Abiding memories: the community singing movement and English social life in the 1920s
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 December 2007
The community singing movement was a distinctive feature of English popular musical life in the mid-1920s. Although initiated by individuals who saw it as essentially educational, it was rapidly appropriated by sections of the press, and especially the Daily Express, as an instrument in the circulation wars of the period. It was typified by a restricted range of music comprising ‘national’ songs, hymns (with the performance of ‘Abide with Me’ at the FA Cup Final singing particularly important), and songs of the First World War. This mixture and the concomitant neglect of modern popular song reflects the rather nostalgic thrust behind activities, with calls for community singing to recreate a ‘Merrie England’ that would heal the deep social divisions of the 1920s. Whether the singers were fully aware of these various musical and socio-political agendas is unclear, but community singing undoubtedly enjoyed a period of considerable popularity, with the music appreciated for allowing displays of individual and collective emotion.
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