Yeoman’s that exist are found in: Reid, Robert Douglas. <em>Some Account of the Family of Harding of Cranmore c. Somerset</em> (Bristol: J.W. Arrowsmith, 1917); Yearsley, Macleod. <em>The Diary of the Visits of John Yeoman to London in the Years 1774 and 1777</em> (London: Watts & Co., 1934); Reid, Robert Douglas. <em>The Diary of Mary Yeoman of Wantrow, Co. Somerset</em> (Wells: Wells Journal Office, 1926). For several generations his family had rented the Manor (or ‘Great’) House in the small Somerset village of Wanstrow, a few miles from both Frome and Shepton Mallet, about 15 miles from Wells, and 20 miles from Bath (these distances are significant in the consideration of Yeoman’s listening experiences). Frome was the main market town of the area, around which the surrounding villages clustered, 2[2] See Peter Belham, <em>Villages of the Frome Area</em> (Frome: The Frome Society for Local Study, 1992). and another Yeoman family diary written in 1800 by John’s daughter contains many references to his work-related and social visits to these villages and to Frome itself. 3[3] Reid, 1926.

John Yeoman’s family ran a pottery business in Wanstrow, as evidenced, for example, in his notes about pottery making in Farnborough, which reveal that the Yeoman family had pottery-making facilities of their own:

It is Wen(s)day the 30th of Decr. we gets up in the morn, Breckfast, Walk down in the common to See the pothouse belonging to Mr. Mason. Itt is all the Same as ourn, but their Glaze Which is much better. they use pigglead and Sand. they Have an Oven Where they put the Lead in And Stir it till it comes to a powder. 4[4] Yearsley, 1934, p. 52.

John Yeoman was also a farmer. His diary records his interest in pigs and his daughter’s diary contains references to their slaughter. She also talks about weighing cheese, presumably for sale. The editor of John’s diary comments that he is said to have ‘milked sixty cows’, but without revealing his information source. 5[5] Yearsley, 1934, p. 5. In addition, Yeoman seems to have been involved in the timber business. His daughter’s diary makes several references to him unloading timber in Frome and his own diary also mentions his encounter with a timber merchant, although there is no record of any business being conducted on that occasion.6[6] Yearsley, 1934, p. 17.

The details described above show Yeoman to have been a working man and trader based in his local community. His daughter’s diary goes further, revealing that he had a degree of social status. Not only did he live in a substantial house (albeit a rented one), but he also mixed with respectable people such as ‘Dr. Highmore’, with whom he journeyed to Shepton Mallet one day. 7[7] Reid, 1926, 7 March. Importantly for our purposes, Yeoman’s memorial tablet in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Wanstrow records that he ‘was Leader of the Choir of this Church for upwards of half a century’. 8[8]  <a href=""></a>, consulted 19 September 2018. The fact that he wrote diaries and letters – albeit in an unsophisticated style – is evidence of his literacy. His diary contains evidence of his reading a novel and a play, as well as newspapers. 9[9] Yearsley, 1934, pp. 19, 31, 32, 33. Yeoman was evidently a well-respected, intelligent man with wide interests.

John Yeoman’s diary

John Yeoman’s diary was published in a modern edition in 1934, at which time the two-volume original was in the possession of ‘Mr. R. Gibbons’, 10[10] Yearsley, 1934, p. 14. but I have been unable to discover its current whereabouts. The edition is therefore our only source of the document.

The diaries record Yeoman’s visits to London in the spring of 1774 and the winter of 1777/8 (the account mostly concentrates on his travels in 1774, with only a few pages recording his experiences in 1777/8). There are no accounts of his time spent in Wanstrow, hence his daughter’s diary and the memorial tablet in the local church are our only sources of his life at home. John Yeoman’s diary begins with a record of his setting out from home on 17 March 1774 and continues with a detailed narrative of his travels until 6 May in the same year, when he began his journey home. He made no diary entries between 6 May 1774 and 28 December 1777, when he departed from Wanstrow on his second visit to the London area. His narrative of that journey ends abruptly, mid-sentence, on 5 January 1778: presumably another volume picked up the story, but it was not available to the diary’s editor. The diary is thus solely concerned with his journeys and it reads as a travel narrative, a popular genre of his time, and a theme to which we will return.

Why did John Yeoman write a diary? Unlike contemporary members of the gentry and aristocracy, it is most unlikely that he would have anticipated its publication (see the Introduction to this collection), either in his lifetime, or after his death. It may be that some of the diary’s detail was intended for his eyes only, such as the record of his expenditure on accommodation and food with which the diary begins. But most of the document seems to have been written for an audience, since from time to time he addresses the reader directly, especially in some of his more colourful descriptions of events. The following passage is a striking example:

[Northchurch, Thursday 21 April 1774] after Diner we went to a Farm house about a Mile and half (along) the London Road to See Peter the Wild Boy as they call him. he was found in the woods over in Hanover, as King George the First was hunting the wild boar, when he was about fourteen Years of Age & Was brought Over to England and a hundred a Year Settled on him for his Life, but this gentleman Who have this Money for the care of him gives this Farmer £30 Pounds. So that he is the Best of. he is about five foot four Inches high, Well made, has neither his Beard nor hair cut, neither Can he Speak, so Ill leave you to guest what a Figure he cuts. 11[11] Yearsley, 1934, p. 35. Material in parenthesis here and in all other quotations was added by the diary’s editor.

Elsewhere in the diary phrases occur which address the reader, such as ‘Ill Leave the Reader to gest ye complection’ and ‘So I leave the Reader to Judge the Pleasantness’. 12[12] Yearsley, 1934, pp. 40, 41. The diary does not identify these readers, but, given John Yeoman’s social status and interests, it seems most likely that they were the people close to him – his family and perhaps his friends.

Yeoman’s diary descriptions of his listening experiences occur in just ten passages. Six of these concern what we might broadly refer to as ‘sacred music’: five of them describe the singing of psalms in churches or domestically, and one is an account of organ playing in Westminster Abbey. Not only do they reveal details of sacred music performances in the London area, but they also unwittingly provide insights into rural Somerset practices. These listening experiences form the subject of the first main section of this chapter.

The other four passages are about various sorts of secular musical performance. The first, and by far the most extensive of all the descriptions in his diary, records his visit to Drury Lane Theatre. As with Yeoman’s remarks about sacred music, the account of his theatre visit not only reveals important information about contemporary performance in London, but is also revealing about music-making in Somerset: this passage is discussed in detail below, in the second main section of this chapter.

The remaining three descriptions of listening experiences are much briefer. They tell us little more than that Yeoman was a singer. For completeness they are quoted here:

[en route for Brentford, Monday 28 March 1774] Landed att Hungerford Stairs, from thence we went I cannot well Recolect, Somewhere about the Strand. Drank two or three Bottles of Wine, from thence to Berkly Square up by St James, took a Coach. home where we sung all the way. arived att Brentford about 7 o Clock for that Night went —. 13[13] Yearsley, 1934, p. 12; the entry ends abruptly, perhaps because of the effects of the wine.

[Farnborough, Thursday 1 January 1778] Went to Willmot Esq., as I found that he makes a General Feast on Every New Years Day … So my fellow Travelar and me begins to be Smart amongst them (the ladies), Farmer the Violien and I Singing to or three Soft Songs. They was highly diverted att it. 14[14] Yearsley, 1934, p. 53.

[Farnborough, Friday 2 January 1778] we went out in the Parish for Some Danceing but could find none, but a neighbour of my Kindsmans to Spend the Evening and So we did in Singing and Telling of Some Merry Storys, and thus ends this Days Memoirs. 15[15] Yearsley, 1934, p. 54.

In addition to discussing the detail of Yeoman’s experiences as outlined above, a final section of this chapter explores the differences in literary style of his various listening accounts and how they reflect Yeoman’s experience of, and engagement with, music. The observations in this final section are pertinent to the ways in which other writers of personal documents record their listening experiences.

John Yeoman’s experiences of sacred music

John Yeoman visited a variety of churches during his stay in the London area, ranging from Brentford’s small chapel of ease (chapels of ease were built for those who were unable to attend the parish churches) to the affluent parish church in Ealing and Westminster Abbey. Not only did he visit Anglican churches, but he also attended services of the Presbyterians and Methodists. His accounts therefore provide a rich picture of church music practice in the London area during the period.

Yeoman’s first recorded listening experience was very brief:

[Brentford, Sunday 20 March 1774] we went to the Chapel the People Sung all over ye Church. 16[16] Yearsley, 1934, p. 15.

A similar comment is found in the account of Yeoman’s visit to the Presbyterian church in Brentford on 17 April 1774:

after diner we went to the Prisbetariens Meeting where they Sung all over the Meetg. 17[17] Yearsley, 1934, p. 34.

The observation that people ‘Sung all over ye Church’, or ‘Meetg.’, is probably a reference to congregational singing, although it is just possible that it refers to the practice of distributing choir members among the congregation. 18[18] The practice of distributing the choir among the congregation is discussed in Nicholas Temperley, <em>The Music of the English Parish Church </em>(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), vol. 1, p. 126 and Sally Drage, ‘The Performance of English Provincial Psalmody c.1690–c.1840’, PhD dissertation, University of Leeds, 2009, p. 52. Full congregational singing was not universally practised in this period, as Sally Drage oberves:

All denominations wanted congregations to participate, but in practice the singing was divided between full congregational participation, which was most likely to occur in Methodist and nonconformist worship, and select participation, which was more usual in Anglican churches. 19[19] Drage, 2009, p. 75.

The fact that Yeoman remarked on congregational singing in both the Chapel of Ease and the Presbyterian church in Brentford may indicate that it struck him as unusual, perhaps because the psalms were sung only by the local Anglican choir (which he directed) at home in Wanstrow. However, this is conjecture, because we have no evidence of singing at services in the village.

Yeoman had much to say about singing in Ealing Parish Church, but nowhere in his account does he mention congregational participation, which may indicate that psalms were sung there by the choir only: this tended to happen particularly in churches such as this, where the congregation contained a significant proportion of wealthy members who had the means to support music financially, and who preferred to leave the singing entirely to the choir. 20[20] Temperley, 1979, pp. 101, 128. Yeoman’s full account of the music in Ealing is as follows:

[Ealing, Sunday 1 May 1774] Master Tommy and I went to Ealing Church, I chimed the Tenor as the(y) Chime an Hour before Sarvice. We went down to the Green Where it is Very Pleasant. Back again & went In Staring about the Church. ye Clark was So Kind as to come & Put us into a Pew. The Singers Sing the Same as we do the(y) sung Our 5 Tune to 4 Words & as there was but two parts, I was wont to Join with, but was ashamed to go up to them as there Was Shuch a Grand Congregation. the place concis’d mostly of Gentlemans Seats, as I have Mentioned in my Journeys before, So Ill leave the Reader to Jud(g)e the Grandness of the Congregation. but, however, when the Clark named the Psalm the Second I could not forbear going up to Them. the(y) sung the Eight. Soon as Service was over I went down into the Pew after my Hatt and Master Tommy, When we made the Best of our way back to our Aunts, as we Was to Dine that day att Mr. Joseph Honnors, Where was Mr. John Polter. So after Diner We Took a walk up to great Ealing when the Evening Sarvice was Just done, but the Singers was not Gon. I went up and Join’d With them I(n) an Anthem. After we went to one of him House. he Kept a Tavern Just by and after Some Talk about Singing we come home again. 21[21] Yearsley, 1934, pp. 43–44.

The account of Yeoman’s visit to Ealing records several details about psalm-singing, most of which are also mentioned elsewhere in his diary. First, in addition to singing during services the choir also sang outside of that context – in this instance an hour before the morning service and for some time after the evening service. The choir in Northchurch also sang outside of church services, as witnessed by Yeoman:

[Northchurch, near Berkhamsted, Sunday 24 April 1774] Nothing Remarkable happend the forenoon of that day. after Diner My Aunt & cousin & Me went to North Church. the Parson was the worst that ever I heard but Upton Noble (a village near his home village). the clark was Shocking bad Indeed, they Sing the Same Tunes as we do but Very Bad, there was all the Parts. After Sarvice was over I went up and Joined with Them. I beleive we Sung for an Hour and all the Tunes as we had, Such as the 8th. 105th. 108th. 34th. 47th. my Singing the four Parts made them Stare as they thought It was Imposable for one Man to do. they Said they Should be glad to have me Live In That Part of the World for to Learn them. one on him, who kept a Tavern, had them all to his house & would make me go. they Treated me with the Best the House would (? afford). 22[22] Yearsley, 1934, pp.39–40.

