1st Edition

The Musical Life of Nineteenth-Century Belfast

By Roy Johnston, Declan Plummer Copyright 2015
    400 Pages
    by Routledge

    353 Pages
    by Routledge

    Roy Johnston and Declan Plummer provide a refreshing portrait of Belfast in the nineteenth century. Before his death Roy Johnston, had written a full draft, based on an impressive array of contemporary sources, with deep and detailed attention especially to contemporary newspapers. With the deft and sensitive contribution of Declan Plummer the finished book offers a telling view of Belfast’s thriving musical life. Largely without the participation and example of local aristocracy, nobility and gentry, Belfast’s musical society was formed largely by the townspeople themselves in the eighteenth century and by several instrumental and choral societies in the nineteenth century. As the town grew in size and developed an industrial character, its townspeople identified increasingly with the large industrial towns and cities of the British mainland. Efforts to place themselves on the principal touring circuit of the great nineteenth-century concert artists led them to build a concert hall not in emulation of Dublin but of the British industrial towns. Belfast audiences had experienced English opera in the eighteenth century, and in due course in the nineteenth century they found themselves receiving the touring opera companies, in theatres newly built to accommodate them. Through an energetic groundwork revision of contemporary sources, Johnston and Plummer reveal a picture of sustained vitality and development that justifies Belfast’s prominent place the history of nineteenth-century musical culture in Ireland and more broadly in the British Isles.

    Contents: Preface; Introduction; Prelude: the 18th-century musical legacy; Edward Bunting in the new century; The Anacreontic Society: an 18th-century throwback; Opera in a blighted theatre; Concert life in the 1840s and 1850s: the Anacreontic Society in its music hall; Concert life in the 1840s and 1850s: to God be the glory - The rise of the choral societies; Concert life in the 1840s and 1850s: welcome visitors; Edmund Thomas Chipp and the building of the Ulster Hall; Concert life after Chipp; Opera and the return of theatrical respectability; Concert life in the philharmonic era, 1874-99; Carl Rosa and the gilded elephants; Conclusion: fertile soil and stony ground; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.


    Roy Johnston was a widely published expert on Irish music. His dissertation on ’Concerts in the Musical Life of Belfast to 1874’ earned him a doctorate from Queen’s University, Belfast in 1996. He published Bunting’s Messiah and contributed chapters to ’Music and British Culture 1785-1914: Essays in Honour of Cyril Ehrlich, Concert Life in Eighteenth-Century Britain’ (Ashgate, 2004) and ’Music in Nineteenth-Century Ireland’ . His work also appeared in ’The New History of Ireland’, the ’Dictionary of Irish Biography’, the ’New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians’, ’New History of Ireland’ and ’The Piano in 19th century British Culture’ (Ashgate, 2007). Declan Plummer is a musicologist and lecturer with research interests in music in nineteenth-century Britain and Ireland. After completing his undergraduate work with a bachelor’s degree in music at University College Cork, Declan continued his studies at Queen’s University Belfast and in 2011 was awarded a PhD in musicology that focused on the conducting career of Sir Hamilton Harty. He has published articles on Harty in The Musicology Review and the Journal of the Society of Musicology in Ireland. Declan currently works as a teaching assistant at the School of Creative Arts in Queen’s University Belfast, where he delivers lectures and tutorials for undergraduate modules in fundamental harmony and music history. He is a theory and aural skills tutor at the City of Belfast School of Music, and he is a teacher of Irish traditional music at Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.