Of Programs and Prima Donnas: Investigating British Music with the Musical Festivals Database
This essay introduces the digital humanities tool, the Musical Festival Database (MFD, www.musicalfestivals.org). The MFD is a fully-searchable, relational database that aims to help students and scholars investigate the performing personnel and musical repertoire for musical festivals held in Britain between 1695 and 1940. Using three case studies, the essay demonstrates possible applications of the data already present in the MFD from festivals held between 1784 and 1834: an investigation of whether or not a repertoire designation-the "Westminster Abbey Selections"-meant a specific group of compositions or a philosophical programming choice at festivals; illumining how a festival concert as planned and as executed might differ in terms of performers and repertoire; and tracing how and why the repertoire of a particular soprano, Angelica Catalani, changed over the course of eighteen years of singing at British festivals. Such case studies, and many others made possible by the MFD, can reveal a great deal about both the mechanics and social history of British music.
McGuire, Charles Edward. 2017. "Of Programs and Prima Donnas: Investigating British Music with the Musical Festivals Database." Notes 73(3): 432-472.
Music Library Association