City Lit Blog

Music history and appreciation: the 2018/19 programme

Story added 12th Jun 2018


City lit offers an extensive programme of music history and appreciation courses with a focus on Western classical music, Folk, Jazz, Rock and Pop. There are several  new topics each year and some are designed to coincide with anniversaries, festivals and events.

This blog post lists all classes in the 2018/19 programme organised by term and by day to help you plan ahead.


What is music history and appreciation?

Music history and appreciation courses are designed to help you explore new music and to find out more about the music you already enjoy. Here are some of the ways in which we do this:

  • Study the chronology of key musical works and trends, discussion of historical periods
  • Biography of a composer or artist
  • Study of documents related to musical works: when was the manuscript finished? How is it described in theatre programmes and original advertisements…
  • Mapping the structure of musical works: how many movements does it have and why?
  • Situation of a work within a musical tradition: does is display characteristics similar to others written at a similar time by other composers and does it have any new, innovative qualities? Does it influence any other composers?
  • Analysis of performance conditions: who was this work written for, was there a specific performer in mind? Who performs it now and how does their interpretation differ?
  • Analysis of opera plots and characters (see photo above).
  • Guided listening: the tutor will help you to identify key moments as you listen to a recording or watch a video clip together


Do I need to read music to study music history and appreciation?

Broadly speaking, no. You don’t need to be able to read music, but we do hope you will be interested to look at some musical scores and identify a few key features from time-to-time. Occasionally we might look at facsimile scores (copies of an original manuscript). Usually when we look at scores we are seeking basic information rather than detailed analysis: how many instruments/singers are in this movement? Has the composer requested any specific performance directions? If you are interested in learning more about analysis then we offer introduction to musical analysis classes designed to work specifically with music history and appreciation classes.

Is there any homework?

We don’t set lengthy homework assignments but we do encourage reading and listening outside classes. Occasionally you may be asked to read a short article in preparation for a forthcoming class. Some of our tutors also use online resources to share links, articles and pictures.

Break weeks

Many of our longer music appreciation courses (usually the ten week modules) have a scheduled break week. Please check the course outline on the website for these details as dates may vary between courses.

I am a complete beginner in classical music, what do you recommend?

We have courses specially designed to introduce you to classical music and to help you get a clear overview of the topic. The emphasis here is understanding the timeline of key works and helping you find the ones you really enjoy.


Do you offer classes in non-Western music topics?

For other traditions of music we offer practical courses:

*if any of the links in this blog post say ‘page not found’ it means there is no instance of this course programmed into the website for the near future. Just contact the music office and we’ll let you know when the next course is expected to take place.


The music history and appreciation programme for 2018/19

  • The number of sessions is shown in brackets, the tutor in italics
  • Just click on each link to read more, or search for the title on our website

Autumn term (Sept-Dec)


10.30 Introduction to the orchestra (5) Pauline Greene

10.30 Introduction to musicals (5) Pauline Greene

13.20 Opera studies 1: the operatic soprano (10) Pauline Greene

10.30 Music analysis: nuts and bolts (2) Pauline Greene

13.30 Great works: Handel's Messiah (2) Pauline Greene



10.50 The long 19th century I: Romantics, poets and virtuosos (10) Katy Hamilton

13.30 Exploring classical music: module 1 (10) Karen Betley

15.20 Wagner: exploring The Ring Cycle (10) Karen Betley



10.30 German music since 1900 (10) Edward Henderson

14.00 Topics in Medieval music (10) Edward Breen

14.00 Medieval Christmas Carols (1) Edward Breen

18.10 Exploring classical music: module 1 (10) Edward Breen



10.30 Handel in London: Politics & Patronage (10) Karen Betley

14.00 Lieder: music and poetry (10) Katy Hamilton

10.30 Great works: Monteverdi's Vespers (2) Karen Betley

14.00 Great works: Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (2) Katy Hamilton



13.20 The essential history of jazz in 20 cuts (10) aLbi Gravener

16.00 A history of female jazz singers (5) Sara Dhillon


Winter Term (Jan – early April)


10.30 Introduction to musical analysis: module 1 (10) Pauline Greene

13.20 Opera studies 2: literature into libretto (10) Pauline Greene

13.30 Great works: Stravinsky's Petrushka (2) Pauline Greene



10.45 Great works: Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo (1) Edward Breen (April 2nd)

10.50 The long 19th century II: Salons and symphonies (10) Katy Hamilton

13.30 Exploring classical music: module 2 (10) Karen Betley

15.20 The music of the spheres (10) Karen Betley




10.30 British and Irish music since 1900 (10) Edward Henderson

14.00 Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake - the ballet and its music (5) Pauline Greene (starting 27th February)

18.10 Exploring classical music: module 2 (10) Edward Breen



10.30 Mahler and the symphony (10) Karen Betley

10.30 Great works: Bach's Goldberg Variations (2) Karen Betley

14.00 Benjamin Britten: place, poetry, music (10) Katy Hamilton 

14.00 Great works: Brahms's Requiem (2) Katy Hamilton



13.30 The Beatles: a history through their music (5) David Harrison

13.30 Bob Dylan: an introduction to his music (5) David Harrison

16.00 Jazz piano: a history from blues to bebop and beyond (4) Sara Dhillon



10.00 Eurovision through the years: pride, passion and politics (1) Paul Jordan - Dr Eurovision


Spring/ Summer term (late April – July)


10.30 Introduction to musical analysis: module 2 (10) Pauline Greene

13.20 Opera studies 3: operas in production (10) Pauline Greene



10.50 The long 19th century III: National pride and new directions (10) Katy Hamilton

13.30 Exploring classical music: module 3 (10) Karen Betley

15.20 Shostakovich and the string quartet (10) Karen Betley



10.30 Experimental and Postmodern music: Satie and beyond (10) Edward Henderson

14.00 British folk music: a rough guide (10) Toby Manning (N.B. new time/date)

18.10 Exploring classical music: module 3 (10) Edward Breen



10.30 Beethoven and Romanticism (10) Karen Betley

14.00 Disney: music and image (10) Katy Hamilton



10.30 Cole Porter: I Get a Kick out of You (10) Pauline Greene

18.00 David Bowie: Changes - a musical history (10) Toby Manning