Manchester's 1828 Musical Festival: Provenance, Planning and Performance

Busk, Michael John (2023). Manchester's 1828 Musical Festival: Provenance, Planning and Performance. PhD thesis The Open University.



During the final three decades of the eighteenth century, Manchester, along with many other towns and cities, was host to periodic musical festivals. These festivals, frequently spread over three days, usually consisted of concerts of sacred music in the late mornings followed by miscellaneous, mainly secular, concerts in the evenings, and often incorporated an assembly or ball on one or more of the evenings. In Manchester such festivals were organised by members of the Gentlemen’s Concert, an elite music society. Despite a downturn in the frequency of these festivals during more than twenty years of wars with France, there was a resurgence almost everywhere after 1814, but not in Manchester until 1828. This thesis examines possible causes for this extended hiatus in the musical life of Manchester and postulates a new cause-and-effect argument for why it occurred.
The second major thread of the thesis, occupying the greater portion of the narrative, is a detailed examination of how a cohort of Manchester townsfolk organised the town’s first musical festival of the nineteenth century in 1828. This examination shows that the people who made all the necessary arrangements for the festival were generally also engaged in business of some form in the town, but the gentlemen they invited to be nominated as patrons generally came from beyond the town’s boundaries. An analysis of the full concert programme for Manchester’s festival shows that it is largely independent of programmes performed elsewhere (Derby and York) in the same year, whilst retaining a predominantly conservative approach to repertoire. Finally the adaptation of various premises for use in the festival is examined, and the fancy-dress ball, held at the end of the festival week, is shown to have been greater than any that preceded it, anywhere in Europe.

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