Since the 1850s, UK independent schools have composed songs which encapsulate their singular identity (David, 1850) and, through their regular performance (Farmer, 1860), establish a lasting bond amongst staff, students and past students (Butler, 1953). These school songs fall within eight broadly connected themes (Ewart, 1969) and are a lens through which to view the school’s history, aspirations, views on education, morals and individual cultural praxis. The closure of schools during the COVID pandemic (DfE, 2020) dispersed their communities and prevented the physical performance of these songs at annual occasions such as speech day and Founder’s Day (Bryden, 2021). To cultivate a sense of community when it was needed most, independent schools turned to online performances of their songs, featuring virtual choirs and orchestras, to facilitate their ritualistic inclusion within the academic year. This presentation therefore interrogates the necessity of a set physical space for the performance of a school song. The approaches taken by several schools in facilitating performances of their songs will be explored, and their reflections upon the success of those performances will be presented alongside an examination of historical examples. The outcomes of these investigations show that there is a hitherto unstudied embodied architecture which occurs through the habitual performance of independent school songs. Furthermore, it will be shown that this phenomenon can enable the community's identity to be successfully recreated outside of the physical school environment.
Emma Bryden, Birmingham City University, United Kingdom