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Research Colloquium: Mari Jo Velasco (Princeton)

May 18 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm


Noëls of Southwest France and the Politics of Folk Song Collecting in the 19th Century

If you are a university member, please sign up using this form by 4pm on the day. If you are a non-University member, please email ella.marshall-shepherd@sjc.ox.ac.uk.


As Parisian scholars and regional intellectuals rushed to preserve folk songs throughout France in the middle of the nineteenth century, certain song genres were favored over others. Noëls, for example, were not as valued as dance songs or epic historical songs, because these Christmastime hymns inhabited an ambiguous position between learned poetic forms and the folk vernacular. Often, regional noëls had been crafted by local priests and handed down in published volumes. Yet noëls were also excluded from urban aesthetic values of “high culture” by their rural, pastoral character and by their expression in what was viewed as the backward “patois” – non-standard dialects of the regions of France.

In this paper I suggest that by considering this ambiguous tradition of noëls and their collection history, we can reveal subtle but important ways in which local actors preserved and celebrated regional repertories alongside, and perhaps in spite of, national folk song collecting efforts of the nineteenth century. Specifically, in the southwest border provinces of the Basque Country and Béarn, these vernacular noëls played an important role in the preservation of minority languages and cultures. By examining publication formats, repertories, and target audiences, this study reconsiders the collection efforts of the time and the varying agendas of both local and national publications. It situates Bearnese and Basque noël editions within the broader French folk song collecting movement of the nineteenth century, which ultimately also judged how regions contributed to a nationalist vision of France.

About the series:

The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Ella Marshall-Shepherd and Dylan Price organise the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and virtual drinks reception. Free and open to all Music Faculty students and members. Please email ella.marshall-shepherd@sjc.ox.ac.uk to sign up for the colloquium.


May 18
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
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Faculty of Music
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