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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Student Exhibits at MPAL: “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”: British Song in World War I

About the Exhibit

“It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”: British Song in World War I
Contributors: Kirsten Barker, Joseph Goldstein, & Kathleen McGowan

This exhibit showcases materials of song and music-making practices in Britain, it colonies, and various sites where its troops participated during World War 1. We have endeavored throughout our research to find musical stories that are less frequently told about the conflict and to add them to the wealth of literature already available. Our choice of themes and materials is not comprehensive, but reflects our particular overlapping interests in this rich field.

Most of our materials represent different kinds of song. To represent art song / classical music we’ve chosen poet-composer Ivor Gurney, whose wartime correspondence with Marion Scott and later compositions encapsulate many of the contradictory feelings and experiences soldiers had. His music and others’, including Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Pastoral Symphony, show how different social groups reacted to and processed the tragedy after it had finished. To represent other popular songs and music during the war, we’ve chosen to look at the roles and repertoires played by military bands — an often-neglected area in musicology, and one that is particularly important here. To represent music on the Home Front, we’ve chosen a “women’s recruitment song” and examined it through the changes in expectations around women’s social roles. Finally, we’ve included as many different kinds of physical recording media as we could find. These objects are great fun to see, but they also show how quickly technology was changing and how portable recorded music was becoming.

We have worked to include music and materials of soldiers from British colonies in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia whenever possible, as these are some of the stories about the war that are told the least frequently. The limited coverage in our display reflects the emergent nature of this subfield of British studies.

Exhibit Playlist

Library Materials on Display

Additional Resources

Exhibit Photographs