The final section of this chapter will look briefly at some varieties of entertainment not previously covered and examine the sources of access to music for the urban middle class. A typical middle-class venue at which Henry Russell may have appeared would be a Song and Supper room. No women were allowed here, but many Russell songs, like 'A Life on the Ocean Wave', are implicitly addressed to a male audience anyway. The Song and Supper rooms provided entertainment while patrons ate and drank. They began to emerge in the 1820s as an expansion of the kind of access to music formerly provided in taverns and coffee houses. Among the most famous were the Coal Hole, Evans's (Covent Garden), the Cyder Cellars, and the Wrekin, which all flourished in the 1830s and 40s. Some of the early music-hall artists, for instance, Charles Sloman and Sam Cowell, served their apprenticeship in these rooms; the entertainment was liable to switch from respectable glee singing to bawdy songs once midnight had sounded.

As indoor provision for entertainment increased, so outdoor provision began to contract: the pleasure garden was not the important scene of musical activity it had been in the eighteenth century. Then, the same musicians would often be heard in the pleasure gardens as had been heard in the theatre or concert hall. The pleasure garden therefore gave access to the kind of music performed at subscription concerts, such as the Bach—Abel Concerts (1765-82), which were beyond the pocket of the petit bourgeois. In the second half of the eighteenth century there were nearly two dozen pleasure gardens and tea gardens providing musical entertainment. Marylebone and Vauxhall were the oldest, having both opened in the seventeenth century. In the early 1770s the future for music seemed brightest at Marylebone, recently bought by the composer Samuel Arnold (with his wife's money) and employing as organist and composer the prolific James Hook (1746—1827). Sadly, Arnold was forced to sell, owing to the criminal activities of an employee, and the gardens did not long survive his departure. Meanwhile Hook had moved to become composer and organist at Vauxhall, a post which he held for nearly fifty years. He was required to provide songs and cantatas and to perform an organ concerto every night of the season. As the garden season was in the summer, it made them a particularly middle-class [41/42] locale, since the aristocracy had returned to their country residences at this time of the year. Music was not the only thing provided in pleasure gardens: there were firework displays, side shows, and cold suppers served in alcoves. They were favourite places for courting couples, which explains the popularity of love songs. Hook's Vauxhall songs range from the coy 'No, No, No, It Must Not Be' to the flirtatious 'Take Me, Take Me, Some of You'. Usually, song-writers have the tact to avoid giving embarrassment, by introducing lovers in the traditional and inoffensive shape of nymphs and shepherds. Many songs take advantage of the outdoor setting, either imitating birdsong, like Hook's 'The Blackbird', or capturing the romantic evening mood. Love songs were always to remain popular at Vauxhall: two well-known later examples are C. E. Horn's 'Cherry Ripe' of 1825, and Bishop's 'The Bloom Is on the Rye', which was the big success of the 1833 season. No one, however, was to equal the creative energy Hook dedicated to the pleasure garden; in songs alone his output exceeded two thousand, many of them being published in the annual Vauxhall Songs collection. His elegant style, which is indebted to the style galant of Bach and Abel, can be perceived in his still familiar song 'The Lass of Richmond Hill.'

Ranelagh had provided an outlet for Welsh music in 1746, when the blind harpist, John Parry, appeared there. He was joint editor, with Evan Williams, of the first collections of Welsh melodies; predictably, these were subjected to the usual 'improvement' according to the fashionable taste of the day. Performances of traditional ballads at Ranelagh may have suggested to Dibdin the idea of giving some of his new strophic narrative songs the title 'ballads': one of the earliest examples of this application of that term was in the publication The Ballads sung by Mr Dibdin at Ranelagh Gardens, which appeared about the year 1770.

Sadler's Wells was originally a small pleasure garden, consisting of a medicinal spring and nearby music house. In response to the growing urban population, the spring was discarded and a theatre built on the site to cater, instead, for the middle class's thirst for musical entertainment. Music in the theatre has been dealt with in much detail already; but there were many varieties of music theatre, a diversity which resulted from the restrictions on spoken drama. After the Licensing Act of 1737, the only theatres allowed to present performances of spoken plays were Drury Lane, which until the late eighteenth century held less than two thousand people, and Covent Garden, which held just over that figure. The Little Theatre in the Haymarket managed to obtain a patent in 1766 to enable it to open for plays in summer, when Drury Lane and Covent Garden were theoretically closed. This meant that, like the pleasure gardens, it relied on a middle-class clientele, since the landed gentry were in the country.

