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Title: The English voice of the mid-twentieth century : Ferrier, Deller and Pears
Author: Ch'Ng, Xin
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 0105
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explores how the reception of Kathleen Ferrier, Alfred Deller and Peter Pears’s voices gave new insights into the constructions of national musical identity in midtwentieth century Britain. I highlight how an exploration of the ‘national voice’ constitutes both an idealisation of musical sound and national belonging. Through voice, I offer not only a new methodological approach to the question of musical nationalism, but also an understanding of its embodiment through concepts of gender and sexuality. In my first chapter, I identify how the drive for a distinct English musical identity is ultimately a manifestation of the need for a ‘national voice’. This figures prominently in the midtwentieth century where the musical careers of Ferrier and Deller were built on precedents of the past: Ferrier on Clara Butt and Deller on Purcell. The second chapter addresses how both Ferrier’s and Deller’s voices embodied gender and sexual mismatches between their onstage roles and offstage bodies in performances of opera. In the third chapter, reviews of both Deller’s and Pears’s performances highlighted discrepancies between ideals of sexuality with their voices, that pointed to underlying tensions of homosexuality and effeminacy in the broader national and cultural landscape. The last chapter demonstrates that the BBC’s broadcasts of these singers’ voices were done in promotion of a collective sense of national aural identity. These three singers’ voices navigated the stratification of tastes evident during the BBC’s early years. Pears and Deller characterised the emergence of elitist ideals that were clearly advocated in the Third Programme, while Ferrier’s voice challenged the classification of highbrow/lowbrow distinctions in broadcast culture. Through analysis of the national tropes and claims written about their voices, I offer a new approach to music history and a chance of national vocal redress for Britain’s musical future.
Supervisor: Brooks, Laura ; Irvine, Thomas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available