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Title:British influence on New Zealand choral traditions: a study of the relationship between choral festivals and societies in the United Kingdom and in New Zealand, with focus on New Zealand's high school festival 'The Big Sing'
Author(s):Leese, Matthew
Director of Research:Alwes, Chester L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Alwes, Chester L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Temperley, Nicholas; Bashford, Christina; Blume, Philipp
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
New Zealand
choral festivals
choral societies
the big sing
Abstract:The Big Sing festival (TBS) in New Zealand exists as an extension of the British tradition of such choral festivals, a heritage that dates back as far as the establishment of the Welsh eisteddfod competitive festival tradition and later, the English Sons of Clergy non-competitive meetings in the seventeenth century. While TBS has only existed in its present format since 1988, the reasons for its success and rapid growth are rooted in this strong British tradition, which was inherited as part of Britain’s colonization of New Zealand in the nineteenth century. The presence of and support for choral activities in many New Zealand school, community and church events mirrors the popularity of choral singing as a pastime throughout the British Isles in the nineteenth century. While TBS is a competitive festival for secondary school choirs, I believe that the choral traditions represented in and supported by the festival, both competitive and non-competitive, are a product of British colonial influence. Also influential in the development and success of the festival has been the establishment of elite national choirs (primarily the New Zealand Youth Choir, New Zealand Secondary Students Choir and the professional choir Voices New Zealand), which has set up a sequence of choral goals for exceptional young New Zealand singers. The establishment of the competitively auditioned national touring choirs in New Zealand provides significant incentive for students to practice and develop their skills as members of their local school and community choirs; such local growth in turn raises standards within the regions. In Part One I will outline the chronological history of choral societies, as well as non-competitive and competitive festivals, in both Britain and New Zealand, emphasizing common threads between the two traditions. I chose the year 1900 as an end point for the history of British festivals, for two reasons: first, the initial decades of the twentieth century saw major political and cultural changes that significantly altered the choral landscape of Britain, and, second, the fact that by the turn of the century, New Zealand had established a significant enough population base to support its own version of the British models, events that no longer needed to mirror so closely contemporary British trends. Examples of which choral societies and festivals to study in both nations were selected based on two criteria: 1. Longevity, size, and significance of the society or festival, and 2. Availability of historical information relating to the society or festival. Part Two narrates the history of TBS itself, specifically focusing on those ensembles and directors that achieved conspicuous success, the repertoire performed and original data consisting of archival materials of these disparate festivals, as well as an original survey, designed by the author to allow those individuals surveyed to elaborate on their view of the significance of the country’s largest choral festival and its impact on choral life in New Zealand.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Matthew William Leese
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05

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