How Music Played an Unprecedented Role in the Second World War

How Music Played an Unprecedented Role in the Second World War

Dame Myra Hess Day

Date and time

Friday 22 November, 3.30-4.30pm

Sainsbury Wing Theatre
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Myra, Beethoven, Swing and Three Ladies 

A talk from Patrick Bade, based on his book 'Music Wars' 1937-1945


Music played an unprecedented role in World War II. Whether live or through the recently developed mechanical media of radio, film and gramophone records, it was used by all sides for propaganda and morale-boosting. The heightened need for music felt by millions was satisfied and exploited in a multitude of ways.

The pianist Myra Hess stiffened the resolve of Londoners by launching a series of lunchtime concerts at the National Gallery. The Bayreuth Festival opened its doors to war-wounded and munitions workers. In Paris on one day alone, 16 January 1944, a choice of eleven major musical events was offered to occupiers and occupied. Everywhere, classical music flourished and reached new audiences.

Patrick's talk will contextualise the National Gallery concerts within Britain and Europe; Bade writes 'if one person could be deemed to represent the musical life of London, during the war, it would have been the pianist Myra Hess.

The Dame Myra Hess Day is generously supported by Miss Dasha Shenkman who also supports The Belle Shenkman Music Programme. Concerts by Royal College of Music students take place throughout the year at the National Gallery in memory of her late mother, Belle Shenkman, who was a great supporter of the Royal College of Music and the arts in general.

Image above: Detail from a Lily Marlene publicity leaflet for a wartime music concert in Paris, sourced by East and West Publishing