Audiences were alerted to what was on at the theatre by newspaper advertise- ments or by announcements given out either vocally or in handbills at a theatre they were attending. Not all the middle class were sufficiently independent to be able to spend whole evenings in the theatre: lower middle-class shopkeepers, for instance, did not finish work until at least eight o'clock, so they had to make do with the afterpiece, a short work like Arne's Thomas and Sally which filled up the evening's entertainment (except in those rare cases when the mainpiece was a very lengthy work such as The Beggar's Opera). Entrance to see the afterpiece was [42/43] at half price. In 1763 Covent Garden attempted to end this concession and thereby provoked the worst theatre riot of the eighteenth century; it cost them £2000 worth of damage. As for the relative expense of seats within the theatre, the galleries were cheaper than the pit (the modern-day stalls), while the boxes cost most of all. The upper boxes were frequented by prostitutes; houses of ill repute were usually conveniently situated near theatres. Indeed the word 'actress' was a common euphemism for prostitute. It was the reason that the growing numbers of industrial bourgeoisie, with their religious nonconformism and new-found respectability, shunned and despised the theatre, however much they might admire individual theatre songs.

When Charles Dibdin the younger took over at Sadler's Wells at the turn of the nineteenth century, he introduced the novelty of aquadramas, like The Siege of Gibraltar. His major crowd-pullers, however, were the pantomimes starring the clown Joe Grimaldi. English pantomime had developed out of attempts to popularize the court masque. Most eighteenth-century pantomimes had mythological or grotesque plots involving characters from the traditional Italian commedia dell'arte. The earliest contained no dialogue, but included songs, dances, and miming during instrumental interludes known as the Comic Tunes. John Rich, who was fond of playing the character of Harlequin himself, had popularized pantomimes at his Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. Machinery, trick scenery, and all manner of gadgetry helped attract audiences, but in the opinion of people like Colley Cibber and Henry Fielding the pantomime was a fatuous and inferior art-form. Drury Lane found it financially attractive to present pantomime afterpieces, but to follow a Shakespeare play with a pantomime would have been condemned as vulgar. The modern pantomime can be seen emerging in Linley's Robinson Crusoe (1781) and Shield's Aladdin (1788). The character of the clown was of little significance until Grimaldi arrived on the scene (the clown's original function was to serve Columbine's father, Pantaloon).

The comic scoffing tone of pantomime gave it a kinship with burlesque: it is probably no coincidence that Planche's first pantomime, Rodolph the Wolf, was performed at the Olympic Pavilion in the same year (1818) that his first burlesque, Amoroso, King of Little Britain, was performed at Drury Lane. The burlesque can be traced back to Elizabethan theatre, but begins to be a distinctive genre after the Reformation. A seminal work was The Rehearsal (1671) by the Duke of Buckingham, which made fun of both dramatic tragedy and contemporary attempts to bring opera to the English stage. Arne's The Opera of Operas (1733), based on Fielding's The Tragedy of Tragedies, established the character of eighteenth-century burlesque. Henry Carey's The Dragon of Wantley (music by Lampe), written in 1737, was the most successful of these: it mocked the castrato Farinelli and Handel's latest opera, Giustino, which contained a dragon. Burlesques continued to be popular in the nineteenth century and proved a major influence behind the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas: Gilbert produced his first burlesque, Dulcamara, five years before he began to collaborate with Sullivan.

Taverns and tea or coffee houses offered another important source of access to music. Before Hook's employment in the pleasure gardens, he played the organ to entertain customers taking tea at the White Conduit House in Clerkenwell. [43/44] Taverns were more likely to be the scene of active participation in music-making. The Anacreontic Society, which was made up of aristocrats and wealthy bourgeoisie, held their meetings at the Crown and Anchor in the Strand. The constitutional hymn of this society, 'To Anacreon in Heaven' (composed by J. S. Smith), was given new words and adopted in 1931 as the United States' national anthem, 'The Star-Spangled Banner'. The Concentores Sodales (friends of harmony) met from 1798 onwards at the Buffalo Tavern in Bloomsbury. Lower middle-class music lovers would meet at an alehouse, such as the Twelve Bells in Bride Lane. The Madrigal Society was founded there in 1741.

The taste of the eighteenth-century mercantile middle class was generally theatrical and secular; music in the church was in decline. More interesting than the musical life of St Paul's was that of Robert Smith's house in the churchyard. Here the Glee Club began to meet in 1783. It was for this club Samuel Webbe composed 'Glorious Apollo', which from 1790 was always sung at the start of their meetings. Glees were not always specifically written as glees,51 but, just as an operatic air could be angled towards the drawing room, a musical ensemble in a stage entertainment could be aimed at future use in a glee group. Taking Bishop as an example, the following table gives the titles of several of his most admired glees and the works in which they first appeared.

'The Winds Whistle Cold' Guy Mannering 1816 (opera)
'The Chough and Crow' Guy Mannering 1816 (opera)
'Mynheer Vandunck'The Law of Java 1822 (musical drama)
'Hark, 'Tis the Indian Drum' Cortez, or The Conquest of Mexico 1823 (historical play)

In addition to the sources of access to music discussed above, the eighteenth century saw a growth in the number of musical publications. Periodicals stimulated interest in music and, as printing technology progressed, sheet music became cheaper and more accessible to an expanding amateur market. The early relationship between the nineteenth-century music industry and amateur music- making in the home will be explored in the next chapter.


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Last modified 11 June 2012