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Research Seminar: Beyond the Nightingale: Beatrice Harrison's Creative Collaborations

Wednesday 10 March 2021, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Rebecca Thumpston (University of Nottingham)

In May 1924, BBC Radio broadcast an extraordinary live duet between cellist Beatrice Harrison (1892-1965) and the nightingales in her Surrey garden. Continuing each spring for twelve consecutive years, John Reith declared that the nightingale ‘has swept the country … with a wave of something closely akin to emotionalism, and a glamour of romance has flashed across the prosaic round of many a life’. While the story of the cello and the nightingales is well known – most recently being referenced in the Netflix hit film The Dig (2021) – it has eclipsed other aspects of Harrison’s pioneering career. In this paper, I focus on two further aspects of Harrison’s performing life. First, I examine Harrison’s creative collaborations with composers including Elgar and Delius, to demonstrate the central role she played in the development of cello repertoire in the early twentieth century. In a similar vein, I show the proactive role she took in seeking out new compositions, with approaches to composers including Bliss, Coates, and Goossens. Second, I demonstrate the pivotal role that Harrison played in reconceiving the gendered identity of the cello in the early twentieth century, in both the UK and the USA.

Rebecca Thumpston

Rebecca Thumpston is a Teaching Associate at the University of Nottingham. Her research focuses on twentieth-century British cello music and theories of musical agency and embodiment. Rebecca is the editor, with Nicholas Reyland, of Music, Analysis, and the Body: Experiments, Explorations, and Embodiments (Peeters, 2018), which was selected as a finalist for the Society for Music Theory’s Citation of Special Merit. She has published on agency in the music of Britten, Elgar, and Simon Holt and, with Barbara L. Kelly, on ‘Maintaining the Entente Cordiale: Musicological Collaboration between the United Kingdom and France’ (Revue de musicologie, 103/2, 2017). Rebecca holds a BA and MA from the University of York and completed her PhD at Keele University in 2015. Rebecca is currently working on a new critical biography of cellist Beatrice Harrison. 

Location: Meeting ID: 915 8006 2656 Passcode: 840125