From Lineage to Legacy: Charles Garland Verrinder and Victorian Anglo-Jewish Music
The work of Charles Garland Verrinder (1834-1904) provides an unusual insight into the world of Jewish music in Victorian Britain. An Anglican musician trained as a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral and with Royal Organist Sir George Elvey, Verrinder’s forty-five-year career as the first organist of the West London Synagogue (Britain’s first ‘Reform’ synagogue) overlapped with his work for the church as well as with many significant professional and amateur music societies in London. Across his career he composed and arranged numerous Hebrew liturgical settings, some with English translation, and took the opportunity as a respected organist and Doctor of Music to present lectures on Jewish music to the wider Victorian public.
This dissertation uses Verrinder’s career as a case study through which to examine the multifaceted nature of Anglo-Jewish music in Victorian Britain. Based within a period of Jewish history rarely examined in detail by musicologists, this area of nineteenth-century musical life has long been associated with standard narratives of Anglo-Jewish political emancipation and religious reform, with a vague and often critical focus on the ‘anglicisation’ of synagogue music for purposes of British assimilation. Providing a new, music-focussed approach to this framework, I examine examples of Verrinder’s liturgical settings to shed light on how such an anglicisation was achieved and on its Jewish and non-Jewish reception.
Verrinder’s status as an ‘outsider’ in the Jewish world both complements and complicates accusations of ‘otherness’ which subtly (and unsubtly) pervade Victorian opinion on Jews and Judaism, making him a powerful example of Jewish-Christian musical interaction. To that end, the objective of my dissertation is to loosen the bond between Victorian Anglo-Jewish music and the ‘grand narratives’ of British Jewry, reframing the topic within the context of music-making in Victorian Britain. Exploring Verrinder’s work in comparison with that of other musicians and musical educators, I suggest that the widespread publication and performance of ancient Jewish melodies, contemporary compositions and Jewish-related choral works brought this music into line with the broader opus of Victorian sacred repertoire, blurring the distinction between the synagogue, home, and concert hall.