Anglo-Jewish Music-Making: Synagogue, Stage, Society
'Anglo-Jewish Music-Making' explores the everyday musical life of nineteenth-century British Jews, and those involved in Jewish musical activities, sacred and secular, professional and amateur. As a means of surveying nineteenth-century Anglo-Jewish existence, music is rarely discussed, despite its presence within most aspects of religious, domestic and social life. In Anglo-Jewish histories, music is only occasionally mentioned as evidence for cultural assimilation, reduced to a shift towards choral worship and a preference among the wealthy for attending concerts over synagogue services. This project demonstrates that there was in fact a multiplicity in the types of musical activity experienced by Jewish performers, composers and audiences, dependent on social and financial status, gender, geography, and religious observance.
Two overarching questions frame this research:
1. What were the music-making experiences of British Jews during this period?
2. How did their Jewish identity impact upon these experiences, either positively or negatively?
Within these parameters, a number of sub-questions arise, including:
- What forms of amateur and professional music-making were undertaken by Jews?
- How did professional Jewish and/or synagogue musicians earn their living?
- Did everyday anti- and philo-Semitism affect the ways in which Jews created musical networks of their own, or interacted with other cultural networks?
- How did geographical location (urban or rural; in or outside of London), religious observance and
financial/social status impact upon Anglo-Jewish music-making?
This project necessitates a detailed exploration of individuals who took active roles in professional and amateur Anglo-Jewish music-making as performers, composers, musical directors, educators, and facilitators. These individuals form the centre of a series of musical networks, which interconnect through further personalities, shared repertoire, music societies, and performance venues. These in turn engage significantly with wider systems of nineteenth-century British musical activity. Redressing the more common practice of highlighting Jewish musicians and music purely for their 'Jewishness', 'Anglo-Jewish Music-Making' instead evaluates the diverse ways in which this identity shaped Jewish contributions to the musical culture of nineteenth-century Britain.