Intellectual, cultural and spiritual gains for varied audiences through public engagement activities around the Old Hispanic chant tradition

Submitting Institution

University of Bristol

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Diverse audiences in locations including Bristol, Leeds, Bath and London benefited intellectually, culturally and spiritually in 2010 and 2011 from a series of public events and activities drawing on the University of Bristol's research into the Old Hispanic chant tradition. Public involvement in the exploration of this tradition was extended further through a YouTube channel. Members of the public gained or deepened their appreciation of aspects of Europe's aesthetic and spiritual heritage, whilst in many instances the religious and musical practices of audience members were enriched.

Underpinning research

The public engagement events and activities referred to above were based on primary research on the Old Hispanic chant tradition conducted as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council/Economic and Social Research Council-funded project Compositional Planning, Musical Grammar and Theology in Old Hispanic Chant. Most of this project was undertaken in 2009-10, with Dr Emma Hornby as Principal Investigator (PI) and Professor Rebecca Maloy of the University of Colorado at Boulder as Co-Investigator (CI). Hornby was appointed as Lecturer in Music at the University of Bristol in 2007, and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2011.

The research project culminated in a monograph [3], which was jointly conceived from the outset, with both Hornby and Maloy contributing equally to the research, generation of ideas, and drafting. This monograph explores text/music relations, musical aesthetics, compositional planning and relationships with wider western traditions in a set of Lenten Mass Proper chants. Underlying this was the pioneering nature of the work in addressing analytical questions which have previously been considered unanswerable for this repertoire. The authors' aim was to present material that is both relevant to chant specialists (invigorating a very under-explored research field) and accessible to medievalists, theologians, musicologists and church historians more generally.

The research aimed to explore the Old Hispanic chant tradition in a way that takes seriously the musical notation, despite it being un-pitchreadable. Hornby and Maloy were able to identify recurring note patterns in idiomelic chants (that is, where the melodies do not generally repeat). Combining these note patterns with the textual syntax enabled them to identify cadence placement, and hence the primary building block of textual articulation and pacing. Hornby and Maloy also looked at melodic density (the number of notes per syllable) and found that the words most lingered over tend to be those that are theologically key to Old Hispanic Lent, recurring frequently in different chants. This idea of examining the melodic pacing as a clue to how the music `reads' the text was almost immediately adopted by chant scholars internationally.

This work makes it possible to understand something of how the chant texts and melodies interact and makes the Old Hispanic chant's aesthetic newly accessible to modern scholars. The close examination of the chant texts reveals sophisticated liturgical planning within Old Hispanic Lent.

Hornby and Maloy's work has also exposed hitherto unsuspected melodic connections between the Old Hispanic tradition characteristic of the northern Christian kingdoms (for example, León) and that found only in some of the Mozarabic parishes of Toledo [2]. While the Toledan manuscripts preserving the variant tradition have previously been considered as late aberrations, corruptions or even forgeries, this project's melodic and textual analysis reveals that they preserve a genuine medieval tradition that is musically connected to that of the northern kingdoms.

It was central to the project's conception that it should transcend abstruse dialogue between chant specialists. This is reflected not only in the tone of the monograph but also in the integral illustrated lectures, concerts and participatory workshops. Involving the University of Bristol Music Department's Schola Cantorum, these presented the few transcribable Old Hispanic chants, together with cognates in other European traditions. These events were aimed at the wider community in Bristol and beyond, introducing many people to this sound world, its medieval liturgical context and its theological meaning. The events modelled the practical application of scholarship.

References to the research

[1] Hornby, EC & Rebecca Maloy. `Analysis of Old Hispanic chant: problems and proposals' in Barbara Haggh and Debra Lacoste (eds), Cantus Planus Study Group of the International Musicological Society: Papers read at the 15th Meeting, Dobogókő, Hungary, 2009 (2013), pp. 109-132. [Can be supplied upon request]

[2] Hornby, EC & Rebecca Maloy. `Aspectos de la liturgia cuaresmal viejo-hispánica: la teología, las melodías y la transmisión de los salmos' invited paper at El Simposio Internacional sobre el Antifonario de León y el Canto Mozárabe, León, 2011. [Can be supplied upon request]

[3] Hornby, EC & Rebecca Maloy. Music and Meaning in Old Hispanic Lent: Psalmi, Threni and the Easter Vigil canticles (Boydell and Brewer, 2013). [Listed in REF2]

[4] Hornby, EC. `Text and Formula in the Milanese Cantus', Plainsong and Medieval Music 22 (2013), pp. 1-36. [DOI: 10.1017/S0961137112000095]


Research Grants awarded to Emma Hornby (PI):

• 2009-12. British Academy Small Grant: `Identity Creation in the Old Hispanic Rite: Texts, Melodies and theology of the in directum Mass Proper chants' (seed funding for Old Hispanic chant project). £3161

• 2009-2011. AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Small Grant, Compositional Planning, Musical Grammar and Theology in Old Hispanic chant. This collaborative project was undertaken by Emma Hornby (PI) with Professor Rebecca Maloy, University of Colorado at Boulder (CI). £95,000

Details of the impact

Research findings were initially demonstrated and communicated through a series of events (outlined below) within in the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Grant. At them, Emma Hornby explored the theological content and musical aesthetic of Old Hispanic chant, and gave audiences the opportunity to sing some of the pitch-readable chants. Each event was designed to appeal to a different constituency in order systematically to open out the research to a wider audience, concentrated primarily around Bristol. The University of Bristol Music Department Schola Cantorum participated in all the events.

