25 Jun 2015 - 26 Jun 2015 All day King's College London


For registration, please email bible@crassh.cam.ac.uk for information.

The idea that nineteenth-century composers and performers drew inspiration from the Bible is uncontroversial. Yet insufficient attention has been paid to the relationship between the contemporary transformations in religion, music, history, archaeology and biblical scholarship in nineteenth-century Europe.

While new historical sciences called into question the historicity of the Bible, controversies raged over the performance, publication and censorship of new and old musical forms. From oratorio to opera, from parlour song to pantomime, and from hymn to broadside, nineteenth-century Europeans encountered elements of the biblical past in musical form. Music, both elite and popular, played an important role in the formation, regulation and contestation of religious and cultural identity and became a way of addressing questions of class, nation and race. At the same time, new intellectual formations, including the beginnings of ethnomusicology, were often underpinned by a sense of biblical and musical history. This conference will initiate an interdisciplinary discussion between scholars of music, cultural history, literature, theology and biblical scholarship, with the aim of revealing points of intersection and exchange between these disciplines and activities in the long nineteenth century.


Administrative assistance: bible@crassh.cam.ac.uk

Further information

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation for delegates (other than the invited speakers), however, the following websites may be of help:

Visit Cambridge

Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge Accommodation

​This event is supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH)at the University of Cambridge; King’s College London; the CRASSH Bible and Antiquity in 19th-century Culture project (funded European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/European Research Council grant number 295463); and the King’s College London Music in London 1800-1851 project (European Research Council RCN 106939)


This event is a collaboration between the ERC-funded research projects ‘The Bible and Antiquity in Nineteenth-Century Culture’ at the University of Cambridge and ‘Music in London, 1800-1851’ at King’s College London. 


Thursday 25 June 2015
12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.30

Session 1

Oskar Cox Jensen (KCL), The Ballad and the Bible

Nicole Grimes (Royal Holloway), Brahms, Nietzsche, and the Return to Der heiligen Schrift

Chair: Alana Harris (KCL)

15.30 - 16.00


16.00 - 18.00

Session 2

Theodor Dunkelgrün (Cambridge), Cantillation and the Critics: Accents, trope and song in 19th-century scholarship of the Hebrew Bible

Bennett Zon (Durham), The non-Darwinian Revolution and Carl Engel’s Music of the Most Ancient Nations (1864)

Chair: Roger Parker (KCL)

Friday 26 June 2015
10.00 - 12.00

Session 3

Jonathan Hicks (KCL), The Movements of the Old Hundredth Psalm Tune

Brian Murray (Cambridge), The Son of God Went Forth to War: The Imperial Martyr’s Hymnbook

Chair: Gareth Atkins (Cambridge)

12.00 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.30

Session 4

Mathildie Thom Wium (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein), A temperament of ‘ideal cast, lofty tone, sacrificial flame and haughty purity’: Jenny Lind’s faith and her career

James Grande (KCL), The Secret History of the Sacred Harmonic Society (1832-82)

Chair: Michael Ledger-Lomas (KCL)

15.30 - 16.00


16.00 - 17.00

Roundtable discussion


Concert (Chapel)

Ceri Owen (Cambridge), The Bible in Song

Call for Papers

Call for Papers

Proposals are invited for papers on any issue related to the theme. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Musicology and biblical criticism
  • Hymns and sacred music
  • Biblical opera and oratorio
  • Music aesthetics and the sacred
  • Psalms
  • Education and worship
  • Study of ancient music
  • Poems, ballads and Lieder
  • Religion and popular music
  • Choirs and choral societies
  • Religious music and the emotions
  • Performers and performance spaces
  • Biblical musicians/composers (David, Solomon, Moses, Miriam &c.)

The conference will be in a workshop format and consist of a series of roundtable discussions of pre-circulated papers. Proposals (300 words max.) for 3,000-5,000 word papers should be sent to Brian Murray and James Grande by Friday 16 January 2015. Participants will then be expected to submit a draft of their paper by Monday 1 June 2015.

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk