David Klement


Darrough, Dr. Galen

Committee Member

Burgett, Dr. Jill

Committee Member

Oravitz, Dr. Michael

Committee Member

Welch, Dr. Michael


School of Music: Music


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



157 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Edward Elgar’s The Music Makers, op 69, a cantata for full choir, mezzo-soprano soloist and orchestra, was debuted and conducted by the composer on October 1, 1912 at the Birmingham Festival in England. Based on the now familiar poem by late nineteenth-century English pre-Raphaelite poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881), and beginning with the phrase “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams”, the work is considered by some historians to be a personal requiem by the composer. Written at Elgar’s peak of compositional creativity, this extended, almost forty-minute cantata, is a choral work of deep personal meaning and reflection. The Music Makers was criticized by his contemporaries on two counts. Elgar set the entirety of O’Shaughnessy’s “Ode” as his libretto whereas in other works, such as The Dream of Gerontius, he chose only those poetic lines that best suited the drama of the work. In the late nineteenth century, O’Shaughnessy’s poems were briefly in fashion, but by the time Elgar set the “Ode” only a few years later, they came across as being dated and of questionable literary quality. In addition, Elgar included numerous musical quotations from earlier compositions, including his own Symphonies #1 and #2, Sea Pictures, The Dream of Gerontius, and the “Enigma” Variations. As a result, many reviews critiqued the work as lacking compositional originality and creativity. With its debut in the years leading up to England’s entry into World War I, and with less than stellar public reviews, the work did not receive the number of early public performances which other Elgar works tended to enjoy. This pattern has continued to this day. The Music Makers tends to be performed for its curiosity value and recorded only by large orchestra choruses in conjunction with professional orchestras, and the few live performances tend to be limited to ones in England. However, The Music Makers deserves greater visibility as it is actually more accessible to a broader level of choral ensemble, including college and larger community choirs, than is assumed. This study will show that with an informed understanding of the history, form, and interpretive opportunities of The Music Makers, combined with strategies to addressing some of the pedagogical, vocal and conducting challenges, Elgar’s magnum opus is a worthy work to perform at almost any choral level.


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