Professor Catherine Tackley Inaugural Lecture

Professor Catherine Tackley: School of the Arts Inaugural Lecture


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The Music of the British Dance Bands

Emerging from the nineteenth century salon orchestra under the influence of new styles of popular music imported from the United States of America, dance bands defined and sustained the musical mainstream in twentieth century British popular culture. During what has become known as a “golden age” (roughly 1920s-1940s), the top bands were resident in London’s hotels and clubs, broadcasted on the BBC and recorded prolifically, their leaders becoming household names. These bands were and continue to be particularly renowned for their special arrangements of ‘hot’ jazz content, but they also tackled a huge range of repertoire including light classics and novelty numbers as well as dances such as waltzes and tangos. Meanwhile, in local venues up and down the country, bands brought together semi-professional and amateur musicians to provide music for dancing, drawing on published ‘stock orchestrations’ armed with knowledge gleaned from the latest issue of Melody Maker and close listening to records.

Although dance music was surpassed by other genres at the cutting edge of popular musical culture in the period after the Second World War, dance bands remained in demand for social and ballroom dancing as well as in the variety show format as this transferred from stage to television.

This lecture, illustrated with live performances from Dr Jazz and the Cheshire Cats big band, explores the arrangements and performance practices of dance bands in the “golden age” and beyond.

The School of the Arts first Inaugural lecture series is an opportunity to celebrate and share the contribution and examples of excellence by School Professors. Please visit the School of the Arts events page for more information on this series of inspiring and captivating events.