The fact that the clerk was ‘Shocking bad indeed’, according to Yeoman, was evidently not unusual, as Nicholas Temperley observes: ‘it was rare for a musically well-qualified parish clerk to be appointed to a London church during the eighteenth century’. 23[23] Temperley 1979, vol. 1, p. 120. But the poor quality of the clerk’s singing failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the other singers, who sang for their own enjoyment for an hour after the service had finished. This sort of enthusiasm for psalm-singing outside the context of a church service was also in evidence at a gathering a month earlier at Yeoman’s aunt’s house in Brentford:

[Brentford, Thursday 24 March 1774] Home again, where was one Mr. Deely a Timber Merchant waiting for me to go and Spend the Evening With him that night att a Tavern in the Markett Place. come Home with me and one of their party to my Aunts where we spend an Hour in Singing Psalms, Songs and the like. 24[24] Yearsley, 1934, p. 17.

The domestic singing of sacred music had, of course, been common from much earlier times, when much of the repertoire we now associate with the church was written for domestic consumption.

Different modes of psalm performance are evident from Yeoman’s accounts. In Ealing on 1 May 1774 (see above) ‘there was but two parts’ (presumably two independent musical lines, rather than singing in octaves), a common configuration for psalm-singing at the time, but perhaps a surprisingly sparse texture for a choir in such a wealthy church. At the Presbyterian church in Brentford, however, the members of the congregation all sang the melody of the psalm tunes, but at three different pitches, a decidedly inferior arrangement according to Yeoman:

[Brentford, Sunday 17 April 1774] Went to the Chap(el) of ease in the Morning. after diner we went to the Prisbetariens Meeting where they Sung all over the Meetg, the 105th. Psalm, the notes as we Sing them. the Clerk begins first, he Sings a Tenor Voice, the women Eight above and the Men as can go down an eight below the Clerk. they Sing all one Notes but it is a most Dolfull Harmony. home to Tea then we went to the Methodist meeting, where they Sing in Like Manner. It’s a Preatyer Harmony to the ear, but the three different Religgens which I have been to day to hear does agree more in their Singing then they does in their Doctrin by much. 25[25] Yearsley, 1934, p.34.

And on 24 April 1774 in Northchurch (see above), where Yeoman commented on the poor quality of the singing, ‘there was all the Parts’, presumably meaning a full four-part texture, since after the service Yeoman joined with them, singing each of ‘the four Parts’.

Yeoman’s account of the singing in Brentford on 17 April 1774, just quoted, makes a broader point about church music of this period: the same repertoire was sung at services around the country, both in Anglican contexts and in churches of other denominations. So at the Presbyterian church in Brentford on 17 April 1774 he commented that they sang ‘the 105th. Psalm, the notes as we Sing them’ while at the Anglican church in Northchurch a week later, during their after-service singing they sang ‘all the Tunes as we had, Such as the 8th. 105th. 108th. 34th. 47th.’ and in Ealing on 1 May 1774 ‘The Singers Sing the Same as we do the(y) sung Our 5 Tune to 4 Words’ (see above for the full quotations of all these passages). The fact that a relatively small number of tunes were shared by congregations was partly the result of the way in which the numerous tune books published in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries borrowed tunes from each other, but it was also the result of the dominance of two influential publications. Sternhold and Hopkins’ The Whole Booke of Psalmes Collected into Englysh Metre (London, 1562) and Tate and Brady’s A New Version of the Psalms of David (London, 1696) dominated the market, both being published in multiple editions over many decades. 26[26] Temperley, 1979, vol. 1, p. 122.

The account of the singing at the Presbyterian church in Brentford on 17 April mentions a further element of psalm performance – the traditional practice of ‘lining out’, in which the clerk sang a portion of a psalm before the congregation sang it. At least, this is presumably what is implied by the phrase ‘the Clerk begins first’. ‘Lining out’ was a common practice which began by the mid-seventeenth century, as Sally Drage notes:

One or two lines of text at a time were spoken aloud or perhaps intoned on one note by the clergyman or the parish clerk, before they were sung by the congregation. There is no evidence that this lining out was used prior to 1645, but once established it remained a necessary part of Anglican worship in some churches until at least the end of the eighteenth century. 27[27] Drage, 2009, p.43.

Yeoman’s listening accounts emphasise the extent to which psalms formed the basis of choir and congregational singing in parish churches at this time, as it had for decades. From the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, as some parish and village choirs became more proficient, anthems began to be performed in some places. The only instance of anthem-singing in Yeoman’s diary is recorded in his report of the music at Ealing on 1 May 1774 (see above) where, after the evening service, ‘I went up and Join’d With them I(n) an Anthem’. Despite the fact that the psalms were sung there in only two parts, the singing of an anthem suggests that there may have been a more proficient choir there than Yeoman encountered elsewhere, since anthem-singing required at least some musical literacy, whereas psalm-singing could be learned without reference to music notation. Yeoman’s familiarity with anthems and his ability to sing them probably reflected the practice and the abilities of the singers in Wanstrow: an entry in Mary Yeoman’s diary records that ‘Mr. Thomas Harding dined here today and went to church. Sang two anthems’. 28[28] Reid, 1926, 9 February 1800.

None of the accounts of singing in churches that we have considered so far mention the presence of an organ. This is unsurprising. Many organs had been destroyed during the Civil War and at first it was only in the cathedrals, college chapels and the wealthier urban parish churches that they were built, or re-built. 29[29] Temperley, 1979, pp. 101–118. By the 1770s at least some of the larger parish churches had organs, such as those in Shepton Mallet and Frome, near where Yeoman lived, but others were still without, apparently including the wealthy church visited by Yeoman in Ealing. 30[30] See the National Pipe Organ Register, <a href=""></a>, consulted 20 November 2018. In smaller churches organs were still few and far between and there is no evidence of any organ in Yeoman’s home village of Wanstrow. In such cases barrel organs may have been used to play a limited repertoire of Hymn tunes, or other instruments began to be used (the so-called ‘west-gallery tradition’), but I have found no evidence that either was used in Wanstrow, or in the churches mentioned in Yeoman’s diary. The impression given by Yeoman is that he was most used to unaccompanied singing in church.

The only mention of an organ in Yeoman’s diary occurs in his account of a visit to Westminster Abbey:

[Westminster, Sunday 3 April 1774] My Cousen John and me went to Westmenster Abby were we herd the organs and Saw them play, Wells is in no Comparison with it. 31[31] Yearsley, 1934, pp. 23–24.

It is not clear from the description whether Yeoman’s comparison was of the organs, or of the buildings at Westminster and Wells. However, his comments would make perfect sense if they applied to the organs, since the instrument in Wells was in sufficiently poor state in the 1770s that it needed repair and enlargement in 1786, whereas in 1774 the organ in Westminster was already quite large and in better condition than the Wells instrument. 32[32] See Roger Bowers and Anthony Crossland, <em>The Organs and Organists of Wells Cathedral</em> (Wells: The Friends of Wells Cathedral, 1974) and <a href=""></a>, consulted 19 September 2018.

John Yeoman at Drury Lane

On 8 April 1774 John Yeoman and some of his relatives attended Drury Lane Theatre. The occasion was a benefit performance for Thomas Jefferson (1732–1807), a very experienced actor who had performed at the theatre for many years. The main piece of the evening was The Rehearsal, a Restoration comedy by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, which had been performed many times in the previous century and remained popular, having five performances in London theatres in 1774 alone. The afterpiece, David Garrick’s Harlequin’s Invasion, was first performed at the theatre on 31 December 1759. It, too, was popular and was also performed five times in 1774. 33[33] Details of the performances are found in contemporary newspapers and in George Winchester Stone, <em>The London Stage, 1660</em>–<em>1800</em> (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960–1968), Part 4, vol. 3, p. 1799.

Music had been an important element of theatre performances in London from Restoration times:

Before the play began, two pairs of two pieces each were played, these pairs being called the ‘first music’ and ‘second music,’ respectively … the next music is the overture or curtain tune, usually played after the spoken prologue. 34[34] Curtis A. Price, <em>Music in the Restoration Theatre</em>, Studies in Musicology 4 (Ann Arbor, Mich., UMI Research Press, 1979), p. 53.

Following the beginning of the play further instrumental music featured as well as songs and other vocal pieces. Similar incidental music was performed with plays throughout the eighteenth century, although the musical style developed with the times: for example, the prevalence of French overtures gave way to works in the Italian style. 35[35] See Roger Fiske, <em>English Theatre Music in the Eighteenth Century</em> (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 160–163 and 287–293, and Jane Girdham, <em>English Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century London</em> (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 71, 125.

It is impossible to know what music accompanied the performance heard by Yeoman of Villiers’ The Rehearsal, since no music for it survives. However, an afterpiece based on Villiers’ original by Mrs Clive entitled The Rehearsal; or, Bayes in Petticoats was first performed at Drury Lane on 15 March 1750 with music by William Boyce, the only part of which that survives being a ‘pastoral interlude’ entitled ‘Corydon and Miranda’. 36[36] See Ian Bartlett, <em>William Boyce: A Tercentenary Sourcebook and Compendium</em> (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), especially pp. 72–73. Twelve further performances of Mrs Clive’s piece were given in the years to 1762. Perhaps Boyce’s music was used when Villiers’ original was revived in later years.

Only three items survive of the music composed by William Boyce for Garrick’s Harlequin’s Invasion. By far the most famous is the song ‘Hearts of Oak’, still well-known today. Two other songs from the piece were published in the years after the work was performed: ‘Sweetest bard that ever sung’ and ‘Thrice happy the nation that Shakespeare has charm’d’. We know nothing of the instrumental pieces that would have been played at the beginning and during the performance. 37[37] Bartlett, 2011, pp. 128–129.

Yeoman’s description of the performance is much longer and quite unlike any other accounts of events in his diary. It is quoted here in full:

got there before the doors was Open’d, but Soon as ye Door was opend what a drunge (?) there was, yet we got a Second Seat in the two Shilling Gallery. We waited Some time before there was any thing to Entertain us with but the Looking at the House which is fifty times as Large as our Church, but Ive forgot to Mention that we was at Drury Lane. the Musick begun to play the first Thing, it consisted of:

