Valleys of Song: Music and Society in Wales, 1840-1914

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Like all cliches, Wales as 'the Land of Song' has a solid basis in historical fact. Welsh choral singing was a form of popular culture in the nineteenth century. Crowds followed the choirs in even greater numbers than in football matches and Eisteddfod competitions frequently became 'choral bull-fights' where keenly honed rivalries spilled over into betting, missile throwing, assaults on adjudicators and general violence. This is the story of Wales as the 'the Land of Song' as it has never been told before - colourful, dramatic and uplifting. This enthralling social history focuses on such groups as the fighting choirs of Dowlais and Merthyr that raised armies of supporters, electrified massive crowds and aroused fierce passions. There is also Caradog's South Wales Choral Union which marched on the Crystal Palace and the male voice choirs of the Rhondda which toured the world and left a lasting legacy to all of Wales. These choirs, their audiences and the music they sang, as well as the wider musical life of their communities from oratorio concerts to amateur opera companies, are set squarely in the context of the society that nurtured them. Vividly written in a lucid style by an accomplished social and cultural historian, this is a celebration of the land of song in its hey-day that will appeal to a wide audience.

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University of Wales Press
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