chapter  1
18 Pages

The Building of Community through Choral Singing

ByCelia Applegate

Music-making in human society has always been a group activity. No other kind of music-making demonstrates this as simply and as fully as does choral singing, and no other century in recorded human history was so rich in forms of choral activity, so diverse in venues and sizes and purposes of choral activity, as was the nineteenth. Even though many of these forms have survived, in one way or another, into the twenty-first century and estimates of numbers of regular choral singers in the United States alone reach into the millions, the nineteenth century remains the choral century par excellence. We may be, as historian Suzanne Marchand put it, “embarrassed by the nineteenth century,” suspicious of its officious energy, put off by its Eurocentric complacency, baffled by its sentimentality, its respectability, above all its earnestness, but we nevertheless continue to live off its work.1 Its institutions and organizations, its rediscoveries and revivals, its compositions and publications created an enduring place for choral song in modern Western society.