Music in the Women's Institute has become stereotyped by the ritualistic singing of Jerusalem at monthly meetings. Indeed, Jerusalem has had an important role within the organization, and provides a valuable means within which to assess the organization's relationship with women's suffrage and the importance of rurality in the Women's Institute's identity. However, this book looks beyond Jerusalem by examining the full range of music making within the organization and locates its significance within a wider historical-cultural context. The Institute's promotion of conducting - a regular part of its musical activity since the 1930s - is discussed within the context of embodying overtly feminist sentiments. Lorna Gibson concludes that a redefinition of the term 'feminism' is needed and the concept of 'gendered spheres' of conducting provides a useful means of understanding the Institute's policy. The organization's promotion of folk song is also examined and reveals the Institute's contribution to the Folk Revival, as well as providing a valuable context within which to understand the National Federation's first music commission, Ralph Vaughan Williams's Folk Songs of the Four Seasons (1950). This work, and the Institute's second commission, Malcolm Williamson's The Brilliant and the Dark (1969), are examined with the context of the organization's music policy. In addition to discussing the background to the works, issues of critical reception are addressed. The book concludes with an Epilogue about the National Society Choir (later known as the Avalon Singers), which tested the organization's commitment to amateur music making. The book is the result of meticulous work undertaken in the archives of the National Federation, the BBC Written Archives Centre, the V&A archives, the Britten-Pears Library, the Ralph Vaughan Williams Library, the Women's Library and the Newspaper Library.
’… an extremely well-researched book whose strength lies in its detailed presentation of the changing face of music in the NFWI an the position of the organisation in the wider music scene. It is an especially valuable contribution to research on women's groups…’ Women's History Magazine ’At the meetings there was a ritual singing of Parry's Jerusalem! One excellent aspect of this book are the appendices dealing with this famous unofficial national anthem heard every year at the Last Night of the Proms. The story of it is worth reading and it was news to me for the most part.’ The Delian
Contents: Introduction; Music policy and its implementation in the Women's Institute; Education, empowerment and The Acceptable Face of Feminism; The changing roles of folk song and part song in the Women's Institute; Folk Songs of the 4 Seasons and the first national singing festival; The Brilliant and the Dark and the 2nd music festival; Afterburn: the National Society Choir, 1969-1975; Conclusion; Bibliography; Appendices; Index.