BRIAN ABEL RAGEN, PhD
Emeritus Professor, SIUE
The Great War in the Music Halls:
Rudyard Kipling, Edward Elgar, and The Fringes of the Fleet
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Cocktails ~ 12:30 Lunch ~ 1:00
$35 members ~ $40 guests
RSVP by May 1 ~ 314-803-8927
Brian Abel Ragen is Emeritus Professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he taught for two decades. He is a graduate of Pomona College in Claremont, California, and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He was editor of the scholarly journal Papers on Language & Literature and is the author of books on Flannery O'Connor and Tom Wolfe, as well as articles on subjects that range from biblical allusions in Chaucer to the revision of traditional hymns in modern hymnals.
During the early years of the Great War, Rudyard Kipling published a number of pieces about the Royal Navy, intended to boost morale among civilians. Along with descriptions of warships and shore installations and anecdotes about sailors, especially sailors who had recently been civilians, Kipling included a number poems. Edward Elgar, who was also seeking a way to further the war effort, set some of those poems to music. As performed by four baritones in mariners' costumes, the resulting songs were a hit. Elgar, especially, was delighted with the money he received due to their success. Then Kipling withdrew his permission for their performance, and "The Fringes of the Fleet," as the cycle was called, has been rarely heard over the past century. Dr. Ragen's presentation will recount this story of wartime artistic collaboration and its surprising end, and will include a full performance of the songs by Kipling and Elgar that were so successful on the London music hall stage a century ago. The four costumed baritones performing will be accompanied by pianist M. Noel Prince.
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