10 Violens

2 French horns

4 basesoons

2 Base files

and another Great (file?) in the Shape of a Basefile But So Large as Six common ones, it was 2 Foot above the Mans head that Play’d him and I could Hear him Like Thunder att a distance, or like Something a Jowling in the Bowels of the earth. the Curten was then drawn up and the Play begun, but I cannot mind much of it. I can Remember they cauld the Rehersal, it was a composition of Blunders. there was a Variaty of Very Butifull Scens, one I can very well Recolect. att the further end of the feild as it apeard [the]re was a Large Bridge and we could here the Sound of Drums, kettle Drums, then we Saw an Army of Horsemen comeing over that Bridge and an Army of Foot seemd to Draw up to Battle before us with all the Appearance of War. In an instant the Battle was begun & they Fought till there was not a live man left. the entertainment was Harlequins Invation which was very prety. it apeard in ye Scene the first at a little House with a Stump of a dead tree by the Side of it and Harlequin laid down under it, but before I shall go on I’ll write do(wn) the Dress this Harlequin t(hat ….. er) apear in, he has all (…) has a black face and a Sp(angled?) Jacket and Trousers & he will either turn you or himself into Such Different Shapes that it is Impossible to Take him, as I Shall indeavour to make it apear. as he was laid down by this little Hutt of a House there came a Man with a Pick in his hand as If he would be Revenge on Somebody att last he Sees Harlequin thout he was dead but Thought to himself he would see where he was or not. he goes to him, Just toucht him with the Pick, he Jumps up and Takes the Pick from him & is gon. then there was a Report made that he has Murderd a Tailor & (gr)eat Search is making for him (all) this wile he is in the Stump (of the) Tree from whence he comes in the Shape of the Tailor with his head cut of(f) so that he frights them all away. then the Seine changes to a Wood and there are Solders after him, but they cannot find him. he gets up into a Tree & it is so Natural as If it was a Wilderness. the Seine then changes to a Large Room with harlequin in it. then they comes in att every Door crying out theres the Murderer, Lock the doors, We shall have him now & they are all going to Seaze him but he Springs from them & Flys through the Window & gets from them. So the Seine changes to a Judge with ye Court of gentlemen and Harlequin is taken & brought before them and his Tryal is Very poet(ical?) but Realy I cannot Mind (it?) Just now, but I Remember he is Very Sacy to them, telling them that if they do not aquit him he will cut all their heads off. so then they all cryed out What need we of further examining of him, but as they are Just agoing to take him away he gives himself a wherl Round on his hile and that instant they are all turnd into old women. now you must know that there is Somebody above that ye instant he gives the Wist rnd the Wooden Board, that they draws up the wigs & gowns of these gentlemen by Wires that we cannot See them and under they are Drest like old Women. Indeed the Seine then Changes to So Butifull a Sight that it is (Impos)able to Decsribe it. the last Seine is I beleive the Whole length of the House, it Seems to be 200 yds. Long, and att the Lower end they Represents the Ocean with the Ships on it Sinken in a Storm With Thunder & Lightning & they Represent it so Natural as if it was the Real thing. they conclude the Play with a Chorus Song about 20 Musitioners and about 30/50 Commeadons which made a Pretty Harmony…

Yeoman’s account continues in his diary entry for the following day, 9 April 1774:

[South Molton Saturday 9 April] There was two or three things in ye play I’d forgot to mention; the one was a Flying Chariot drawn by an Eagle, the Other a Forighn Ambaseger who was drawn across the Stage In his Chariot by Wild Beast & there was a Bear & Monkey appeared on the Stage and danc’d for some (tim)e as Reel (as) the Natural Be(asts). there is Several Scines that I cannot Remember. The Curtun was drawn once and there was neer to twenty boys & girls Danceing, the oldest did not appear above 10 yr. Old. I took that to be a prety Sight; Theres Not That Man Liveing who can form any Idea of unless they See it. Some of the Scines Ive heard say they Represent a Street as Real as any in London, there was one, It is Just come into my Head, It was Charing Cross with King Charl(es) in the Middle of it and all the Streets as Natural as If you was out in Town and it is so much Imposable for any Person to form any Idea of the Town as of the play unless they have. There you may Travel for Weeks together and Never see one place twice, Nor Never out of the Town, and in the Night it is the More Surprising with the Lamps. You can Travel along the Streets and they are so Strait so many Hundred crossways & every St. with the Lps Look so Long. Its beyond the (des)cription of My Thick (br)ains to ponder on, I’ll asure y(ou). 38[38] Yearsley, 1934, pp. 25–28.

Yeoman’s account of the performance is remarkable in its detail. It is of considerable interest to both musicologists and theatre historians, but the discussion here will focus more or less exclusively on what the extract reveals about Drury Lane’s musical performing forces.

Details of the orchestras in London’s theatres in the 1770s is scarce. The most recent commentators on the subject point out that the relatively small orchestras which accompanied plays were placed in the pit, whereas oratorio orchestras played on stage, and were somewhat larger. 39[39] Vanessa Rogers, ‘Orchestras on stage in the Georgian-era playhouse: unravelling the origin of the ‘Winston’ sketch’, <em>Early Music</em> 44/4 (2017), p. 610, and Peter Holman, ‘Worth 1000 words: Edward Francis Burney at Drury Lane in 1779’, <em>Early Music</em> 45/4, 2018, pp. 646–647. A passage in The London Stage describes the extent of the forces available from the late 1750s to the end of the 1770s:

The Account Books for Covent Garden during the seasons 1757-58 and 1760-61 specify the names of twenty-one orchestra members, but fail to indicate the instruments they used … Drury Lane doubtless employed as many, but actual figures are extant only in its Treasurer’s Books for the 1778-79 season, when Sheridan and the new managers were cutting expenses to the bone. Their list included twenty-three in the orchestra, and designated the instruments. They employed five first violinists, two of whom could double on clarinets; four second violinists, two of whom could double on clarinets. There were a first and second viola (and a third who could also play the trumpet); a first and second hautboy; a first and second faggoto (bassoon); a first and second cornu (French horn); four cellos, including a first and second double bass; and lastly one who played a bass bassoon, a tabor, and pipe … The weekly payroll for these musicians was £48, which is just 15s. under what Garrick laid out for his orchestra in 1774. 40[40] Stone, 1960–1968, Part 4, vol. 1, p. cxxvii.

In addition to the instruments listed in the quotation above, keyboard instruments are also mentioned. The forces described by Rogers and Holman, based on iconographic evidence and, in Holman’s case, comparison with extant music, are in line with these figures. 41[41] Rogers, 2016; Holman, 2017.

Commentary on instrumental numbers for the 1780s and 1790s is found in Jane Girdham’s English opera in late eighteenth-century London, in which she points out that ‘our knowledge of theatrical instrumentalists is very limited because eighteenth-century critics almost always confined their commentary to soloists’ (no reviews were published of the performance Yeoman attended on 8 April 1774). 42[42] Girdham, 1997, p. 61. Nevertheless, she cites evidence from the manuscript diaries of John Kemble, an actor who managed the theatre from 1788 and 1796, and the Drury Lane account books, reaching the conclusion that ‘the orchestra comprised about thirty players, not all of whom were needed every night’. 43[43] Girdham, 1997, p. 62.

The total number of instruments listed by Yeoman is roughly in line with other figures for the second half of the eighteenth century. In his account Yeoman lists ‘10 violens, 2 French horns, 4 Basesoons, 2 Base files and another Great (file?) in the Shape of a Basefile’ totalling nineteen instruments (the same number identified in Holman’s source), excluding the drums (see below) and any keyboards that may have been used.

There is little remarkable about Yeoman’s ‘10 violens’ and ‘2 French horns’, although it seems likely that some of the violins were in fact violas. The composition of the wind section is more difficult to understand, since an orchestra of this size is unlikely to have had ‘4 Basesoons’, but no oboes (2 oboes and 2 bassoons appear to have been standard in theatre orchestras of the time): perhaps Yeoman’s sight line was partially blocked so that he was unable to distinguish the double reed instruments correctly. It is probable that the ‘2 Base files’ were in fact cellos, since the two terms seem to have been interchangeable in the period – although conclusive evidence is hard to come by. 44[44] For information on the terminology of bass-line instruments see Drage, 2009, pp. 161–162; Peter Holman, <em>Life After Death: The Viola da Gamba in Britain from Purcell to Dolmetsch</em> (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2010), especially pp. 94ff; Lowell Lindgren, ‘Italian Violoncellists and some Violoncello Solos Published in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, in <em>Music in Eighteenth-Century Britain</em>, ed. David Wyn Jones (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), especially pp. 125–129.

The most intriguing instrument in Yeoman’s list is the last – the ‘Great (file?) in the Shape of a Basefile’, which he describes as ‘So Large as Six common ones, it was 2 Foot above the Mans head that Play’d him and I could Hear him Like Thunder att a distance, or like Something a Jowling in the Bowels of the earth’. The size of the instrument (two feet higher than its player) and its pitch – the description suggests that it was lower than the other instruments, in other words, at 16 foot pitch – surely identifies it as a double bass. But why would Yeoman describe it in the way he does, rather than simply calling it a double bass, or something equivalent? The reason is almost certainly that the instrument was unfamiliar to him and his readers.

Would Yeoman have heard a double bass at home in Wanstrow? Probably not, since it is unlikely that he would have encountered an ensemble large enough to require one in the village. He does not seem to have heard one in Frome or Shepton Mallet and evidently he had not heard a double bass in Wells, whose cathedral he had visited (as we learned from his experiences in Westminster Abbey on 3 April 1774 – see above). The most likely nearby town where he might have heard a double bass is Bath, a major centre of musical culture by this time, which was only 20 miles from where he lived, but it seems that Yeoman had not been to any orchestral events there. Perhaps this is understandable, considering his age – he was only in his mid-twenties when he went to London – but his lack of knowledge of the double bass nevertheless underlines the limited musical experience that must have characterised many rural musicians in the period.

One further element of Yeoman’s description of the double bass is worthy of comment: in order to provide his readers with some ideas of its size, not only does he point out that it was about two feet taller than its player, but he also says that it was ‘So Large as Six common ones’, meaning viols. This cannot be a reference to bass viols, because surely no double bass could be described as equivalent in size to six of them, so it is most likely a reference to the smaller members of the viol family. If this is so, then it suggests that Yeoman might have been familiar with viol consort performances, which would have been remarkable at such a late date.

During the performance at Drury Lane Yeoman heard ‘the Sound of Drums, kettle Drums’. Who played these? Given that the regular instrumentalists doubled on a variety of instruments it seems most likely that one or two of them played the drums as the ‘Army of Horsemen’ and an ‘Army of Foot’ came over the on-stage bridge during The Rehearsal. Peter Holman points out that the likely identity of the drummer in the performance of 1779 that he discusses was ‘John Ashbridge or Asbridge, the third bassoonist in the Drury Lane band, who was also a drummer’. 45[45] Holman, 2017, p. 651.

The musical climax of the evening occurred at the end of Harlequin’s Invasion when, according to Yeoman, there was a ‘Chorus Song’ of ‘about 20 Musitioners and about 30/50 Commeadons which made a Pretty Harmony’. Who were the singers? On the day of the performance the Public Advertiser announced that Harlequin’s Invasion would ‘conclude with a Grand Chorus by Mr. Champnes[s], Mr. Davies, Mr. Kear [Kean?], Mr. Fawcett, Mr. Wheeler, Mrs. Scott, Mrs. Hunt, &c.’. Champness was a prominent bass singer of oratorios and the other six were regular singers/actors or chorus singers at Drury Lane. 46[46] Philip H. Highfill Jr. , Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans, <em>A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660–1800</em>, 16 vols (Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973–1993). It is likely that these seven singers fell into the category of:

Chorus singers, which are people that stand behind the scenes, whose additional voices are sometimes necessary in grand pieces of vocal music, and are made use of in the Tempest, Comus, Macbeth, &c, and seldom in number so many as 6, at 5 shillings each. 47[47] Quotation from a manuscript dated 1747–1749 by John Powell in the Harvard Theatre Collection, quoted in Stone, 1960–1968, Part 4, vol. 1, p. 124.

Given that chorus singers cost in the region of 5 shillings each in the late 1740s, and that the chorus for the performance on 8 April 1774 was paid £3.11s for two nights, 48[48] Winchester Stone, 1960–1968, Part 4, vol. 3, p. 1799. it is likely that these seven singers were the only additional, paid singers who took part in the performance. The others must have been performers from the regular troupe.

John Yeoman’s writing style

The account of John’s Yeoman’s visit to Drury Lane is written in a very different style from the other listening experiences recorded in his diary. How different is it, how do we account for the difference, what does the combination of writing styles found in Yeoman’s diary tell us about the way in which he engaged with musical performances, and what might we learn more generally about how listening accounts are recorded?

