British Amateur Singers and Black South African Choral Music: The Politics of Access and Encounter

  • Kerry Firth

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores connections between British amateur singers and black South African choral music that, over the past fifty years, have grown in strength and significance. By concentrating on a set of representative case studies, it investigates how and why this music is learned, performed and rehearsed within a variety of choirs and ensembles of different styles and experiences. In addition, the thesis focuses on certain songs that have become popular within specific choral contexts, and discusses the reasoning behind their enthusiastic reception and attractive power. My approach is ethnographical, and the material I present is taken from my own participant-observations of choir rehearsals, workshops and performances, as well as from interviews I conducted with choir members and leaders. On a theoretical level, this thesis engages critically with ethnomusicological and anthropological debates surrounding cultural appropriation. Particularly pertinent to each chapter are discussions concerning authenticity, cultural authority and power relations, and I explore the politics and logistics that are associated with British singers’ encounters with black South African choral music. By discussing critically these different levels of encounter and engagement, I offer some new and intriguing standpoints from which to consider existing debates surrounding cultural appropriation and, in so doing, suggest approaches for theorising cross-cultural encounters through a more nuanced postcolonial lens.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSusan Rutherford (Supervisor) & Caroline Bithell (Supervisor)


  • Cultural Appropriation
  • British Amateur Choirs
  • South Africa
  • Choral Singing

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