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A Century of Music Production in Durham City 1711-1811: A Documentary Study.

FLEMING, SIMON,DAVID,IAIN (2009) A Century of Music Production in Durham City 1711-1811: A Documentary Study. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



In the eighteenth century, Durham City was an important centre of political power, the nucleus of which was the cathedral whose own wealth and power was immense. The Bishop, as the King’s representative, governed County Durham, and Durham City, as the capital of the palatinate, was a vibrant socio-economic centre. Those with means spent much of their free time patronising the large number of concerts, balls, assemblies, or theatrical productions that were frequently held in the city. For a musician, these public events provided ample opportunities to make a living. There were also opportunities to teach the children of wealthy patrons and to publish compositions. In consequence a large number of musicians came to the city, either to live or to visit, with race and assize weeks (the busiest time of the year) as a major focus of their employment.
The centre of musical life in Durham was the cathedral which dominated the production of both sacred and secular music. In order to attract good quality singers to the north, the cathedral’s Chapter offered unusually high salaries to its lay-clerks. The clerks, as able singers, forged a high reputation as a musical force in the region at a time when the quality of sacred music and cathedral choirs was in serious decline. Some of the lay-clerks, most notably Edward Meredith and William Evance, would travel large distances to perform. Until 1763 the cathedral organist was James Hesletine who was succeeded by Thomas Ebdon. Both men were also involved in the local concert scene, although, under Hesletine, a significant dispute with the Newcastle musician Charles Avison took place which ultimately led to the establishment of a rival subscription series by Avison in partnership with John Garth.
Music permeated all levels of society at Durham. In addition to what was produced for concerts and at the cathedral, music was prevalent in many other arenas. Music formed part of worship in all of the city’s churches, although it was only at St. Mary le Bow that it reached an appreciable standard. As part of the broader matrix of performances of secular music, Durham possessed its own musical society, and, as part of its wider public role, music performed a key role in civic and other ceremonial
occasions as well as for local freemasonry, an organisation to which many of Durham’s musicians belonged. Other forms of music-making took place in the domestic environment, but it was also possible to find music performed in the city’s
taverns. Furthermore, the performance of folk music and the presence of the town waits and military bands meant that music was commonly heard on the city’s streets.
This thesis is based on a detailed study of several primary sources. The most important of these is the local newspapers, but ecclesiastical records, diaries, personal
letters, published books on music and local history, and the music itself (both printed and in manuscript), have also been closely examined. By means of this archival work
it has been possible to examine the whole spectrum of musical life across the city, a study which amply demonstrates that Durham was one of the most important
provincial musical centres outside London. In fact, notwithstanding its provincial location, Durham was by no means insular in its outlook, nor was it entirely backward-looking, as can be seen in the distinctly innovative and inventive work of Garth.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Dec 2009 14:29

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