The most obvious characteristic of Yeoman’s account of the Drury Lane performance is its length: it is at least four or five times as long as any other account in his diary, musical or otherwise, because it includes so much detail of so many aspects of the performance. This, and the fact that the performance was still very much on his mind for much of the next day, is evidence that he was deeply impressed by the occasion (he wrote the second part of his diary description of the event on 9 April after walking for a long time and making several visits). Expressions of his mind’s turmoil as a result of the performance are found in passages where he confesses his inability to remember, or write quickly enough, with comments such as ‘I cannot mind much of it’, ‘but before I shall go on I’ll write do(wn) the Dress this Harlequin t(hat … er) appear in’, ‘but Realy I cannot Mind (it?) Just now, but I Remember …’, and so on. These and other characteristics were common to other travel narratives of the period, a category of literature into which Yeoman’s diaries fit, according to descriptions of other works of the period:

wonder constitutes a recurrent theme, and a stock trope, in travel writing. Wonder may be defined as the emotional and intellectual response that occurs when a traveller is confronted with something that temporarily defies understanding, and that cannot easily be assimilated into the conceptual grid by which the traveller usually organises his or her experience. The mixture of awe and bafflement that ensues will often operate at a pre-rational, even somatic level. Travellers report being rooted to the spot, or struck dumb in amazement; and the latter condition is one reason why tropes of inexpressibility and linguistic inadequacy are commonplace in travel writing, with writers frequently protesting that even retrospectively they cannot find the words to convey fully their experience. 49[49] Carl Thompson, <em>Travel Writing</em> (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2011), pp. 66–67.

Expressions of wonder, bafflement, amazement and linguistic inadequacy are all present in Yeoman’s account of the Drury Lane performance, and as he struggled to make himself intelligible he used a device common to many contemporary travel writers when describing unfamiliar objects or experiences: simile. The clearest example is his description of the double bass: as we have seen, this was an instrument almost certainly unfamiliar to his readers. He likens it to a large bass viol, explaining that it produced deep sounds ‘Like Thunder att a distance, or like Something a Jowling in the Bowels of the earth’. To modern readers familiar with double basses Yeoman’s description makes sense, but who knows what mental pictures his description might have conjured in the minds of his readers in the 1770s? If he struggled to portray accurately the features of a double bass, he all but gave up describing a scene in which there were around 20 child dancers on stage: he acknowledged that they made ‘a prety Sight’, but adds ‘Theres Not That Man Liveing who can form any Idea of unless they See it’.

However, for all Yeoman’s bafflement and amazement at the scene, he recorded as much accurate detail as he could. In this respect his approach was consistent with the philosophical developments of earlier decades, epitomised in the writings of Frances Bacon, John Locke and others, which stressed the importance of empirical evidence in the formation of knowledge. The principles espoused by these individuals were also advocated to travel writers:

Thinkers such as Bacon and Locke, and institutions such as the Royal Society, set up in 1660 to promote Baconian principles in science and knowledge, issued numerous directives to travellers, seeking in this way to regulate and systematise not only the sort of information they gathered, but just as crucially, the observational methods they used to gather and record data. 50[50] Thompson, 2011, pp. 73–74.

Admittedly, we have no idea whether Yeoman was familiar with Bacon, Locke, or the Royal Society, or whether he had read any travel literature, but the writing style in his diaries perfectly fits the descriptions of contemporary works in the genre, suggesting that in some way or other he was familiar with the kind of prose expected in such a document. His writing is full of careful, factual reporting. More than that, he generally avoids giving expression to his internal, emotional state as he describes the events he witnessed. Although the style of his account of the Drury Lane performance shows how excited he was, he nevertheless concentrates on recording details of the instruments of the orchestra, the clothing and scenery, and so on. His writing may be much less polished than others of his time, but his general approach follows that of other travel writers such as Addison, whose description of his visit to Rome prompted Thompson to comment:

given the importance of Rome in the itinerary of the Grand Tour, the modern reader might expect Addison’s account of the Eternal City to convey a sense of the pleasure and excitement he felt when finally he reached this key destination. … [however] Addison gives the reader little sense of what he felt as he viewed the various sites and antiquities of Rome; indeed, there is little direct narration of his personal experience at all. 51[51] Thompson, 2011, pp. 100–101. Joseph Addison’s work was published as <em>Remarks on several parts of Rome, &c. in the years 1701, 1702, 1703</em> (London: Jacob Tonson, 1705).

This approach seems to have been deeply rooted in the way in which many late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers reported their experiences in journals and diaries and it explains the absence of overt expressions of emotion that is so much a feature of the genre at the time.

Yeoman’s factual approach to writing is also seen in his descriptions of church music. Although he sought out performances of psalms and was eager to join choirs when he could, he never overtly expresses the pleasure that he surely must have derived from participating in these performances. The relative brevity of these passages in his diary, compared with the description of his visit to Drury Lane, is accounted for by the familiarity of his readers with the subject material. Yeoman had no need to explain anything about the psalms that were sung, the nature of anthems, performance matters such as part-singing, and so on. His readers were familiar with all this, hence his need only to record a few facts about each venue.

With the exception of his description of the performance in Drury Lane, most of Yeoman’s accounts of listening are brief, and there are few of them in total. Nevertheless, taken as a whole they reveal much about the nature of the way in which writers of the eighteenth century recorded their experiences.

Select bibliography

Drage, Sally. ‘The Performance of English Provincial Psalmody c.1690 – c.1840’, PhD dissertation, University of Leeds, 2009.

Girdham, Jane. English Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century London. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

Highfill, Philip H. Jr., Burnim, Kalman A. and Langhans, Edward A. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660–1800, 16 vols. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973–1993.

Holman, Peter. Life After Death: The Viola da Gamba in Britain from Purcell to Dolmetsch. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2010.

Holman, Peter. ‘Worth 1000 words: Edward Francis Burney at Drury Lane in 1779′, Early Music 45/4, pp. 641–656.

Reid, Robert Douglas. Some Account of the Family of Harding of Cranmore c. Somerset. Bristol: J.W. Arrowsmith, 1917.

Reid, Robert Douglas. The Diary of Mary Yeoman of Wanstrow, Co. Somerset. Wells: Wells Journal Office, 1926.

Rogers, Vanessa. ‘Orchestras on stage in the Georgian-era playhouse: unravelling the origin of the ‘Winston’ sketch’, Early Music 44/4, 2017, pp. 607–625.

Stone, George Winchester. The London Stage, 1660–1800, Part 4. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960–1968.

Temperley, Nicholas. The Music of the English Parish Church, 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Thompson, Carl. Travel Writing. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2011.

Yearsley, Macleod. The Diary of the Visits of John Yeoman to London in the Years 1774 and 1777. London: Watts & Co., 1934.

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View the online publication details 52[52] <em>The Experience of Listening to Music: Methodologies, Identities, Histories</em> has been Open Access funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), grant AH/J013986/1, The collection has been peer reviewed, edited by David Rowland and Helen Barlow, and subsequently prepared for online publication by the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) of The Open University. Published by: The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA.  Copyright © The Open University. First published: July 2019. ISBN: 9781473028647. PDFs displaying some of the content from the online collection are available from <a href=""></a> You can experience the online publication as it was originally designed at <a href=""></a> View copyright information relating to the publication here: <a href=""></a> 

Download: The listening experiences of John Yeoman (1748–1824)

Progress and tradition: listening to the singing of the Welsh c.1870 to c.1920

Helen Barlow

Helen Barlow is a Research Associate in the Music Department of The Open University and a member of the Listening Experience Database Project Team. While her academic background was originally in literature and art history, her research interests have since expanded to include music iconography, and the social and cultural history of music in nineteenth-century Britain, and Wales in particular. Her publications include Music and the British Military in the Long Nineteenth-Century (Oxford University Press, 2013), co-written with Trevor Herbert.


Wales in the period c.1870 to c.1920 was home to massive heavy industry, accompanied by a huge upsurge of population and the growth of large and thriving towns. Many Welsh people saw it as a time of unparalleled national progress. It was also a period of ascendancy for the Liberal Party, in Britain generally, but nowhere more so than in Wales, where the Welsh Liberals articulated a vision of the potential of Wales as a progressive, modern nation. Welsh music and the supposed musicality of the Welsh became part of a discourse about progress, cultural achievement and the promise of future greatness. Choral and congregational singing, which flourished in the buoyant chapel culture of the expanding towns and villages, was often cited as evidence not just of innate Welsh musicality but also of cultural development. But most intriguing is the apparently contradictory belief, articulated particularly by the newly-founded Welsh Folk-Song Society (WFSS), that Welsh traditional song could be harnessed to the cause of progress. How did Welsh people understand Welsh singing in this period? What did it mean to them? What did listeners think they were hearing – the voice of progress, or the voice of tradition?


This chapter comes out of the work of the Listening Experience Database (LED) project, and specifically a phase of that project which took as its focus ‘Listening and British cultures: listeners’ responses to music in Britain, c.1700–2018’. As David Rowland explains in the Introduction to this collection, the project’s main concern lies in uncovering the voices of historical ‘ordinary listeners’ – in other words, people who have not typically been in the foreground of music history – conveying their experience of listening to music in their everyday lives. Within that overarching framework, this chapter pursues a number of themes, some related to Welsh history and Welsh music, others to the broader methodological concerns of the project.

Underpinning my approach is an interest in the ways in which the myth of Wales as a specially musical nation has been expressed and used historically, by both Welsh and non-Welsh listeners. This chapter looks specifically at the reactions of listeners to Welsh singing practices in the period from about 1870 until just after the First World War. In so doing, it illustrates how the accounts of listeners can illuminate the politicisation of musical practices, locating them in this instance within the historical context of a period of economic buoyancy and cultural confidence in Wales, unparalleled either before or, arguably, since. It considers the ways in which these practices were marshalled as evidence of that optimistic, progressive national mood.

The initial signs of this interpretation of the significance of Welsh singing emerge in commentary on Welsh choirs and congregational hymn-singing, so it is to this world that the chapter turns first. We then move on to a musical world perhaps less well known outside Wales – the world of Welsh traditional music, and specifically the mission of the Welsh Folk-Song Society (Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru), which was founded precisely during this period, in the firm, if apparently contradictory, belief that the collection and performance of Welsh traditional music had a vital role to play in the development of a modern Welsh nation.

The LED project stresses the importance of close reading of the language used by listeners to describe their experiences of music, and accordingly in this chapter I am concerned particularly with the language that people used to articulate what they felt they were hearing when they listened to Welsh singing. The language of newspapers, periodicals and speeches of the period gives an insight into public discourse on Welsh singing and its place and significance in a modern Wales, but to try to find the voices of ordinary listeners expressing a personal response to music, the chapter turns to the evidence of oral history. In so doing, it seeks to illustrate a broader point about the gap that may be found between public discourse about the purpose of music and personal experience of it.

A progressive nation

…[I]n their love of music, poetry, and culture, for every man, the Celt stands pre-eminent. Throughout the length and breadth of Wales the holidays are consecrated to the enjoyment of music, poetry and literature by all the people, by all the workers, by the poor…. This is a force in the making of Britain… And [the Celt] will yet have much to say and do in the re-making of Britain. 53[53] Annie J. Ellis (ed.), <em>Speeches and Addresses by the Late Thomas E. Ellis, M.P.</em> (Wrexham: Hughes and Son, 1912), pp. 114–115.

This resounding declaration was made by the charismatic Welsh Liberal MP Tom Ellis (1859–1899), in an address entitled ’The Influence of the Celt in the Making of Britain’, which he gave in 1889 to the Welsh community in Manchester. In it, he characterised Welsh musicality (alongside poetry and culture generally) as not just a long-established national tradition but also a force, an active and indeed democratic element (‘for every man’, ‘by all the people’) in the shaping and development of Britain as a whole, into the future. Quite how music was to have this effect, Ellis didn’t spell out, but that is not unusual in this kind of romantic, visionary discourse about the potential of Wales at this time.

The period from about 1870 through the First World War was one of unprecedented cultural and national confidence in Wales. Industrial Wales – particularly the south Wales valleys – experienced a massive influx of population, including significant numbers from rural Wales, along with the growth of large and thriving towns. Alongside this, religious revivals in 1840 and 1859 (there was to be another in 1904) fed a buoyant Nonconformist religious culture. New chapels proliferated, 54[54] Christopher B. Turner, ‘The Nonconformist Response’, in Trevor Herbert and Gareth Elwyn Jones (eds), <em>People and Protest: Wales 1815</em>–<em>1880</em>, Welsh History and its Sources series (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1988), p. 74. Turner also provides evidence from the 1851 Religious Census of the scale of Nonconformist worship in Wales and of the accompanying rates of chapel building. and in 1851, when the religious census was taken, it was found that, of those attending a place of worship in Wales on census Sunday, more than 80% had gone to a Nonconformist chapel, not to an Anglican church.

