Martin V. Clarke

Published On


Page Range

pp. 371–388


  • English

Print Length

18 pages

18. Music and Spirituality in Communal Song

Methodists and Welsh Sporting Crowds

This chapter explores the relationship between spirituality and identity through consideration of the musical practices of two groups long renowned for the vigour and vitality of their communal singing: Methodists and Welsh sporting crowds. It argues that lyrics, musical settings and performance contexts all contribute to the ways in which singing has become central to both the self-understanding of these groups and their perception by outsiders. In terms of lyrics, the chapter contends that matters of form, language and imagery are centrally important, while in musical terms, repetition and harmony are key factors in enabling and encouraging impassioned singing in specific communal contexts. Jeff Astley’s concept of ordinary theology is brought into dialogue with Ruth Finnegan’s work on hidden musicians and Benedict Anderson’s imagined communities to argue that text and music combine in particular contexts in which communal identity is already foregrounded to heighten and intensify the experiences of participants.


Martin V. Clarke

Senior Lecturer in Music at The Open University

Martin V. Clarke is Senior Lecturer in Music at the Open University. He is the author of British Methodist Hymnody: Theology, Heritage and Experience (2018), editor of Music and Theology in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2012), and he co-edited, with Trevor Herbert and Helen Barlow, A History of Welsh Music (2022).