1951 in British music

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1950s in music in the UK
Number-one singles
Number-one albums
Best-selling singles
Best-selling albums
Summaries and charts
1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954
1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959
1949 1960
Top 10/12 singles
1952, 1953, 1954
1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959

See also 1951 in the United Kingdom

The cultural year was dominated by the Festival of Britain and the opening of The Royal Festival Hall, the first dedicated concert hall of its size to be built in London since 1893: located on the South bank of the Thames, this was to host concerts by major orchestras from Britain and abroad.[1] The Festival itself was a celebration of music, art and theatre. It notably provided an opportunity for the staging of many events during the first Folk music Festival held in Edinburgh, organised with the help of such talents as the American Alan Lomax, the Irish traditional musician Seamus Ennis and the political theatre director Ewan MacColl, who would go on to form the Ballad and Blues Club.[2]

Opera and other forms of classical music, while mainly attractive to a middle class audience, were popular in concert and on the radio. Operas sung in English struck a note of patriotism in a nation still recovering from the Second World War and just signed up to the Global War on Communism in Korea and South East Asia.

The biggest selling artists on both sides of the Atlantic were Bing Crosby and Doris Day but British singers such as Gracie Fields and Vera Lynn were also very popular, receiving radio play and performing in many live venues.

A style of jazz known as Trad or Traditional Jazz, or sometimes called the Dixieland sound was emerging, drawing for its inspiration the old New Orleans Jazz of an earlier period. The luminaries of this music were people like Ken Colyer who had formed the Crane River Jazz Band which included Chris Barber and later a banjo player called Lonnie Donegan who would introduce a musical style from America called skiffle which would influence the musical career of a young John Lennon. However, the seeds of rock and roll could not even be glimpsed in the UK of 1951.

Trad jazz was a reaction to the big band jazz of the previous decade with its 20 or sometimes even 40 member orchestras named after the band leaders such as Joe Loss and Kenny Baker. The latter were still popular in 1951 and played a form of jazz called Swing. Paramount among the band leaders of this time was Ted Heath whose Orchestra regularly featured on B.B.C. radio programmes. They were an essential part of the nightclub scene in the big cities of the time and were heavily influenced by their American counterparts such as Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. The smaller Trad Jazz groups in contrast including such then unknowns as George Melly and Acker Bilk, who had recently moved to London to play with Ken Colyer's band.[3]


Popular music[edit]

Classical music: new works[edit]


Film and Incidental music[edit]

Musical theatre[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Foreman, Lewis & Foreman, Susan. London: A Musical Gazetteer. Yale University Press, 2005: pp. 67-8.
  2. ^ Peggy Seeger - Ewan MacColl: his life and works
  3. ^ "Biography". Ackers Music Agency. Retrieved 3 April 2009. 
  4. ^ Foreman, Lewis & Foreman, Susan. (2005): p. 67
  5. ^ Mitchell, Donald, Reed, Philip & Cooke, Mervyn (eds) (2004). Letters from a Life: Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, Vol 3, 1946–1951. London: Faber and Faber. p. 534
  6. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey. (1992) Benjamin Britten: A Biography. London: Faber and Faber. p. 296
  7. ^ A. J., "Cheltenham Festival", The Musical Times 92, no. 1303 (Sep., 1951): 416–17.
  8. ^ Anon., "The Haslemere Festival", The Musical Times 92, no. 1301 (July 1951): 312.
  9. ^ Margaret Reece-Evans, "The Swansea Festival", Musical Times 92, no. 1305 (November): 516.
  10. ^ Anonymous, 'Royal Opera House: "Turandot"', The Times, issue 52139 (Tuesday, October 23, 1951): p. 6, col F.
  11. ^ Mitchell, Donald (ed) (2004). Letters From A Life: Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, Vol. 3 1946-51. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-22282-X. p. 534
  12. ^ Grogan, Christopher; Strode, Rosamund (2010). "Part II: 1931–52". Imogen Holst: A Life in Music (revised ed.). Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press. ISBN 978-1-84383-599-8. p162-165
  13. ^ Wilfrid H. Mellers, "Current Chronicle:London" (Subscription Access), The Musical Quarterly 37, no. 4 (October): 580–8.

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