A quarter of a century later, statistics confirmed a very similar picture: in 1905, of the two in five people in Wales who were members of a religious denomination, 25.9% were Anglicans, and nearly 75% were Nonconformists. 55[55] R. Tudur Jones, <em>Faith and the Crisis of a Nation: Wales 1890</em>–<em>1914</em>, trans. Sylvia Prys Jones, ed. Robert Pope (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2004), pp. 10–11. The statistics were gathered for the Commission looking into the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales, which published its report, <em>The Royal Commission on the Church of England and Other Religious Bodies in Wales and Monmouthshire</em>, in 1910, euphemistically omitting the word ‘disestablishment’ from the title. These were figures that rendered more than a little hollow the official position of the Anglican Church, or Church of England, as the established or state church of Wales.

The religious statistics also had profound political implications, which R. Tudur Jones summarises succinctly:

[The growth of Nonconformity] created an opportunity for common folk to organize their religious life in an unprecedented way. The [Nonconformist] churches nurtured for themselves many thousands of leaders from among people who throughout the centuries had been voiceless and powerless… This development was revolutionary, to say the least. Now the former leaders of society, the [Tory] squire and [Anglican] parson, were forced to share their kingdom with new princes who had risen from the land. 56[56] Jones, <em>Faith and the Crisis of a Nation</em>, pp. 38–39.

To dissent in religious terms from the Anglican Tory hegemony that had prevailed for centuries in Wales did not necessarily also imply a particularly radical political position – indeed, Nonconformity was generally ‘a conservative force in society’ in Wales. 57[57] Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, ‘Religion and society in the first half of the nineteenth century’, in <em>Explorations and Explanations: Essays in the Social History of Victorian Wales</em> (Llandysul: Gwasg Gomer, 1981), pp. 228–235; see also Turner, ‘Nonconformist response’. Rather, Welsh Nonconformists found their political home in the only other British parliamentary party of the time, the Liberal Party. During the second half of the nineteenth century, not only the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884, but also significant local government reorganisation, saw the traditional Welsh Tory authority of ‘squire and parson’ displaced by a Liberal, Nonconformist ascendancy under which more people lower down the social scale were politically engaged and had more self-determination – and they were well-versed in democratic modes of participation (broadly speaking), having learned them through the organisation and governance of their chapels.

Liberalism became the political voice of the ‘common folk’ of Wales, and they returned Welsh Liberal MPs to Westminster in numbers that far outweighed the Welsh Tories who had historically dominated there, creating an influential and challenging presence which congregated around the charismatic figures of David Lloyd George (1864–1945) and, until his premature death in 1899, Tom Ellis. The spearhead of the Welsh Liberals’ demand for reform was, unsurprisingly, the call for disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales.

Despite the buoyant national mood, the period was certainly also one of significant industrial and political unrest, and I have written elsewhere about the deployment of the idea of Welsh musicality as a counterweight to fears of Welsh militancy. 58[58] <strong>(Add reference to 19thCMR article – not yet available)</strong> But to many it was indeed pre-eminently a period of unprecedented progress, marked by vigorous campaigning, principally but not exclusively by Welsh Liberals, for the foundation of national institutions as evidence of a disinctive and mature culture – in particular, a national university, a national museum and a national library. There was, in effect, a national conversation – and not only in Liberal discourse – that revolved around the idea of progress and Wales as a modern, progressive nation.

This was the backdrop to Welsh cultural life. A populist musical culture of congregational and choral-singing flourished, rooted in the thriving chapels, and the first decade of the twentieth century saw the foundation of the Welsh Folk-Song Society, its mission being to preserve the traditional songs that it was feared would be lost, as people born in rural Wales migrated to industrial Wales and lost touch with their rural culture. Both choral-singing and the performance of folk song were fostered by competition in the National Eisteddfod, which had come into being as a national rather than simply a local institution in 1861 – another example of the preoccupation of the times with the establishment of national cultural institutions.

Music and the much-vaunted musicality of the Welsh were harnessed to the cause of progress. It became commonplace to characterise music not merely as a national talent or a source of national pride, but as an active means of developing a progressive Welsh identity with a contribution to make to modern Britain, very much in the spirit of Ellis’s sense of music as an active cultural force. A frequent caveat among professional Welsh musicians and music journalists was that a truly sophisticated and progressive nation would be developing an instrumental, orchestral tradition as well as a vocal one. But that is not the focus of this essay. My interest here is in what people said and wrote about the Welsh music they did hear, rather than what some thought was missing.

‘A new epoch’: the Côr Mawr and the cymanfa ganu

The famous Côr Mawr victories at the Crystal Palace in the summers of 1872 and 1873 are an early illustration of the tendency to interpret Welsh musicality as a measure of Welsh cultural progress. In those two summers, a choral competition was organised at the Crystal Palace in London, as part of a British ‘National Music Meeting’. Being well-versed in the culture of the Eisteddfod, for the Welsh the idea of choral competition was a familiar one, and they needed no persuasion to enter. The choir of 1872 numbered more than 450 voices, and was called the South Wales Choral Union but more popularly known in Welsh as the Côr Mawr (the Great Choir). 59[59] See Trevor Herbert, ‘Popular nationalism: Griffith Rhys Jones (‘Caradog’) and the Welsh choral tradition’, in Christine Bashford and Leanne Langley (eds), <em>Music and British Culture, 1785</em>–<em>1914</em> (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 255–274. It was conducted by Griffith Rhys Jones (1834–1897), better known by the nickname Caradog, a gifted musician who had been an apprentice blacksmith. In both years the Côr Mawr won the Crystal Palace competition – although little was said about the fact that it was the only choir competing in 1872, and had only one competitor in 1873.

The periodical Y Cerddor Cymreig (The Welsh Musician) reported at length on the winning performances, and in 1872 felt moved to add:

We are grateful to the South Wales Choir for opening the eyes of our neighbours, yes, and of many of our fellow countrymen too…. The English nation has been used to think lowly and speak contemptuously of the Welsh… This choir proved that here is life, here is ability, and here is achievement; and the Welsh in Wales are not to be despised anymore…. Once one of our talented sons or daughters goes to live in England, or expresses their thoughts in the English language, [to the English] they become English, and the Englishman insists that they don’t belong to us. They trample on us in Wales, and plunder what belongs to us in England. But another era has begun: and the victory of the Welsh Choir will have no small effect in raising the Welshman in his own country in the sight of the world.

Yr ydym yn ddiolchgar i Gor y Deheudir am agorwyd llygaid ein cymydogion, ie, a llawer o’n cydwladwyr hefyd…. Y mae corph cenedl y Saeson wedi arfer meddwl yn isel a siarad yn ddiystyrllyd am y Cymry…. Profodd y cor hwn fod yma fywyd, fod yma allu, a bod yma waith; ac nad ydyw y Cymry yng Nghymru i’w dirmygu mwyach…. Unwaith yr a un o’n meibion neu ein merched galluog i drigo i Loegr, neu i roddi allan ei feddyliau yn yr iaith Saesneg, y mae yn myned yn Sais, a thaera y Saeson mae nid ein heiddo ni yndynt. Sathrant arnom yn Nghymru, ac ysbeiliant ni o’n heiddo yn Lloegr. Ond y mae cyfnod arall wedi dechreu: ac nid ychydig fydd effaith buddugoliaeth y Cor Cymreig tuag at godi y Cymro yn ei wlad ei hun yn ngolwg y byd. 60[60] <em>Y Cerddor Cymreig</em>, Rhif 138, 1 Awst 1872, p. 59. Author’s translation.

Perhaps it seems excessive to hang a new era on a prize won in a choral competition, but the sense of historical and current grievance is impassioned and unmistakeable. Wales, the writer insists, has been exploited by the English for its industrial potential, and any achievement by Welsh people is recognised only in those who leave Wales for England, where they are appropriated as English. Welsh culture in and of itself (‘the Welshman in his own country’) has no merit in English eyes. So for the Welsh to triumph on an English stage as the Côr Mawr had just done was heralded as a cultural and indeed moral victory, and as the writer has it, the dawn of a new era: a sign that, through cultural achievement, Wales was establishing its identity among other modern nations.

Similarly, in a report of a Côr Mawr rehearsal at Aberdare in 1873, written for the Conservative Cardiff newspaper the Western Mail, the prominent journalist ‘Morien’ (Owen Morgan) stresses the wider cultural promise – on a ‘world’ stage – represented by the advance in musical knowledge and achievement embodied in the Côr Mawr:

A great many in the throng had music books in their hands and were following the singing, indicating how great a knowledge of music has extended among all classes in Wales. It was most interesting to watch ladies of aristocratic bearing, poring over the same kind of books as were in the horny hands of miners. It made me proud of the little old nationality which has produced such people. The world is justified in anticipating in the future great results from this little nation among the mountains. Its knowledge of music must exercise a vast influence on the people in stimulating them to other branches of mental superiority. 61[61] Morien, ‘The South Wales Choir Rehearsal: Aberdare’, <em>Western Mail</em>, 7 July 1873.

The idea that the choral and congregational singing of the Welsh could be interpreted as an expression of cultural aspiration and progress crops up repeatedly in this period. We find similar language in accounts of that most Welsh of singing events, the annual cymanfa ganu or hymn-singing assembly – a product of the proliferating chapel culture, and the place where almost all of the Côr Mawr singers would have cut their musical teeth. As described by Moses Owen Jones, a greatly respected choral conductor of the period:

It commences, as a rule, with a children’s service in the morning, when light and suitable tunes are sung and the catechism gone through….

The afternoon and evening meetings are devoted to adults. A number of congregational tunes are sung at each meeting, interspersed with anthems, chants and choruses. The choir, which is made of those of the several chapels in the Union, ranges from 300 to 800, according to the population of the district, and, after a thorough training, the singing, which is always devotional, is often very majestic and highly impressive….

Strangers labour under the impression that the best Welsh singing is to be heard at the National Eisteddfod. Picked choirs sing there, but the masses are to be heard at the Cymanfa Ganu, and anyone who would make himself acquainted with the musical life of Wales should visit some of our popular Cymanfaoedd. 62[62] Moses Owen Jones, ‘The culture of music amongst the masses in Wales’, in T. Stephens (ed.), <em>Wales To-day and To-morrow</em> (Cardiff, 1907), p. 334., accessed 30 July 2018.

In 1875, several newspapers published reports of a cymanfa ganu held in Penygraig in the Rhondda, and here again we find the idea that the singing in some sense represented a milestone in the upward progress of Welsh musical culture:

[The chairman] repeatedly complimented the singers upon the feeling they displayed, and the singing appeared to make a deep impression upon all present. The reverend chairman stated that he had never attended meetings of this kind where the audience entered more thoroughly ‘through the letter to the spirit’ of what they sang. The great feature of these meetings was anthem singing and Psalm chanting. The rendering of the Psalms by the choirs was simply grand beyond description. There may have been room for technical [sic], but the volume for melody was superb…. [He] said they were now entering upon a new epoch in Welsh music…. 63[63] <em>Western Mail</em>, 6 May 1975, quoted in Tom Jones, ‘Hanes Cymanfa Ganu Dosbarth Canol Rhondda’, published in <em>Y Darian</em>, 19 December 1929,, accessed 30 July 2018.

The cymanfa ganu literally became a national institution in its own right when the National Cymanfa Ganu was constituted in 1916 at the National Eisteddfod. In typically populist, crowd-pleasing style, Lloyd George, who was by then Prime Minister, and who made a point of always attending the National Eisteddfod, described the singing of ‘the old tunes’ at the 1917 National Cymanfa as ‘full of life and vigour and outpouring the beautiful hopes and aspirations and faith of the Welsh people’. 64[64] ‘Prime Minister’s Day Out: Mr. Lloyd George at National Gymanfa’, <em>Cambria Daily Leader</em>, 8 September 1917. It is notable that his first instinct is to link the cymanfa singing with what can readily be interpreted as political preoccupations – cultural aspiration and progress – and only then with religion and faith.

