Public research Seminar: Joanna Bullivant

Public research Seminar: Joanna Bullivant
Date and time
31 Oct 2023 (3:30pm - 5:00pm)

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire - Workshop 2

200 Jennens Road, B4 7XR


Free - booking required

Booking Information

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Joanna Bullivant

Public Research Seminar: Joanna Bullivant (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire)
Musical oratory and Catholic networks: Towards an understanding of Elgar’s ‘Catholic Imagination’

The significance of religion for Elgar – both biographically and aesthetically – is not a new concern, yet it has been one marked by broader attitudes and prejudices regarding Englishness, Catholicism, and religion in general. Early commentators on Elgar’s religious works – notably the choral works The Dream of Gerontius and The Apostles – saw them as demonstrating an hysteria and morbidity that was laid firmly at the door of the Roman Catholic Church. In a subsequent longstanding strain of criticism, it has been claimed that the composer’s ‘faith was never that strong’, with biographers stressing his inspiration in the English countryside over matters of religion, as well as his purely artistic interests.

This seminar presents new contexts for understanding Elgar’s religiosity by exploring more deeply both the contexts of English Catholicism (and anti-Catholicism) and examining the Catholic networks and system of beliefs – or imagination – that influenced the composer. Presenting, in particular, evidence from archival sources at the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Birmingham, this paper also builds a new foundation for approaching Elgar’s sacred music.

Joanna Bullivant is Lecturer in Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, having previously worked as Lecturer in Historical Musicology at the University of Oxford. She has published widely on British music from Elgar to Britten, and her monograph, Alan Bush, Modern Music, and the Cold War was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.

Running time approx. two hours and 30 minutes.

Our Public Research Seminars are held simultaneously at RBC and online via Zoom. A link to view the seminar online will be sent to you once a ticket is booked, should you wish to join the virtual session.