Benjamin Britten’s settings of Moore’s Irish melodies: historical and musical context and interpretation for performance

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Katherine A. Thomas (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
James Douglass

Abstract: Benjamin Britten’s musical contributions to the annals of both instrumental and vocal music are significant. During his lifetime and well after, he would be touted as an avante garde composer who pushed the boundaries of the English nationalistic sound, yet others would say he embodied and defined it. Though his glory is often attributed to his impressive operas and large choral works, his folk song settings are often more well-known and accessible in the worlds of art song and vocal pedagogy. In comparison to his four volumes of British folk song arrangements, and one volume of French, his settings of Moore’s Irish Melodies stand out as particularly sensitive and artful. Their use of harp-like accompaniments plays sophisticatedly against the already lyrical melodies of Thomas Moore, making them both challenging, but accessible, to vocalists of all ages. While these arrangements may move audiences through their aesthetic, they hold a deeper significance in the context of history. Thomas Moore becomes an active part of the Melodies’ history and conservation, as opposed to a vague name lost to the sands of time. His contributions of politically charged texts through his own arrangements of these preserved ancient Irish melodies carried significant weight in their time. This study traced the lineage of the Irish melodies and follow their unique path to simultaneous adaptation and conservation, and their role in Irish nationalism. It strove to shed light on the Melodies’ historical significance in both Moore’s and Britten’s ages, in addition to offering a musical analysis of Britten’s creative settings. This contribution can aid performers, students, and teachers in creating a deeper understanding of the material.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Britten, Folk, Harp, Irish, Moore, Moore's Irish Melodies
Britten, Benjamin,$d 1913-1976.$t Folk song arrangements$n (1943-1961), v. 4
Moore, Thomas,$d 1779-1852.$t Irish melodies$x Musical settings
Folk music $z Ireland $x History and criticism

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