‘The real power of the Folk-song’: the foundation of the Welsh Folk-Song Society

The cymanfa and mass choral and congregational singing were relatively recent developments in Welsh music culture. Harnessing a much older musical tradition to the cause of progress seems on the surface to be something of a contradiction in terms, but that is what happened with Welsh traditional music or folk song in this period. The Welsh were not the only people to look to folk culture for the basis of a national identity – this was already well established in many European countries. The Folk Song Society had been founded as a pan-British endeavour in 1898, though its Irish members seceded to form their own society in 1904. 65[65] Alfred Perceval Graves explained the split in the context of the debate over Home Rule for Ireland: ‘Ireland, with its Home Rule tendencies, felt, however, that her own folk song affairs needed special treatment, and an Irish Folk Song Society has been started…’. (Graves, ‘Folk Song: An address delivered before the Cymmrodorion Section of the Welsh National Eisteddfod of 1906 at Carnarvon, and brought up to date’, in <em>Irish Literary and Musical Studies</em> (London: Elkin Matthews, 1913), p. 176.

Alfred Perceval Graves (1846–1931), 66[66] Graves was a poet and civil servant, and the father of the First World War poet Robert Graves. His autobiography <em>To Return to All That</em> (1930) was written as a riposte to his son’s ungenerous treatment of the family in <em>Goodbye to All That</em> (1929). an Irishman, and a founder member of both the Folk Song Society and the Irish Folk Song Society, may also be said to have planted the seed of the Welsh Folk-Song Society, having been charged by the Folk Song Society (presumably on the basis of his existing Welsh connections) 67[67] Graves had a great interest in Welsh poetry and culture, and owned a holiday home in Harlech, where he lived permanently after his retirement in 1919. He gives a brief account of much of this in his autobiography <em>To Return to All That </em>(London: Jonathan Cape, 1930), pp. 280–284. His daughter Rosaleen shared his enthusiasm from childhood onwards. She reported for both the <em>Musical Times</em> and <em>Welsh Outlook</em> on the folk song sessions at ‘The Celtic Congress in the Isle of Man’ in 1921 (see <em>Welsh Outlook</em>, 8 (1921), p. 185, and <em>Musical Times</em>, 62/942 (1 August 1921), pp. 583–584); and her brother Robert remembered going with her on folk song collecting trips near Harlech when they were children, as well as joining John Lloyd Williams on coastal walks (see ‘Where the crakeberries grow – Robert Graves gives an account of himself to Leslie Norris’, <em>The Listener</em>, 28 May 1970, pp. 715–716). with trying ‘to capture a strong Welsh contingent’. 68[68] Graves, <em>To Return</em>, p. 267. As Graves knew, Welsh traditional music was already an interest at Bangor’s University College through the activities of its Director of Music, John Lloyd Williams, and the support of the College’s Irish Principal, Harry Reichel. Lloyd Williams was appointed to the College as a botany lecturer in 1897, but he was also an amateur musician and choral conductor, and as such was invited to take on the voluntary music directorship.

In his ‘History of the Welsh Folk-Song Society’, written for the Society’s journal, Lloyd Williams describes how he suggested to Reichel ‘the desirability of confining the music sung at important College functions to arrangements of Welsh National Melodies’. 69[69] John Lloyd Williams, ‘The history of the Welsh Folk-Song Society’, <em>Journal of the Welsh Folk-Song Society</em>, 3/2 (1934), p. 89. However, he found the published eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collections flawed in several respects. Having largely been arranged for performance on the harp in fashionable salons and concerts, they were ‘distinctly diatonic, modern in tonality’ and ‘nearly all without words’. 70[70] Lloyd Williams, ‘History’, pp. 89–90. One solution was to select some of the melodies and have words written for them (Alfred Graves was one of the poets to whom he turned). This proved successful in so far as the songs were well received by audiences. But the fact that they lacked their original words continued to trouble him. Then he tried another experiment – he arranged for the College choir a folk song he had noted down years before, while listening to his wife and her sister singing it – ‘Tra Bo Dau’ (‘While there are two’). Its success encouraged him to try more of these ‘songs of the people’ (as he described them), 71[71] Lloyd Williams, ‘History’, p. 91. and to form a choir specifically for their performance, ‘Y Canorion’ (‘The Singers’).

All this activity must have happened between 1897 when he began his career at Bangor and 1906 when the Society was founded, and it was this work – and in particular, a specific performance at a College garden party – that he claims first opened his eyes to the ‘real power of the Folk-Song’:

The first Society that was ever formed with the prime object of collecting and singing Welsh Folk-songs was a small Society of Students at the Bangor University College… The little group of Students called themselves ‘Y CANORION’… At that time our professional Welsh musicians pooh-poohed the whole thing. It was said and written that all important Welsh airs were already known, and that in any case the chief interest of Folk Music was antiquarian. If I may make a personal confession – it was in one of these College functions held in the grounds of the old College that I first fully realised the significance of the work in which we were engaged. A Brass Band was playing in the grounds, but as is usual in such places, conversation filled the air. Our small group of ‘CANORION’ assembled quietly under a tree and started singing. There was a sudden hush. The guests drew nearer. Tune after tune were sung; and it was with difficulty that we were allowed to leave off. Then it was that the real power of the Folk-song first revealed itself to me. 72[72] John Lloyd Williams, ‘The Welsh Folk-Song Society’, <em>Y Cerddor</em>, Medi (September) 1931, p. 314, quoted in Phyllis Kinney, <em>Welsh Traditional Music</em> (Cardiff: University of Wales Press: 2011), p. 205.

Far from being an antiquarian preoccupation, he saw that folk songs had the capacity to make a connection with both singers and listeners now, in the present day – a capacity which he put down to their ‘vocal origin… spontanteity and … preoccupation with words’. 73[73] Lloyd Williams, ‘History’, p. 91.

Thus Graves’s overtures on behalf of the Folk Song Society certainly fell on fertile ground, but they actually resulted in a decision – with which Graves himself seems to have been entirely sympathetic – to establish a specifically Welsh society. It was launched at the 1906 Caernarfon Eisteddfod, and Lloyd Williams was its editor and guiding light until his death in 1945.

Lloyd Williams had first-hand knowledge not only of the Welsh folk song tradition but also of its vulnerability. In a note in the Journal of the Welsh Folk-Song Society, he remembered the abrupt end of his father’s career as a local ballad singer:

When I was about five years old, my father used to sing in the public-houses to the accompaniment of Ifan y Gorlan’s harp-playing. Soon after, he joined the Calvinistic Methodists and gave up the drink and the old songs. My mother burnt all the printed ballads in the house; and it was only with the greatest difficulty that father could be persuaded to sing to us, even the most innocuous of the old ballads. 74[74] John Lloyd Williams, editorial note to the song ‘Crefydd Sionto’ (Sionto’s Religion), in <em>Journal of the Welsh Folk Song Society</em>, 4/1 (1948), p. 14.

He tells the story at greater length in his autobiography, linking it specifically to the impact of the 1859 religious revival and its associated temperance campaign. Traditional music was tainted by association with the inns in which it was played and sung, and the drinking that inevitably accompanied it, and his mother’s act of destruction was far from an unusual one. An almost identical incident is recounted of a ballad singer called Joseff Rees who ‘sang ballads until 1903 until the revival came. [Then] he burnt the ballads…’ (‘Odd e’n canu baledi nes 1903 nes i’r diwygiad ddod. Fe llosgodd y baledi…’). 75[75] St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff, transcript of oral history recording, tape 7520, David Griffiths. Author’s translation. A number of Welsh Folk-Song Society members set out to collect songs (particularly the less well-known and unpublished ones) by recording them being sung by those who remembered them, but found that it was common for elderly people to refuse to acknowledge that they had ever even heard ‘the old songs’. On her collecting trips in the early years of the twentieth century, for example, Ruth Herbert Lewis encountered ‘a pious old man’ who insisted he ‘could only remember hymns’, and an old man ‘much to [sic] respectable to “canu maswedd” [sing rude songs]’. 76[76] Kitty Idwal Jones, ‘Adventures in Folk-Song Collecting’, <em>Welsh Music/Cerddoriaeth Cymru</em>, 5/5 (Spring/Gwanwyn 1977), p. 45 and 47.

While Nonconformity fostered a thriving mass culture of religious singing, its impact on the traditional, secular songs was little short of disastrous. It bred a real and widespread belief that the traditional music was sinful and specifically that it would draw sober, God-fearing people under the influence of alcohol. Years after the event, Lloyd Williams’s mother, seeing that her husband did not in fact stray from the path of sobriety and that her sons were growing up to be studious young men interested in their traditions and culture, told him ‘many times how much she regretted the burning’ (‘Pan welodd fy mam mor sicr ydoedd troediad fy nhad ar y llwybr newydd, a gweld hefyd ei meibion yn tyfu i fyny’n ddarllengar, dywedodd wrthyf lawer gwaith faint ei hedifeirwch am y llosgi.’). Poignantly he adds:

…when my eyes were opened to the interest of the old songs, my father had left us, and his abundance of songs was lost.

…pan agorwyd fy llygaid i ddiddordeb yr hen ganu, yr oedd fy nhad wedi ein gadael, a’i doreth caneuon ar goll. 77[77] John Lloyd Williams, <em>Atgofion Tri Chwarter Canrif</em>, Cyf. 1 (Y Clwb Llyfrau Cymraeg, 1941), p. 25. Author’s translation.

Little wonder then, that for Lloyd Williams the work of the Society was much more than mere antiquarian curiosity, but rather the rescue of a strand of Welsh cultural identity that had been vital and vibrant within living memory and in his own family and community. Amidst all the enormous endeavour he put into the Welsh Folk-Song Society and all the influence he had on it, this belief in traditional song as a living force that resonated in ordinary people’s experience was arguably his most significant and distinctive contribution.

The Welsh Folk-Song Society was embedded in the cultural nationalism of the Welsh Liberals, and reflected their progressive agenda. The Welsh Liberal network that underpinned the Society is not hard to uncover. To name just some of the most obvious figures, one of Lloyd Williams’s most important early colleagues was Ruth Herbert Lewis, a significant collector of Welsh folk songs 78[78] She published <em>Folk Songs Collected in Flintshire and The Vale of Clwyd</em> (Wrexham, 1914) and <em>Welsh Folk Songs</em> (Wrexham, 1834). See also E. Wyn James, ‘An ‘English’ Lady among Welsh Folk: Ruth Herbert Lewis and the Welsh Folk-Song Society’, in Ian Russell and David Atkinson (eds), <em>Folk-Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-Creation </em>(Aberdeen: The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, 2004), pp. 266–283,, accessed 13 November 2018. and married to the Welsh Liberal MP, John Herbert Lewis. 79[79] See Kitty Idwal Jones, <em>Syr Herbert Lewis</em> (Caerdydd: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 1958). John Herbert Lewis was instrumental in the campaigns for a national university, library and museum, and a close colleague of Tom Ellis and Lloyd George. The Ellises and the Herbert Lewises were particularly good friends, and after Tom’s death ‘the friendship between Ruth Lewis and Annie Ellis [Tom’s widow] became a close one’, with the two women going out together on folk song collecting trips. 80[80] Kitty Idwal Jones, ‘Adventures’, p. 33 and pp. 43–52. The membership list of the Welsh Folk-Song Society is full of their Liberal friends and colleagues, with Lloyd George listed as a Vice President.

John Lloyd Williams was himself on friendly terms with Lloyd George, perhaps through their participation in local chapel activities in Cricieth, 81[81] Lloyd George was brought up around Cricieth (in the village of Llanystumdwy), and maintained a family home there. Lloyd Williams may also have been living there at this time – some of his correspondence from this period bears the address ‘Ty Mawr, Criccieth’; certainly his notebooks and journals show that he was at the very least a frequent visitor to Cricieth. and Lloyd George apparently considered that he owed much of his charismatic trademark oratory to Lloyd Williams’s skills as a singing teacher, if Lloyd Williams’s journal for Sunday 26 December 1909 is to be believed:

Ev[ening] to Seion [Chapel]… sing nicely except the men who are very poor. Lloyd George sits the whole time on the steps of the pulpit – Megan [Lloyd George, his daughter] before his knees.

