Papers of Bernarr Rainbow (1914-1998)

Scope and Content

Photographs, personalia, music manuscripts and publications, sound recordings of lectures and speeches given by Dr Rainbow, drafts of published and unpublished works including an autobiography, research notes and a small amount of correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bernarr Rainbow (1914-1998) trained at Trinity College of Music and was appointed Organist and Choirmaster of High Wycombe Parish Church and Senior Music Master at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe in 1944. In 1952 he became Director of Music at the Church of England teacher training College of St. Mark and St. John in Chelsea He then later transferred to Gipsy Hill College of Education in 1972, becoming Head of the Music Department in 1973, and subsequently Head of Music at Kingston Polytechnic when the college became part of it. He was appointed to the Board of Studies in Music for the University of London from 1974, and retired in 1978.

Dr Rainbow researched, wrote and published extensively on music education and historical musicology, becoming a distinguished scholar of the history of music education and gaining three postgraduate degrees from the University of Leicester. His most substantial work on music education was the influential Music in Educational Thought and Practice, which was finally published in 1992. Other significant works included The Choral Revival in the Anglican Church 1839 - 1872 (1970); practical manuals for music teachers such as Music in the Classroom (1956), his first published book; the extensive Classic Texts in Music Education series, produced throughout the 1980s-90s thanks to Dr Rainbow's working friendship with Leslie Hewitt of Boethius Press; and an unrealised project to edit and re-publish a nineteenth-century musical encyclopaedia by Charles Burney.

He was deeply committed to the use of tonic sol-fa in music teaching, and as such wrote a biography of John Curwen (1816-1880), the inventor of the method, and founded the Curwen Institute to promote his work. He was President of the Campaign for the Defence of the Traditional Cathedral Choir, which resisted the introduction of mixed choirs, and in 1996 he established the Bernarr Rainbow Award for School Music Teachers.


All material has been ordered chronologically, wherever possible, within the hierarchical sections set out in the structure of the collection. Sub Fonds and Series have been created artificially at the listing stage due to the largely miscellaneous order of the papers on receipt at the Archives; any files that were present and in use by Dr Rainbow have been kept in their original state and the items within them kept in the order in which they were found. All individual items and files have been numbered.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form. DC/RW/2/1/70 "A Salute to Life" (autobiography) remains closed.

Acquisition Information

The Bernarr Rainbow Trust - Professor Peter Dickinson; The Curwen Institute - Mrs Yvonne Lawton; The Music Department, Institute of Education - Professor Anthony Kemp.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Several items have been stored out of sequence because they are too large to be boxed - these have been noted in the catalogue. The majority of the collection consists of loose papers with some bound volumes and pamphlets and rolled material.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Appraisal Information

Any duplicates without annotations have been discarded.

Custodial History

The Bernarr Rainbow papers are made up of five separate accessions:

DC/09/98: Photographs, personalia, drafts of published and unpublished works and a small amount of correspondence, collected from his house in Richmond, 27 July 1998.

DC/21/98: Material collected from the Institute of Education Music Department, including from Dr Rainbow's desk: files, music mss, drafts of published and unpublished works, sound recordings, some correspondence, 7 October 1998.

DC/11/99: A file relating to John Curwen, the Curwen Institute, Tonic Sol-fa and the New Curwen Method, including drafts of lectures, addresses and published papers and a small amount of associated correspondence and ephemera, received in the post from the Hon Sec of the John Curwen Society, 2 November 1999.

DC/09/02: Miscellaneous items including two scrapbooks containing photographs and drawings by Bernarr Rainbow; 1 roll of photographs and two boxes of glass negatives of music scores and correspondence; wooden flute; a note-finder used at Brampton Church. Transferred from the Institute of Education Music Department in November 2002.

DC/42/03: Photocopy of an autobiography written by Dr Rainbow entitled 'A Salute to Life', to remain closed until Professor Dickinson has re-published _Music in Educational Thought and Practice_.


Further material to be transferred from the Music Department, Institute of Education; Prof Kemp is editing an autobiography and is keeping some material for the time being. Further papers are held by Professor Dickinson and will be eventually transferred to the archives.

Related Material

Bernarr Rainbow's collection of books on music education, including many rare volumes, and of his own publications, is also held.

Geographical Names