Students at Royal Holloway,
University of London Royal Holloway,
University of London
Conferences index | Past conferences, 2007 | Golden Pages index | Music Department Home Page

Music, Cultural History and the Wesleys

Bristol, UK, 9-11 July 2007

Full details for this two-day international conference including the programme and how to register are available from the conference website:

Bookings are now open: registrations received by 31 May 2007 will be charged at a discounted rate. Enquiries may be directed to the conference director, Prof Stephen Banfield,, or the conference administrator, David Manning,

Music was central to the life and legacy of Charles Wesley (1707-88). Remembered as the ‘sweet singer’ of Methodism, he wrote around 9,000 hymns, many of which remain in constant use today in Christian churches of every denomination. They were fitted with or to tunes, by a variety of composers including Handel (‘Rejoice! The Lord is King’) and Mendelssohn (‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’), that rank among the best-known melodies in the anglophone world. The hymns and their associated tunes have exercised cultural influence far beyond their immediate spiritual efficacy, which nevertheless continues unabated as evangelical Christianity regroups and burgeons in the post-modern world. One scholar has gone so far as to trace the origins of the blues to a single Wesley hymn.

It is equally important, but little considered in its historical context, that Charles’s evangelicalism was no enemy to secular culture. Not only did he nurture two musical prodigy sons, Charles junior (1757-1834) and Samuel (1766-1837), but showcased them in a nine-year series of concerts at the family home in London. Both Charles and Samuel went on to become professional musicians. Samuel and his own son Samuel Sebastian, despite unstable temperaments and stormy lives, were in fact Britain’s finest composers respectively of the early and mid-19th century. Far from embracing Methodism himself, Samuel swung in the opposite denominational direction, towards Roman Catholicism, while Samuel Sebastian became the deeply conflicted genius of the Anglican cathedral close, endowing its liturgy with Britain’s pre-eminent expression of musical Romanticism against an increasingly bitter backdrop of provincial frustration.

The conference will take place in the Victoria Rooms (CHOMBEC’s home) on 9 and 10 July 2007 and will examine the impact and legacy of Charles Wesley and his family as related to music, art and culture. There will be a concert in John Wesley’s 1739 New Room and visits to Charles Wesley’s house and to Wesley College Bristol. The programme committee consists of Stephen Banfield (chair), Philip Olleson (University of Nottingham and author of a recent study of Samuel Wesley), Peter Horton (Royal College of Music and author of a recent study of Samuel Sebastian Wesley), Philip Carter (Director of Music, The New Room, Bristol) and Peter Forsaith (Oxford Brookes University).

Among invited speakers are
Nicholas Temperley (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), author of The Music of the English Parish Church and mastermind of the ongoing Hymn Tune Index
Richard Watson (University of Durham). Author of The English Hymn; previous Vice-President of the Charles Wesley Society; General Editor, Dictionary of Hymnology project.
Alyson McLamore (California Polytechnic State University), authority on the Wesley family concerts
Rev Kenneth Newport (Liverpool Hope University), leading UK Charles Wesley scholar
Carlton Young (Emory University), past president, Hymn Society of North America and Canada
The conference has been timed to take place between two other conferences that may be of interest to attendees: Music in 19th-Century Britain (University of Birmingham, 5-8 July 2007;) and Defining the British World (University of Bristol, 11-14 July 2007;). It is supported in part by the Charles Wesley Society and BIRTHA, the Bristol Institute for Research in the Humanities and Arts.

Back to top of page
Last updated Tue, 28-Mar-2006 13:33 GMT / PH-S
Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX
Tel/Fax : +44 (0)1784 434455/437520