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The choral life in the cities of Bern and Fribourg in the long nineteenth century

Project description

Understanding the role of 19th-century choral societies in uniting the Swiss

Choral societies flourished throughout Switzerland during the 19th century, fostering a sense of community and nationalism. Despite population diversity, the choirs seemed to unite four distinct cultures of Swiss peoples. To date, research into this socio-political phenomenon isn’t well documented. Through comprehensive archival studies, the EU-funded CLEFNI project will compare the impact choral societies had on social and political life in the cities of Bern and Fribourg. The project will elucidate how music, historical events and social conditions contributed to cultural assimilation in Switzerland. More broadly speaking, it will provide insight into how cultural traditions can lead to multicultural acceptance and the integration of cultural minorities.


During the 19th century, several music and choral societies arose in Europe, giving rise to a choral movement that fostered not only communal singing, but also patriotic feelings. In Switzerland, this movement involved several men’s choirs that had a strong liberal and patriotic character. This patriotism, however, could not be based on cultural, linguistic or ethnic unity, but called for the integration of the four cultures that make up Switzerland. With its songs and festivals, the Swiss choral movement became a crucial element in this integration process. Yet despite its significance, this movement remains largely ignored by recent scholarship. There is a lack of research on the movement as a whole and principally of specific knowledge about the choral life in different places. The cities of Bern and Fribourg for example have different languages, religions and traditions. To what extent did their choral life differ from or resemble one another? By answering this question, CLEFNI aims to understand how choral activities influenced the social and political life in these cities and contributed to the integration of the Swiss peoples. The objective is to better understand the historical circumstances and the specific conditions that allowed integration and multicultural understanding. CLEFNI is designed as an archival research and will critically analyse sources in archives of 19th-century choral societies in terms of their musical, social and political contexts and of their gender dimensions. Findings will then be discussed in view of existing research on the 19th-century choral movement, on musicology and on related disciplines like sociology and history. Considering that multicultural understanding continues to be a challenge in Europe, CLEFNI’s value goes beyond the Swiss borders, providing new knowledge that contributes to understanding how cultural movements like choral singing may lead to multicultural understanding and integration of cultural minorities.



Net EU contribution
€ 304 724,16
Hochschulstrasse 6
3012 Bern

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Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Espace Mittelland Bern / Berne
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00