chapter  1
32 Pages

Old music . . .: British repertory in London

William Weber (1999: 336-341) has made a useful distinction between performance canons in music, driven by the taste of patrons and audiences, and scholarly canons, driven by instructors and scholars. In its attempt in the London Season of the Arts to mount a comprehensive display of English musical creativity covering seven centuries, the Arts Council of Great Britain deliberately and with great specificity proposed a canon of national music. Indeed, as a rare attempt both to define and perform an entire canon, or as much of it as practical considera - tions would allow, the London Season of the Arts falls between Weber’s two types. The contributors to the planning process were musical professionals, musically educated civil servants, and academics, with none of these categories strongly outweighing any other. These different constituencies used every mechanism at their disposal, and developed new means when necessary, to direct repertory selection and balance. The concert promoters and ensembles proposed works that particularly interested them or that would be popular with audiences; the musicologists advocated little-heard works of scholarly interest; the bureaucrats individually and in committees balanced these suggestions and further supple - mented them with their own lists of unjustly neglected works that audiences may had heard of, but which were neither studied or performed on a regular basis. The result was the largest festival of English music in history, encompassing hundreds of works.