Poster Session

Some of the brightest and most innovative thinkers in the field of cathedral music will take part in a poster session which immediately follows the new generation presentations. Delegates will have the chance to browse the displays during tea and engage in conversations with the researchers.

Bronwyn Thies-thompson

Concordia University, Canada

Bronwyn is a professional musician and graduate student, currently pursuing their PhD in Religions and Cultures at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Bronwyn maintains a busy performance career, as a classically-trained soprano sought after for her solid and inspired performances as a soloist and amongst chamber ensembles, regularly collaborating in live performances and on recordings with the leading early music and contemporary music groups in Canada and abroad. Their “clean and clear voice” (National Capital Opera Society) and “natural and assured musicianship,” informed by their musical upbringing as a cathedral chorister and instrumentalist in Ottawa, Canada, have also been appreciated during collaborations with the Tallis Scholars, the London Handel Players and Dame Emma Kirkby. She has been featured on film soundtrack recordings for Canada’s National Film Board productions, and on Juno-nominated discs with countertenor Daniel Taylor’s Theatre of Early Music and Trinity Choir. Their 20 year ongoing practice as a church musician inspires and informs their autoethnographic and creative approach to their academic interests. These interests include: Anglicanism, liturgics, performance theory, and the intersections betweens the voice, gender and sexuality. Bronwyn’s primary research examines the Anglican choristership tradition in Canada, interrogating how aspects such as childhood professionalism, musical pedagogy, and gender perception/performance operate, and how this tradition has also effectively functioned as training for adult professionalization in music.

RESEARCH

Choral Evensong as Music Therapy: Examining the Mental Health Benefits of Religious Musicking for Choristers

This paper explores my interdisciplinary research demonstrating how adult choristers’ participation in Choral Evensong provides a musical-ritual space in which significant psychological wellbeing can be cultivated and maintained. Unique to the Anglican Church, Evensong is a mostly sung liturgical service, involving the singing of prayers, canticles, psalms, and anthems by a choir. Drawing on my 20 years of practical experience as an Anglican chorister in Canada, this paper builds on research exploring the connection between choral singing and wellbeing (e.g. Clift & Hancox, 2010) as well as Durkheim’s sociological concept of “collective effervescence,” interspersed with moments of autoethnographic significance drawn from my lived experience as an active participant in this tradition. The paper takes the structural form of an Evensong, with musical examples serving to enrich the research and evoke Evensong’s possible effects. As I am first a musician, and the written word as a mode of conveying knowledge pertaining to the numinous experiencing of music and religiosity is unfortunately limited, musical examples of myself and my chorister colleagues will provide moments of meditation following each section. I invite you to musically explore this tradition and its potential health benefits for its musicians with me.

Lily Robson

University Of York

Lily is currently studying for her Master’s degree in Musicology at the University of York. She graduated from King’s College London in 2022 with First class honours in her Bachelor’s degree, also in music. Her research interests centre on the discipline of choral music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries, and she often explores this through the lenses of sociology and performance. Some of her research topics include: the relation of canon ideology to cathedral music, and discrepancies between presentations of cathedral music repertoire in literature, and as revealed in quantitative surveys of cathedral music lists; the physical experience of performing hymnody, and the effectiveness of collective singing as a means of perpetuating and encouraging belief; and issues in gender diversity and inclusion in the collegiate and cathedral music sphere. Alongside her academic studies, Lily’s interest in choral music is equally informed by her love of vocal performance, and she is actively pursuing a career as a Mezzo-soprano. She has been a Choral Scholar at York Minster for both this and last academic year, and while studying for her Bachelor’s degree, she previously held choral scholarships at King’s College London and St James’s Piccadilly. She has a growing discography; she has recorded four discs with Delphian Records and the Choir of King’s College London (featured as a soloist on Kerensa Briggs: Requiem, released in 2023) and one with Ralph Allwood’s vocal ensemble, The Twelve (Christmas Carols Old and New, 2021). She will also be taking part in the VOCES8 Scholarship programme from 2024-25.

RESEARCH

The English Cathedral Music Canon: Appraising the musicological presentation of Twentieth and Twenty-First-Century Cathedral Music

As a discipline, musicology has typically undertaken the task of categorising Western music based on several forms of classification, including style, history, time-period, or musical form. From this, a few select works and composers in the body of western art music that are deemed to be particularly influential have been collated under the term ‘canon’. Despite the many problematic power imbalances and biases that have underpinned the formation of musical canons, it is evident that some degree of canonical ideology remains essential to scholarship as a useful reference point for teaching and prioritising study. It is therefore imperative that any musical canons are well-conceived and remain as accurate to performance practice as possible, rather than relying on subjective criteria. This research demonstrates how both overt and subliminal presentations of the twentieth and twenty-first-century English cathedral music canon have tended to misrepresent who and what is most frequently performed, and notes that survey histories have neglected to thoroughly consider this musical field altogether. Using quantitative data collection and analysis of cathedral music lists from 2018-2019, alongside Patton and Taylor’s existing survey, ‘A Century of Cathedral Music’, this research will suggest which composers and pieces could be considered canonical based on frequency of performance. It will then propose explanations for the discrepancies between presentations of the twentieth and twenty-first-century English cathedral music canon as suggested in scholarship and as revealed in performance, and explore how concepts of canon can be adapted in order to represent cathedral music more accurately in future.

