UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Development of English song within the musical establishment of Vauxhall Gardens, 1745-1784 Borschel, Audrey Leonard


This document provides a brief history of Vauxhall Gardens and an overview of its musical achievements under the proprietorship of Jonathan Tyers and his sons during the 1745-1784 period when Thomas Arne (1710-1778) and James Hook (1746-1827) served as music directors. Vauxhall Gardens provided an extraordinary environment for the development and nurturing of solo songs in the eighteenth century. Here the native British composers' talents were encouraged and displayed to capacity audiences of patrons who often came from privileged ranks of society. The largely anonymous poems of the songs were based on classical, pastoral, patriotic, Caledonian, drinking or hunting themes. The songs ranged from simple, folk-like ballads in binary structures to phenomenally virtuosic pieces which often included several sections. During the early years of vocal performances at Vauxhall (c. 1745-1760), the emphasis was on delivery of texts, sung to easily remembered melodies with little ornamentation and few florid passages. However, the coloratura style of Italian opera was assimilated and anglicized by Thomas Arne, his contemporaries, and later by James Hook. In the 1770's and 1780's, composers continued to refine all the forms and styles that had been popular since the 1740's; this developmental process was mainly technical. Vauxhall songs were composed with orchestral accompaniment and incorporated the techniques of the Mannheim school. All the melodic, rhythmic, harmonic and orchestral devices of the era were available to the British composers, and they borrowed freely from each other and from the continental masters. While certain forms evolved more clearly in the 1770's and 1780's, such as the rondo, major changes were not observed in the poetry. Vocal music at Vauxhall Gardens occupies a position in history as a steppingstone toward mass culture. Vauxhall ballads were printed in annual collections and single sheets by a vigorous publishing industry. When the Industrial Revolution caused the middle class to splinter into further groupings toward the end of the eighteenth century, the new lower middle class shunned the artistic pleasures of the upper classes and developed its own entertainments, which resulted in a permanent separation of popular and classical musical cultures, as well as the decline of Vauxhall Gardens

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