The London Labour Choral Union,1924-1940: A Musical Institution of the Left.

Maria Kiladi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In 1924 the leader of the London Labour Party, Herbert Morrison, along with the socialist composer, Rutland Boughton, launched the London Labour Choral Union (LLCU), an organisation aiming to co-ordinate the activities of the various local socialist choirs active in London. The activity became particularly popular and successful under Boughton’s conductorship. After his resignation in 1929, Alan Bush took over, and a gravitation towards Communism becomes evident.
Under Bush’s leadership, the organisation is transformed. The Union slowly begins to attract communist-sympathetic individuals, such as Randall Swingler, who became Bush’s close collaborator. Together they composed a number of songs which the Union performed, all of which used Agitprop techniques, and along with the introduction of works by Hanns Eisler, a trajectory from socialism to communism begins. There is also a drive evident to transform the organisation from a national to an international one, largely thanks to Bush’s insistence, with the Union becoming affiliated to international organisations such as the Internationale der Arbeitersänger, and participating in International events like the Communist-organised Workers’ Music Olympiad in Strasbourg during 1935, and the 1939 Festival of Music for the People.
The thesis examines to what extent this gravitation to communism was voluntary or forced by the leadership (and Bush in particular) and how it was achieved; what type of organisation was the Union, and to what extent political indoctrination was more important than providing music education for workers. This is done through close study not only of the political background during the 1920s and 1930s that affected directly the Union’s membership, but also of the repertoire performed in both decades of the Union’s existence as well as the reaction of the choir members towards it, and the various other activities to which the Union participated.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Levi, Erik, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • London Labour Choral Union
  • Socialism
  • Comunism
  • Alan Bush
  • Randall Swingler
  • Michael Tippett
  • Workers Music Association

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