The first public lecture-recital at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol was advertised through the Music Department's events brochure (February 2010). It was attended by a conventional audience for activities in this discipline: university students and staff plus members of the public who regularly attend departmental events (35-40 in total). The event piloted a lecture-recital format which was subsequently tailored to maximise accessibility for hard-to-reach audiences.

The programme continued with a public workshop and meditation on Old Hispanic chant at St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol (March 2010; sponsored by AHRC/ESRC). About 40 singers and 45-50 congregation members attended including early music enthusiasts from across the region and local parishioners. The Reverend Dr Simon Taylor, Priest-in-Charge, explained that the event enriched participants' worship: "the meditation was always envisaged as an act of worship, which is the fundamental business of St Mary Redcliffe. [It] was designed to fit within the liturgical calendar of the church... I know from conversations with parishioners that it made an important contribution to their exploration of worship at Lent." Taylor also commented "This has been a great piece of work enabling us to open up this time of reflection and preparation to a wider group of people ... Were you ever able to put on an event like this again, we would be overjoyed to host and contribute liturgically." [a]

This repeat invitation demonstrates the potential for a sustained engagement with that specific audience, especially given that Hornby and Schola Cantorum had previously performed at St Mary Redcliffe (November 2008). The feedback from participants also indicated a more general spiritual impact: "I found it a deeply spiritual and moving experience. It is proof that the fruit of your research can have a profound effect on people today, 1000+ years on, and what better reason to pursue it can there be?" [b]

A workshop with local schools at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol (March 2010; sponsored by AHRC/ESRC; 18 visitors) was designed to expose teenagers to research-led teaching at university level, and to enhance their technical skills. The workshop also promoted wider participation in higher education. One of the teachers in attendance commented, "The students were interested to get a taste of a university at work and to take part in a challenging musical activity. ... The workshop [was] pitched at the right level to challenge the students while keeping them fully on board. ... Sean has now taken Grade 8 singing and is going to Bath Spa to read Music." [c]

These initial events demonstrated clear impact in terms of influencing the worship practices, developing musical practice and exposing new audiences to the repertoire. Subsequent events then exposed a wider audience to the research:

  • Public lecture-recital at Goodenough College, London, through the Institute of Musical Research, sponsored by the John Coffin Trust (May 2010), bringing the project findings to a mixed academic and non-academic audience of 30 people [d].
  • Recital and workshop at the Leeds International Medieval Congress (July 2010). Ticket sales totalled 99, and the event was warmly received by an international audience including students, academics, people in the museums/heritage industry and interested members of the public [e].
  • Illustrated lecture at Spode Music Week, Tunbridge Wells, August 2010 (without Schola Cantorum). The lecture helped to enrich the musical and worship practices of the 35-40 Roman Catholic musicians who attended.
  • A sell-out recital at the Priston Festival, near Bath, in September 2010, with audience drawn entirely from the local community.
  • Public lecture called "Inscribed on the Heart: the power of medieval music" within the InsideArts festival (October 2011) and subsequently made available as a podcast [f]. The audience of over 200 included more than 100 members of the public, broadening the spectrum of participation significantly: many of the non-university attendees were entirely new to university research-led events. The overall goal of the Festival was to "To show Why the Arts matter, raise the profile of the Faculty of Arts by presenting a sample of its work in various formats, and contribute to public understanding of the important role of the Arts and Arts graduates in Bristol society and nationally".
  • Workshop and meditation at St Pauls Church, Clifton, with ca. 20 singers (March 2013). Several attendees commented on the spiritual and emotional power of the occasion; another wrote "it is such a privilege to be involved in someone's committed research in a live way" with specific reference to having learned "about form, pronunciation, the dialogue between formal structure and a kind of ambulatory mode" [h]

A YouTube channel was developed to build on this successful programme of events and to make Old Hispanic Chant more widely accessible. This channel has had over 6000 visits since its creation in September 2010 (data correct as of May 2013) [g].

The events described above were specifically designed to build local engagements with the research, with events outside Bristol capitalising on relationships already established by Hornby and the University of Bristol Music Department. Benefits to the audiences varied, but were cultural and spiritual as well as contributing to the growth of knowledge. Some saw deep resonances with their own spiritual life, which served to enhance their religious practice, others developed their own musical practice, and many found the engagement with Old Hispanic chant to be a richly rewarding experience.

Sources to corroborate the impact

[a] Priest-in-Charge, St Mary Redcliffe Church

[b] Participant at the St Mary Redcliffe workshop

[c] Teacher, Crypt Grammar School, Gloucestershire

[d] Institute of Musical Research, London

[e] Congress Officer, Leeds International Medieval Congress

[f] Podcast of InsideArts lecture, October 2011

[g] You Tube Channel

[h] Participant at the St Pauls, Clifton workshop