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Mandatory Fields
Invited papers
Marshall, Melanie L.
'As English As Cornflakes:' Singers, Gender and National Belonging in 20th-century Britain.
Optional Fields
music, singing, singers, boy singers, early music, race, nationality, national identity, nationalism, Britain, 1980s, The Snowman, Peter Auty, Aled Jones, 'Hear My Prayer', 'Oh for the Wings of a Dove', Ernest Lough, Temple Church choir,
Invited paper for Women, Music, Power: A Celebration of Suzanne G. Cusick's Work, held at Columbia University.
This paper extends my exploration of the nexus of race, gender and nation in 20th C Britain to consider boy singers; and draws out the significance of comparisons of women early music singers to boy choristers in late 20th-century Britain. Part of the popularity of boy singers, I suggest, is due to the perceived fragility of their voices. They are usually considered to be at their peak just before puberty. Likewise, classically-trained women singers are considered to be at their peak in the decade before their "change" (menopause) and to "resign Song" (to use Cusick's phrase) after it. (As Cusick points out, there is no need for puberty to spell the end of boys' singing and speaking in the register they share with girls, yet almost all boys do. Many women singers do not "resign Song" after menopause, either.) There is a long-standing association of boy choristers as a sound of the nation that seems to hold particular significance at times of national upheaval and difficulty. Boys singing voices, perceived as ‘fragile’ and subject to change, and yet part of a long-standing, tradition and national institution, at once time sensitive and timeless, resonated well with various ideas set out by the Conservatives in the 1970s and 1980s.
Columbia University, New York
Women, Music, Power conference at Columbia University
Grant Details