2019-20 (ext. -2021) | The Dream of Gerontius: Curating Catholic Music Digitally

Gerontious Charchol by Stella Langdale

'The Dream of Gerontius: Curating Catholic Music Digitally'


Knowledge Exchange Fellow:
Dr Joanna Bullivant   |   Faculty of Music   |   University of Oxford

Partner Organisations:
The National Trust   |   National Institute for Newman Studies   |   The British Library

Image Credit: "And Thou art wrapped and swathed around in dreams/ Dreams that are true, yet enigmatical." by Stella Langdale. Lithograph or photo-reproduction of watercolor. 1916. Illustration for Newman's The Dream of Gerontius, facing p. 74. Scanned image and text by George P. Landow. http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/langdale/7.html


This project centres on a single work, Elgar’s oratorio The Dream of Gerontius, a setting of the poem by St John Henry Newman. In the year of Newman’s beatification, Gerontius is of particular interest as a work revealing insights into Elgar’s attitude to Newman, his Catholic identity, and the position of Catholics in nineteenth-century Britain. The original manuscript of the oratorio is rich and fascinating, displaying information about early performances, Elgar’s corrections, and intriguing annotations about the weather and the connections between the work and Elgar’s birthplace: The Firs Cottage. Nevertheless, but the fragile manuscript, held by the Birmingham Oratory, has been difficult for scholars and the public to access. Joanna Bullivant has secured a working partnership with The British Library, the National Institute of Newman Studies USA, and the National Trust (who run the Elgar Birthplace Museum) to digitise the manuscript and create both events and digital resources to enable public engagement with the work.

The project will deliver the digitisation of Elgar's manuscript and Newman's original poem 'The Dream of Gerontius', which will then be freely available to scholars via the NINS digital platform. Selected images will be curated for the British Library's educational website Discovering Music, alongside Bullivant's expert commentary and explanatory articles. Finally, Bullivant will work with the National Trust and a professional musician to create workshops around Gerontius, music, and place at The Firs and a special podcast on the work, the manuscript, and the places associated with them.

Past Events