An Interesting History: The Relationship Between Quakers & Music
Throughout its history, Quakerism has had a precarious relationship with music. That association is the focus of the exhibit“Sing ye in the spirit: Music and Quakerism in Harmony.”“The exhibit deals with various aspects of music and Quakerism together,” says co-curator John Anderies, Haverford's Music Librarian. It will be at Magill Library from April 12th through October 4th. The exhibit opened with a lecture by Russell Murray, professor of musicology at the University of Delaware and a performance by Haverford's chamber singers in the Sharpless Gallery.
“In the earliest days, music was seen as a diversion and an amusement and something that would take people away from spiritual life,” says Ann Upton. Upton is Haverford's Quaker Bibliographer, Special Collections Librarian, and co-curator of the exhibit. Early Quakers believed written music and organized singing did not match the ideal of spontaneous worship. The exhibit will demonstrate the progression of the acceptance of music into Quaker society. Upton notes,“It was a very, very slow evolution and the acceptance of music is relatively recent. There are Quakers who still disapprove of music.”
Upton credits her collegue Anderies for thinking of the concept.“John has provided the energy and the initiative.” Anderies says,“I was fascinated by anything that did not allow music and we had a wealth of material and could pull a lot of things together.” The organizers believe there has never been an exhibit of this nature before. Besides the College's own Quaker collection, pieces for the exhibit were borrowed from Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges, the Westtown School, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and bought on Ebay. Components include 17th century religious tracts criticizing music, 20th century sheet music both portraying Quakers and composed by Quakers, and examinations of Quaker institutions such as Haverford.“Studying Quaker institutions is a good way to monitor the change,” says Upton. There are accounts of students smuggling instruments into the College before music was allowed, which illustrates Anderies' point that,“The music was going on, but not necessarily approved of.” Besides the literary and musical artifacts, the exhibit also includes audio stations where participants can listen to music samples, and video clips from the 1950s movie Friendly Persuation depicting a traveling salesman attempting to sell an organ to a Quaker meetinghouse.
Through the exhibit, Anderies and Upton hope to promote the College's Quaker collections and support discussion of Quakerism. They want to end the public perception that Quakers are against music.“I would hope that visitors thoughts that Quakers do not believe in music will be made more relaxed and informed,” says Upton. However, they believe it is important to embrace every aspect of Quaker history, so they also hope to legitimize the reasons Quakers were opposed to music. Anderies says,“I want the visitors to look back and say, what a rich and interesting history”