Meg Rees

University Of Bristol
Future Leader, Cathedral Music Trust

Presenter Profile

Meg is a second year Music PhD student at the University of Bristol. Born in Pembrokeshire in West Wales, she was first introduced to music through competing in local Eisteddfods and looks back fondly at her time in choirs and orchestras in both primary and secondary school. She fell in love with cathedral music during her time as a chorister at St Davids Cathedral which was incredibly influential in her decision to pursue music at university. She has continued her love for singing alongside further education through participating in various choirs and ensembles such as Bristol University Singers, the Bristol University Madrigal Ensemble, as well as accepting choral scholarships at All Saints’ Church Clifton and Clifton Cathedral. She feels incredibly lucky that her love and passion for choral singing can now be transferred into her research, and she hopes to pursue a career in academia following the completion of her PhD. Outside of academia she is a keen runner and has completed multiple half marathons. She aims to complete her first full marathon later this year in Lisbon.

A Detailed Exploration of Choral Evensong and its Significance in 2024

My paper will explore the performance of identity in a service of choral evensong. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s writing on cultural capital as a framework, I investigate how the concept of habitus can be applied to identify the performed behaviours of members of clergy, musicians, cathedral staff, and members of congregation within the service of choral evensong. Using semi-structured interviews and fieldnotes collected as an observer of choral evensong, I identify the intricacies of the relationships at play during the service. I explore in detail the internalising and externalising of codified behaviours. My ethnographic study of a clearly defined institutional structure unpicks the mismatch between how an institution appears from the outside and the reality of what happens within. I place my findings within larger narratives and ongoing discussions within the Church of England relating to falling attendance at choral evensong following the Covid-19 pandemic, and the recent schism witnessed in the Anglican Church due to change in legislation around same-sex marriage. I suggest that lack of unity in the Anglican Church greatly impacts the demographic of individuals who attend services of choral evensong. I take Bristol Cathedral’s Festival of Evensong as a case study to discuss the value, if any, that events such as these have on ensuring that choral evensong is accessible to a wider audience. Exploring the performance of identity in the service of choral evensong is important because it informs academic debates on how religious practices shape the musical and extramusical behaviour witnessed within religious institutions.

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