Up w. Ll. G. to his new house to supper….

[He describes their conversation over supper, then starts to quote Lloyd George:]

Importance of voice in speaking. ‘Bonar Law and I are g[rea]t friends and he always tells me that I have an unfair advantage…in my voice – but many of them never study voice prod[uctio]n – I owe most to you for showing me the importance of voice prod[uctio]n… Tom Ellis had a very limited range – only 2 or 3 notes but he used them in a very effective manner…’ 82[82] National Library of Wales, Dr J. Lloyd Williams Papers, MB1/16 (iii), 9v.

Lloyd Williams is not explicit about his own political persuasion, but he clearly had connections with prominent Welsh Liberals and shared his interest in and knowledge of folk songs with them – as a journal entry for 1 September 1913 notes, ‘Lloyd George and I had a short talk ab[ou]t F[olk] S[ong]s. He wanted me to get two songs sung to him week last Sunday…’. 83[83] National Library of Wales, Dr J. Lloyd Williams Papers, MB3/1 (ii – a & b).

‘The upward progress of a country’: John Lloyd Williams’s philosophy for the Welsh Folk-Song Society

In the first volume of the Society’s journal, Lloyd Williams set out a philosophy which saw Welsh folk song not just as part of the nation’s heritage but as a constituent of a distinctive and modern Welsh cultural identity, and went yet further in presenting it as a contribution to a wider British and even world musical culture. In essence, he argued that folk song was not a nostalgic but a progressive musical and cultural practice:

We maintain that folk-songs form a valuable national asset, and that it would be madness to ignore them – folk-music is one of many factors which help in a nation’s development.

… In spite of the clever English critic and his Welsh followers, I believe there are great possibilities in Welsh folk-song from a national point of view… May the day soon come when a Welshman, well equipped with all the resources of modern technique will also have drunk deep of the spirit of its literature and of its national songs, until his own personality and genius discovers to the world some new aspect of music that will both advance the credit of our little nation, and contribute to the development of the world’s music. 84[84] John Lloyd Williams, ‘A Review of the Society’s Musical Work’, <em>Journal of the Welsh Folk-Song Society</em>, 1/4 (1912), pp. 154–155.

He also positioned the Welsh Folk-Song Society in the context of the other recently established national cultural institutions, pointing out that the Society had a comparable mission to that of the National Library and National Museum, and suggesting that it offered invaluable source material to the students and academics of the Welsh university colleges – not only historians, but also anthropologists and psychologists:

But what of the value of these songs?… We have now in our Welsh Library and our Welsh Museum the opportunity of collecting and preserving everything that pertains to the life of the past – old implements, vessels, articles of furniture and clothing, and old MSS. of every kind. Are the old songs of the people of less importance than their old drinking cups?…

Our Colleges are now turning out young people trained in scientific methods of study – who are closely investigating the history of our people and language from different points of view. We are providing rich material for him who will undertake to unravel the ethnology, the history, and the psychology wrapped up in these rescued songs. 85[85] Lloyd Williams, ‘A Review’, p. 151.

It is interesting to set the founding philosophy of the Welsh Folk-Song Society alongside the ways in which some key English contemporaries conceptualised folk song. 86[86] I am grateful to Stephen Rees of Bangor University for suggesting this as a line worth pursuing. The comparison with the English perspective is indeed instructive. The position of the Irish Folk Song Society is less obvious – certainly their early journals offer little in the way of a ‘mission statement’. Perhaps, given the much better-established nature of folk song and folk lore collection in Ireland than in England and Wales, little need for one was felt. The Scots appear to have been content to pursue their interests within the bounds of the Folk Song Society, which had been conceived as a pan-British institution. The idea that it could form the basis of a new national school of composition was something that the Welsh and English had in common, but in other ways their preoccupations differed. For the English, the ‘threat’ posed by the music hall was a powerful factor. In his ‘Inaugural Address’ to the Folk Song Society, Hubert Parry (one of its Vice Presidents) explicitly presented folk song as an antidote to the vulgarity of the urban, capitalist popular culture of the music hall, which he described in rather startlingly apocalyptic terms:

… this enemy is one of the most repulsive and most insidious [in]… the outer circumference of our terribly overgrown towns where the jerry-builder holds sway; where one sees all around the tawdriness of sham jewellery and shoddy clothes, pawnshops and flaming gin-palaces. 87[87] Hubert Parry, ‘Inaugural Address’, <em>Journal of the Folk-Song Society</em>, 1/1 (1899), p. 1.

By contrast, ‘the old folk-music is among the purest products of the human mind [because it] grew in the hearts of the people before they devoted themselves so assiduously to the making of quick returns’. 88[88] Parry, ‘Inaugural Address’, p. 2.

In the course of a more extended and complex argument, Cecil Sharp makes the same point in his influential book, English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions (1907):

… good music purifies, just as bad music vulgarizes… [T]he mind that has been fed upon the pure melody of the folk will instinctively detect the poverty-stricken tunes of the music-hall, and refuse to be captivated by their superficial attractiveness…. [Folk songs will] effect an improvement in the musical taste of the people, and… refine and strengthen the national character. 89[89] Cecil Sharp, <em>English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions</em> (London: Simpkin & Co., Ltd; Novello & Co., Ltd; Taunton: Barnicott & Pearce, Athenaeum Press, 1907), p. 135.

There was a paternalistic slant to the English vision, 90[90] Ralph Vaughan Williams is another figure whose ideas about English folk song might be expected to be quoted here, but his writings on the subject come from a composer’s perspective and are notably free of the kind of moralising of both Parry and Sharp. A useful selection is given in David Manning (ed.), <em>Vaughan Williams on Music</em> (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). according to which, folk song was a product of ‘unsophisticated humanity’ with the power to remedy ‘the sordid vulgarity of our great city-populations’ as Parry put it 91[91] Parry, ‘Inaugural Address’, p. 3. or, in Sharp’s terms, while it might be appreciated by ‘cultivated people’, it also had the merit of appealing to and educating ‘the uncritical’, and ‘will do incalculable good in civilizing the masses’. 92[92] Sharp, <em>English Folk-Song</em>, p. 137. Sharp also saw folk song as a means of ‘stimulating the feeling of patriotism’, and by this he meant very specifically English patriotism. English education was, he said, ‘too cosmopolitan’ and bred ‘citizens of the world rather than Englishmen. And it is Englishmen, English citizens, that we want’. 93[93] Sharp, <em>English Folk-Song</em>, pp. 135–136.

Seen in this light, it is perhaps not surprising that the Welsh had certain reservations about Cecil Sharp. 94[94] In fact Sharp was also something of a thorn in the side of his English colleagues. Hubert Parry had his differences with Sharp at an earlier period when both were involved with the running of the Finsbury Choral Association (see <em>Oxford Dictionary of National Biography</em>, <a href=""></a>, accessed 14 September 2018), and Vaughan Williams noted in his 1937 <em>Dictionary of National Biography</em> entry on Sharp that ‘his ideas were not always cordially welcomed’ by his FSS colleagues; entry reprinted in Manning, <em>Vaughan Williams on Music</em>, p. 238. The working relationships of the folk song collectors of the four British nations were generally close and collaborative, as the mutual contributions to their various journals reveal,95[95] Indeed, these relationships and cross-currents often predate the foundation of the folk song societies. In mid-nineteenth century Welsh/Irish circles, for example, the Third Earl of Dunraven is a pivotal figure. Owning land in both Ireland and south Wales, he enjoyed friendships and shared intellectual interests with the Graves family on the Irish side, and with the important folk song collector Maria Jane Williams and her family on the Welsh side. See Graves, <em>To Return</em>, p. 83, and Elizabeth Belcham, <em>About Aberpergwm: The Home of the Williams Family in the Vale of Neath, Glamorgan</em> (Aberpergwm: Heritage Ventures, 1992), pp. 58–59. but Lloyd Williams thought Sharp proprietorial and domineering in his attitude to the study of folk song, and noted in his journal for 24 October 1909:

Mrs D [Mary Davies, then secretary of the Welsh Folk-Song Society and a noted singer] interviewed C. Sharp. (No one likes him – he is dictatorial and headlong.) Dictated to her – told her that if she wanted to know about Welsh ballads to go to Wynne Jones Carnarvon [!] His astonishment when Mrs D had gone to discover she was ‘the singer’. 96[96] National Library of Wales, Dr J. Lloyd Williams Papers, MB3/1.

Like Sharp, Lloyd Williams emphasised the utility of folk songs in developing musical taste, and regarded them as a means of nurturing patriotism, but for the latter, patriotism in the British context was ‘the sum of the local patriotisms within it’ and was rooted in ‘the love of family’. 97[97] John Lloyd Williams, ‘Introduction’, <em>Alawon Gwerin Cymru: Welsh Folk Songs Arranged for Schools</em>, vol. 1, p. xii. He also took a distinctive path in his vision of Welsh folk song as Wales’s contribution to what he called the ‘culture fund’ of Britain. 98[98] Lloyd Williams, ‘Introduction’, p. xi. That contribution would, he felt, stamp the ‘individuality’ of Wales on that general culture, by which he surely meant that it would establish a cultural identity distinct from and equal to that of England, and in so doing would contribute to ‘the upward progress of a country’. 99[99] Lloyd Williams, ‘Introduction’, p. xi. By ‘a country’, he probably meant Wales – but it is possible to interpret this as a suggestion that a ‘culture fund’ in which the four nations were established as equals would be progressive for Britain as a whole.

It was widely seen as important that folk song should be instilled into the young and should form part of the school curriculum, and both Sharp and Lloyd Williams arranged and published folk songs for schools. 100[100] The links between the folk song societies and educationists are notable and would merit further study – Graves, for example, spent a considerable portion of his career as an inspector of schools. Sharp insisted that:

Educationalists are agreed that the inclusion of music in the curriculum of the elementary school will not only tend to cultivate a taste for music, but will also, by exciting and training the imagination, react beneficially upon character…. [And since] folk-music came first and provided the foundations upon which the superstructure of art-music was subsequently reared… folk-music is clearly the best and most natural basis upon which to found a musical education. 101[101] Sharp, <em>English Folk-Song</em>, pp. 134–135.

Lloyd Williams was in sympathy with the musical aspects of this – folk music as the basis of a musical education and a means of cultivating musical taste – but the idea that it might have an impact on ‘character’ is notably lacking from his thinking. Folk song is never regarded by him as a means of educating the uncultivated ‘masses’; for him, these are the ‘songs of the people’, and an expression of a living cultural identity with a positive contribution to make to the modern world.

Lloyd Williams’s vision found sympathetic minds in government circles. The place of folk song in the curriculum acquired particular relevance in Wales against a backdrop of concern that education, which was delivered through the medium of English, was ‘betraying the linguistic, cultural and social needs of Wales’. 102[102] Gareth Elwyn Jones, ‘Wales 1880–1914’, in Trevor Herbert and Gareth Elwyn Jones (eds), <em>Wales 1880</em>–<em>1914</em>, Welsh History and its Sources series (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1988), p. 8. The Liberal Government of 1906–1915 moved early on to create a Welsh Department within the Board of Education, and in 1907 Alfred T. Davies, another close associate of John Herbert Lewis, 103[103] They had started out as partners in a firm of solicitors in Liverpool (see Idwal Jones, <em>Syr Herbert Lewis</em>, p. 17), and were both involved in the administration of education at county level in north east Wales. became its first Permanent Secretary (a post which he held until 1925). In 1913, we find him writing to Mary Davies in the following terms:

I am sorry I cannot be present at the Annual Meeting, to-morrow, of Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru [the Welsh Folk-Song Society]… [I]f I may venture on a suggestion it would be to concentrate more effort during the coming year on cultivating Folk-Songs among the children. It is with them that all hope for the perpetuation of these national melodies lies. Unless Welsh Folk-Songs are sung on the hearth, in the school, in the smithy and on the mountain side, as the kine are being brought home, and the children are being nursed, they will not really flourish but only have that exotic existence which is, after all, but the prelude to their ultimate disappearance….

