The north-east of England in the eighteenth century was a region where many different kinds of musical activity thrived and where a wide range of documentation survives.
Such activities included concert-giving, teaching, tuning and composition, as well as music in the theatre and in church.
Dr Roz Southey examines the impulses behind such activities and the meanings that local people found inherent in them.
It is evident that music could be perceived or utilized for extremely diverse purposes; as entertainment, as a learned art, as an aid to piety, as a profession, a social facilitator and a support to patriotism and nationalism.
Musical societies were established throughout the century, and Southey illustrates the social make-up of the members, as well as the role of Gentlemen Amateurs in the organizing of concerts, and the connections with London and other centres. The book draws upon a rich selection of source material, including local newspapers, council and ecclesiastical records, private papers and diaries and accounts of local tradesman, as well as surviving examples of music composed in the area by Charles Avison, Thomas Ebdon and John Garth of Durham, amongst many others.
Charles Avison's importance is focused upon particularly, and his Essay on Musical Expression is considered alongside other contemporary writings of lesser fame. Southey provides a fascinating insight into the type and social class of audiences and their influence on the repertoire performed.
The book moves from a consideration of music being used as a 'fashion item', evidenced by the patronage of 'big name' soloists from London and abroad, to fiddlers, ballad singers, music at weddings, funerals, public celebrations, and music for marking the events of the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary Wars.
It can be seen, therefore, that the north east was an area of important musical activity, and that the music was always interwoven into the political, economic, religious and commercial fabric of eighteenth-century life.