Musical Women in England, 1870–1914: Encroaching on All by Paula Gillett

By Paula Gillett

Musical girls in England, 1870-1914 delineates the jobs ladies performed within the flourishing song international of late-Victorian and early twentieth-century England and exhibits how modern demanding situations to restrictive gender roles encouraged them to maneuver into new components of musical expression, either in composition and function. Their ambiguous social reception even though, the intense skill and outstanding self-confidence of those ladies encouraged fiction-writers to add musician heroines and prompted extraordinary numbers of ladies and ladies to pursue complicated musical study.

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19 Perhaps most important of all, approved forms of music were needed in order to counteract what reformers believed was the art’s illegitimate use in the “noxious” music hall. The people [said Jevons] will have amusement and excitement of one kind or other, and the only question is, whether the business of recreation shall fall entirely into the hands of publicans, or whether local movements . . ”20 All forms of rational recreation devised during the 1870s and ‘80s reflected Jevons’s distaste for the music halls.

The upper-crust Queen magazine described these programs as well-suited offerings that a “rough and uncultured audience . . ”37 The journal Musical Opinion also approved of the Society’s programs. ”38 Like the Kyrle Society volunteers who sang to the destitute in workhouses, PES amateurs crossed a social chasm, but because the central goal of the “Entertainers” was to change behavior rather than offer music as an unencumbered gift, concern about audience demeanor and responsiveness was a major component of the concert givers’ evaluation of their success.

Readers wishing further information were advised to write to the society’s Honorary Treasurer, Octavia Hill. The treasurer’s own account of the Kyrle Society’s musical work was published in an 1884 article in The Nineteenth Century, “Colour, Space, and Music for the People,” an adaptation of a paper previously read before the society’s members. Hill’s focus on practical details and specific needs was in keeping with her demanding responsibilities as manager of working-class housing, and her experience as adviser to the Charity Organisation Society.

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