Are the Council quite sure that they have yet done all that is necessary (1) to enable every Head Teacher in Wales to put on the Requisition List for his or her school a thoroughly well-edited and standard edition of the best Welsh Folk-Songs and (2) to enable school teachers, in every county, to learn how these songs should be rendered?… 104[104] National Library of Wales, WFSS/CAGC Correspondence 1905–1939, B1, Ffeil 1, Bundle 1905–1914.

His imagined listening scenarios – ‘on the hearth, in the school, in the smithy and on the mountain side, as the kine are being brought home, and the children are being nursed’ – derive from the same strain of romantic cultural nationalism as Ellis’s vision of music as a ‘force in the making of Britain’. The romanticism is tempered, however – on one level by the practical concern of the civil servant with schoolbook requisition lists and standard editions, but more profoundly by his sense that folk songs were not – or should not be – ‘exotic’ or antiquarian, but retained their relevance to daily life.

‘My mother used to sing us to sleep with that song’: listening to traditional songs

At the risk of over-stretching the point, what the Welsh Folk-Song Society and its supporters often seemed to think they heard in Welsh folk song was as much the voice of the future as the voice of the past. This may not be quite how ‘ordinary listeners’ heard it, and I want finally to look at some of those more instinctive, less conceptualised or less politicised reactions.

In 1923, Grace Gwyneddon Davies (1879–1944), a singer and collector of Welsh folk songs, 105[105] She published two volumes of Anglesey folk songs, <em>Alawon Gwerin Môn</em> (vol. 1 published Caernarfon 1914, new edition published Wrexham 1923, and vol. 2, Wrexham 1924). travelled for three months in the USA and Canada, giving talks about the Society’s work to expatriate Welsh communities in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, among a number of others. 106[106] Wyn Thomas, <em>Meistres ‘Graianfryn’ a Cherddoriaeth frodorol yng Nghymru</em> (Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru, 1999), p. 9. She reported back to her colleagues:

I do not know that the truth of the old adage, Goreu Cymro, Cymro oddicartref [the best Welshman is an expatriate Welshman], ever came home to me more forcibly than during the three months in which my husband and I were touring America… [W]e took the opportunity of meeting our fellow-countrymen at different points on our journey, to tell them of the work of the W.F.S.S., and to let them hear some of our finds. Those meetings will always stand out in my memory as a touching proof of the deep and abiding love of the Welshman for his own country. They were usually opened by the singing of ‘My Country, ‘tis of Thee,’ but they always ended with ‘Hen Wlad fy Nhadau,’ and their loyalty to the one was as unmistakeable as their hiraeth [longing] for the other. Perhaps it was because we carried them right back into the old days. They did not know that my singing of these old songs was going to revive memories of childhood, of loved parents and of localities endeared to them, and those memories moved them over and over again to tears.

They listened with the greatest interest to what we had to say about the songs, and picked up the airs quickly, joining in the singing with a heartiness that added more than a little to the success and homeliness of the meetings…. [The songs] were familiar to many, as one could easily see by the way their faces lit up and their heads moved to the lilt of the song; and after the meeting was over they would come to tell us where they had heard them. ‘I come from Llanrhystyd; my mother used to sing us to sleep with that song;’ or ‘My father sang Dibyn a Dobyn, but he used to say: ‘A ddoi di’r coed? meddai Richie pen Stryd,’ [‘Are you coming to the wood? said Richie pen Stryd’] and not ‘A ddoi di’r coed? meddai cwbl i gyd.’ [‘Are you coming to the wood? said everybody.’] 107[107] National Library of Wales, Kitty Idwal Jones Papers, 15, Welsh Folk-Song Society, Seventeenth Annual Report, June 1924–June 1926. Author’s translations.

Lloyd Williams had inculcated in the Society the belief that folk songs had the power to resonate with the experiences of ordinary people, and Grace Gwyneddon Davies’s account provides valuable evidence of their actual impact. It is, of course, a second-hand account and one could argue that, in any case, an audience of expatriate Welsh people was always likely to respond emotionally to music that took them back to their Welsh childhoods. However, there are some corroborating first-hand accounts that tend to confirm that their reaction was not simply prompted by expatriate sentimentality.

The National History Museum in Cardiff holds an important collection of oral history interviews, conducted largely in the 1960s to capture the memories of people who had been children in Wales at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Many of these focused on traditional music, and the interviewers invariably asked their subjects, ‘Where did you hear this song?’ or ‘Who did you learn it from?’ – and the answers, though almost always brief and factual, often give a glimpse of an emotional reaction, because usually the songs were learned from close relatives.

The following are a brief sample of many similar testimonies. Evan Evans (born 1877, Denbighshire) learned ‘lots’ of carols from his aunt, who learned them from her father, ‘a great carol singer’ (‘carolwr mawr’). Wallis Evans (born 1910, Aberdare) recalled hearing ‘Dydd Llun, Dydd Mawrth, Dydd Mercher’ (‘Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday’), now a standard of Welsh folk song, ‘in Aberdare from my father at home… when I was a small child… about six or seven years old’, (‘yn Aberdâr o ‘Nhad gartref… yn blentyn bach… rhyw chwech neu saith’). (A recording of another interviewee, E. Thomas Evans, singing a version of ‘Dydd Llun, Dydd Mawrth, Dydd Mercher’ can be heard on the Museum’s website, along with a number of other songs recorded in the course of the oral history project.) Jane Owen (born 1879, Port Talbot) remembered her father singing ‘Bore fory coda i’n fore’ (‘Tomorrow morning I will get up early’) to the children ‘when they were little’. Maud Ellen Davies (born 1894, Cardiganshire) recalled ‘hearing Nana singing this when I was a child…in Rhydlewis’ (‘…clywed Mamgu yn ei chanu amser o’n i’n plentyn…yn Rhydlewis’); and David Miles (born 1913, Pembrokeshire) ‘heard my Grandad singing [‘Ceiliog Beti’ (‘Beti’s cockerel’)] … at home when we lived in Croesgoch’ (‘clywa’ ‘Nhadcu yn ei chanu… gartref pan ni’n byw yn Croesgoch’). Arthur Stanley Parry (born 1896, Carmarthenshire) remembered his mother singing the lullaby ‘Hei lwli, babi’, ‘to sing my little sisters to sleep’ (‘i ganu fy chwiorydd bach i gysgu’). Typically, these responses offer a memory of the person and often the place brought to mind by the act of remembering the song. 108[108] St Fagans National History Museum, oral history recordings, tape numbers, in order, 396, 463, 499, 564, 610, 1001. Author’s transcriptions and translations.

One account gives us a more specific and detailed memory. Owen Morgan (born 1887, Anglesey) remembered how his grandmother would sing an ‘action song’ to him, ‘Gyrru, gyrru, gyrru i Gaer’ (‘Drive, drive, drive to Chester’), bouncing him up and down to mimic the rhythm of the horse and cart:

… and of course nana would lift me up and down while singing that one – ‘gyrru, gyrru, gyrru i Gaer’.

(…a wrth gwrs fydda nain ‘n nghodi fi i fyny ag i lawr wrth ganu honna’n te – ‘gyrru, gyrru, gyrru i Gaer.’) 109[109] St Fagans National History Museum, oral history transcripts, tape 69. Author’s translation.

These are, of course, no more than snippets – none of the interviewees elaborates on the emotions and memories these songs evoked – and this points to some of the drawbacks of oral history evidence, and more broadly to the difficulties of finding the evidence of ‘ordinary voices’. The interviews were of course recorded many decades after the remembered events, and memories are patchy and unreliable. Furthermore, like any oral history project, there is an underlying rationale that shapes the interviews and leads to the inclusion of some topics and the exclusion of others: in this case, the collection was created particularly to capture memories of Welsh rural traditions and practices that it was feared would be lost as a consequence of industrialisation. Thus, though the learning of songs and hymns from older relatives features strongly in the interviews, the emphasis is on the words and melodies, and on recording when and in what part of Wales they were sung. The emotional significance of the music per se is not generally pursued with the interviewees. Nonetheless, these memories of children being sung to sleep and grandmothers dancing grandchildren up and down on their laps are surely full of emotional meaning – flashes of insight cast by music into people’s childhood experience.


In the late nineteenth century and the first couple of decades of the twentieth, the propensity for hitching Welsh musical achievement to the wagon of national progress was strong. The first signs can be detected in the often overstated reactions of listeners to Welsh choral and congregational singing, with all it could be said to imply about the social respectability, piety, (musical) literacy and intellectual aspiration of the masses. While choirs and cymanfoedd ganu were to be found all over Wales in both rural and industrial communities, these were singing practices that were crucially linked to industrial expansion and the burgeoning chapel congregations it bred. As such, they were readily linked in people’s perceptions with what was for many (though not all) an optimistic period of economic prosperity and cultural development, which, as Morien put it, justified the world in anticipating ‘in the future great results from this little nation among the mountains’. 110[110] Morien, ‘The South Wales Choir Rehearsal: Aberdare’, <em>Western Mail</em>, 7 July 1873.

Traditional song seems at first glance to be a less easy fit within a discourse about national progress, and it seems doubtful that many of those ‘ordinary listeners’ had conceptualised the songs of their childhoods as part of such a discourse. It is, however, exactly in terms of the connection with family and community, with the human, the emotional and the personal, that John Lloyd Williams understood and articulated the underpinning vitality of traditional music, and its potential to contribute to ‘the upward progress of a country’. Nonetheless, the reactions of ordinary listeners, in their focus on past experience, express something more like a sense of tradition, certainly very distant from the way in which Welsh music was brought into a wider cultural and political discourse about a vision for a nation by the politicians, journalists and scholars. Thus, while the public discourse about music in Wales in this period is clear from, among other sources, newspaper and periodical articles, oral history evidence gives us another set of voices that speak of everyday encounters with music, and in so doing, point to a notable gap between that ‘national conversation’ about music and ‘ordinary’ people’s personal experience of it.

Select bibliography

Graves, Alfred Perceval. ‘Folk Song: An address delivered before the Cymmrodorion Section of the Welsh National Eisteddfod of 1906 at Carnarvon, and brought up to date’, in Irish Literary and Musical Studies. London: Elkin Matthews, 1913, pp. 175–190.

Herbert, Trevor, and Jones, Gareth Elwyn (eds). People and Protest: Wales 18151880, Welsh History and its Sources series. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1988.

Herbert, Trevor, and Jones, Gareth Elwyn (eds). Wales 18801914, Welsh History and its Sources series. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1988.

James, E. Wyn. ‘An “English” Lady among Welsh Folk: Ruth Herbert Lewis and the Welsh Folk-Song Society’, in Ian Russell and David Atkinson (eds), Folk-Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-Creation. Aberdeen: The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, 2004, pp. 266–283,, accessed 12 February 2019.

Jones, Kitty Idwal. ‘Adventures in Folk-Song Collecting’, Welsh Music/Cerddoriaeth Cymru, 5/5, Spring/Gwanwyn 1977, pp. 35–52.

Kinney, Phyllis. Welsh Traditional Music. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011.

Morgan, Kenneth O. Rebirth of a Nation: Wales 18801980. New York: Oxford University Press; Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1981.

Sharp, Cecil. English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions. London: Simpkin & Co., Ltd; Novello & Co., Ltd; Taunton: Barnicott & Pearce, Athenaeum Press, 1907.

Williams, John Lloyd. ‘The History of the Welsh Folk-Song Society’, Journal of the Welsh Folk-Song Society, 3/2 (1934), pp. 89–102 and 146–157.

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View the online publication details 111[111] <em>The Experience of Listening to Music: Methodologies, Identities, Histories</em> has been Open Access funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), grant AH/J013986/1, The collection has been peer reviewed, edited by David Rowland and Helen Barlow, and subsequently prepared for online publication by the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) of The Open University. Published by: The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA.  Copyright © The Open University. First published: July 2019. ISBN: 9781473028647. PDFs displaying some of the content from the online collection are available from <a href=""></a> You can experience the online publication as it was originally designed at <a href=""></a> View copyright information relating to the publication here: <a href=""></a> 

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