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Music hall

Era: 1850s - 1860s - 1870s - 1880s - 1890s - 1900s - 1910s - 1920s - 1930s -

With the arrival of music halls in the newly industrialized mid-19th century, folk music gave way to popular music and ordinary people of the Western world were first offered music as a mass commodity packaged and distributed for the purpose of earning a profit. [Jun 2006]

Related: cabaret - entertainment - UK music - Folies Bergères - Moulin Rouge - popular music - nightclub

1852: Canterbury Hall entrance, the first purpose built music hall
Image sourced here. [Dec 2004]

poster for Lottie "Tar-ra-ra-boom-der-ay" Collins show
image sourced here.

Edouard Manet's 1882 well-known painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergères depicts a bar-girl, one of the demimondaine, standing before a mirror.


Music Hall is a type of British theatre which had its start in the public "song and supper" rooms of the 1850s. It flourished from the 1890s to the Second World War, when other forms of popular music evolved and it began to be replaced by films as the most popular form of entertainment.

British Music Hall was similar to American vaudeville, featuring rousing songs and standard jokes, while in the United Kingdom the term vaudeville referred to more lowbrow entertainment that would have been termed burlesque in the United States. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_Hall [2004]

19th Century [...]

Music hall, vaudeville, and burlesque were popular entertainment forms that developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the masses of working people who lived in the rapidly growing cities of Great Britain and the United States and--to a lesser extent--in many cities on the Continent. Vaudeville in America and music hall in England were variety shows of unconnected musical, dancing, comedy, and specialty acts. The word vaudeville originated in France and probably derived from the topical songs of the Vau de Vire, the valley of the Vire River in Normandy. Burlesque began as comic parodies of well-known topics or people. The word came from the Italian burla, "jest." -- http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/Balcony/7634/vaudeville_and_burlesque.htm

Working class

Music halls:
Despite professions of respectability, these 'Fortresses of Beelzebub' (as they were dubbed by the Salvation Army), whose audiences were predominantly working class, worried the ruling classes throughout the late 19th century. There were continual efforts to control drinking and monitor the decency of acts. In response to middle-class fears, the London County Council formed a committee of morals in 1890, with the power to revoke their licences. -- John Mullan

Music halls, 19th century France

Popular music of 19th century Paris occured in cafe-concerts, cabarets, music halls, and dance halls. These were also the places of popular culture. Parisians from all walks of life came to these places to listen, watch, and/or perform. Music wasn't the only form of entertainment. There were also poetry readings, clowns, dancers, and even monkeys at some of these places. Cafe-concerts, cabarets, and dance halls were places to meet friends and have some drinks and food. They were also places to bring families. Painters met with each other in cafe-concerts to talk about art. Many Impressionists found inspiration from cafe-concerts. Manet and Degas produced many paintings devoted to the cafe-concert. Toulouse-Lautrec also painted many scenes and portraits with the popular culture motif. --Paris 19th Century Project 2000, Dr. Kathleen Cohen, Professor of Art History, San Jose State University


The Hippodrome is also the name of a nightclub on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square, in London, UK. The name was in fact used for many different theatres and music halls, of which the London Hippodrome is one of only a few survivors. The name derived from the fact that animal acts were originally part of the show.

The building was opened as a circus in 1900 but became a music-hall in 1909, putting on productions ranging from ballet to revues and musical comedies by composers such as Ivor Novello. In 1949-1951 it was the London equivalent of the Folies-Bergère, before being reconstructed again in 1958 to become a dinner cabaret called Talk of the Town. It closed in 1982 and

Built as a circus in 1900, with a large water tank for aquatic spectacles, the Hippodrome was reconstructed as a music-hall in 1909, where Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake was first danced in England by the Russian Ballet (1910). Its reputation was for revue and musical comedy, among them Mr Cinders (1929) and Ivor Novello's Perchance to Dream (1938); and from 1949 to 1951 it became the London equivalent of the Folies-Bergère. In 1958 it was reconstructed again, becoming a dinner-cabaret - the Talk of the Town - until it closed in 1982. Renovated yet again, the building was reopened as the current nightclub. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippodrome [Dec 2004]

The Canterbury Hall (1852)

Mr Charles Morton, publican of the Canterbury Tavern in Lambeth opened the first purpose built music hall, The Canterbury Hall, in 1852. It held 700 people. Audiences were seated at tables, and food and drink was served throughout the performance, which took place on a platform at one end of the hall under the watchful Chairman, the vocalist, Mr John Caulfield. --http://www.peopleplayuk.org.uk/guided_tours/music_hall_tour/the_story_of_the_music_halls/first.php [Dec 2004]

A Brief History of the Music Hall

Before Music Hall was given its name, similar types of entertainment would have been going on for many centuries. In essence, Music Hall brought together a variety of different acts which together formed an evening of light hearted entertainment.

The origins of Music Hall are found in a number of institutions which provided entertainment in the populous towns and cities of Britain in the 1830s. These were:

By the 1850s, the tavern landlords had moved the entertainment function of pubs into purpose built halls; these new premises still retaining the traditional ambience of the inn. The format of the evening was unchanged: a chairman would introduce song and dance acts onto a simple stage, whilst trying to keep order with a gavel. In all cases, eating, drinking and smoking continued throughout the performances. The audience, often exuberant with alcohol, both heckled and joined in with their favourite songs and performers. --http://www.musichallcds.com/music_hall_history.htm [Jun 2004]

Music Hall: The Business of Pleasure (1986) - Peter Bailey (Editor)

In search of the roots of the culture industry.

Music Hall: The Business of Pleasure (1986) - Peter Bailey (Editor) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

See also: popular music - music halls - culture industry - business - pleasure

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