Revd Kathryn Evans

Sarum College

Kathryn grew up in Australia where her faith was formed in a Cathedral parish. She fondly remembers the multi-sensory nature of worship from the sounds of organ and singing, the smell of candles and occasional incense, to the colours of the vestments to the smoothness of the wax left in the large candlesticks (collected eagerly by the children after the service). This rich experience of Cathedral worship was balanced by informal, ecumenical gatherings and the singing of choruses was equally formative. As such, she has a passion for focussing on the essence of worship; appreciating the strengths and limitations of each tradition without engaging in the culture wars that often arise to the detriment of worship and fellowship. Kathryn moved to the UK in 2002 when she toured briefly as a soloist with the Sydney Chamber Choir before settling in London, and then Northamptonshire. Ordained in 2019, she lives with her family in Northamptonshire where she is the Rector of three rural parishes. Singing plays a strong part in her ministry, and she still finds it the richest source of spiritual expression, experience, and formation. She recently graduated from Sarum College’s MA in Christian Spirituality. Her dissertation, “‘Sing to the Lord!’ An exploration of the spiritual potential of embodied ritual singing within the Christian Tradition” informs her presentation at this conference. In it, she presents a case for a theology of sung worship arising out of the vocation of Christ’s people participating in God’s redeeming work in the world.

RESEARCH

The spiritual potential of liturgical singing in the Anglican Cathedral Tradition: a theological foundation for facing challenges

This research offers a theological grounding for developing the potential of cathedral singing. In connecting theology and practice, I will explore the often-overlooked significance of liturgical singing across the whole biblical tradition to highlight its continuing significance for Christian worship, discipleship and mission. Though closely connected to instrumental music, this research focuses on liturgical singing.

It begins by upholding liturgical singing as an embodied spiritual practice given to us by God within the created order as a means of mediating and enhancing the connection between heaven and earth. It is part of the vocation of Christ’s church as it participates in God’s continuing redemption and restoration of the whole of creation.

Having established this biblical foundation, I will apply it to the opportunities and challenges specific to the music ministry of British cathedrals. A vocational focus offers a way of understanding how participation and diversity can, and indeed should, flourish alongside the maintenance of musical excellence. In areas where there appears to be conflict, there is opportunity for creativity and discernment.

This research draws on my dissertation for Sarum’s MA in Christian Spirituality. It intersects with biblical scholarship, doctrine, church history, and liturgical studies. It fits within a Theology of the Arts, exemplified by Jeremy Begbie and O. David W. Taylor, particularly as they seek to recover biblical aspects of the spirituality of worship. This research builds on this with its particular focus on the significance of singing within the salvation story and its application to areas of challenge for cathedral music.

The Revd Canon Nicholas James Watson Brown

Lincoln Cathedral, Durham University

Nick is a part-time doctoral student, researching issues centred on the role of lay singers in Anglican cathedral choirs. The research is at an early stage, and it is hoped will include an exploration of the role of adult lay singers, their own experience of singing in liturgical settings, and the potential for theological exploration on the basis of these performances. Key areas for exploration are the self-understanding of the musicians themselves, their understanding of the activity they participate in, and the inherited role that they fulfil within the cathedral setting. It is argued that these experiences can be best understood by looking at theological, institutional and historic factors to understand how the diversity of individual experiences find a greater sense of unity at a corporate level. Nick has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Music and Theology. He has previously undertaken research into the impact of the reformations on liturgical musical performance in the county of Devon. Nick’s current research is funded by the St Mathias Trust, the St Luke’s College Foundation and the Diocese of Lincoln. As well as continuing to study, Nick is Precentor and Subdean of Lincoln, where he is responsible for the liturgical and musical life of the cathedral.

RESEARCH

Historical and institutional influences on the theological understanding of cathedral singers

This project presents the results of qualitative study into theological understandings of lay singers in cathedral choirs.

The choral foundations of the Church of England sustain a well-established tradition of choral music that has been subject to musicological study (repertory/performance practice), sociological investigation (education/gender) and reflection by the Church (congregational growth). Addressing the relative paucity regarding the experience of singers, data was gathered in two stages: group conversations with 30 participants identifying significant themes, followed by one-to-one interviews providing the central data. Both stages of data gathering included a cross-section of institutional settings (historic cathedrals of both ‘old’ and ‘new’ foundation, ‘parish church cathedrals’ and academic choral foundations). This data was analysed utilising three lens – systematic theology, ecclesiology, and ecclesiastical history.

Articulating disparate personal patterns of experience and understanding, the study identifies how those patterns express a strong corporate account of meaning attributed to musical performance in the liturgy. This corporate narrative correlates closely to definably Anglican patterns of understanding in all three areas of analysis; demonstrating the way experiences can best be understood through a triangulation of theological, institutional and historical factors.

Located at the intersection of Music Theology and Practical Theology, the study highlights the importance of corporate meaning-making. Musicologically, it identifies spiritual meaning within the performance setting of Anglican choral foundations. These corporate understandings of liturgical activity are also important for a Church seeking to identify key features of a context that provides an atypical example of congregational growth.

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