On September 26 Charlotte O'Neill (University College Roosevelt) will defend her dissertation Organist and Master of the Choristers. The changing role of the church musician in the nineteenth-century Anglican cathedral: Four case studies.
PhD defence Charlotte O'Neill on the changing role of the church musician in the 19th century Anglican cathedral
O’Neill examined the development of the role of the organist in a variety of English churches during the nineteenth century and how the position changed from one of relatively low status to equality with other professions. Specifically the organists of the cathedral of St Paul (London), Westminster Abbey (London), Canterbury and the parish church of St Peter, Leeds have been examined.
position of organist
These were selected as they run on different bases of foundation and habits within the Church of England. In comparing these foundations it is possible to see how the position of organist has evolved in the different systems, resulting in the movement from part-time employee to reformer whose role included significant musical input into major State occasions coupled with academic appointments.
significant musical input
Over the course of the nineteenth century, the position of organist within cathedrals or musical parish churches evolved. From the earliest part-time employee, whose job was to provide organ accompaniment with no further involvement, had come the reformer with far greater input into the musical life of the establishment.
external musical opportunities
A second evolution had also taken place with these reformers subsequently pursuing appointments outside the church, both in academia and performing. Post holders were also able to combine their duties with external musical opportunities. Such alteration had come about through the mechanism of extended educational opportunities. In a society which valued and respected education, the unique skill sets and knowledge base which these men had obtained earned them the respect of both their employers and the wider general public.