Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Resorts of Musical Entertainment

Canterbury Hall, Lambeth, is widely cited as the original of the 'music hall' in London. Here's an early description. I was surprised to see opera featuring so heavily (confirmed by many contemporary adverts for the Hall):

Canterbury Hall ... is one of those many resorts of musical entertainment which have of late spring up in such numbers in the metropolis, combining the attractions of the tavern with those of the concert-room. For the moderate entrance money of one sixpence, a spacious and brilliantly lighted saloon, a very interesting gallery of pictures, and four or five hours unceasing ‘entertainment’ is at the disposal of any one ‘out for the night’. The ‘entertainment’ originally consisted of the usual sestett of principal singers, and a very efficient chorus, who performed the principal music from favourite operas, such as ‘Norma’, ‘Lucrezia’, ‘Trovatore’, and others, in a most creditable manner. This ‘high art’ was also varied by the addition of comic songs of all nations, from the old established countryman in an ante-diluvian flowered waistcoat, and Paddy with half a coat and a shillelagh down to (and no lower depth could be sounded) “Sally, come up”, and “Sister to the Cure.” All this while the pleasure-seeker can comfort his inner man with almost any variety of eating and drinking which he is likely to fancy and pay for. Even the mysterious delights of tobacco are not denied him; and though pipes are prohibited in the ‘reserved seats’, and only the lordly cigar permitted in those aristocratic precincts, yet in any other part of the spacious building a twist of bird’s-eye and a yard of clay may be seen in the mouths of three quarters of the assemblage. It is but fair to add that nothing can exceed the good order with which everything is conducted at this establishment, and it is almost needless to say that the attractions which this and other such places of resort present to the humbler classes of society have interfered most seriously with the profits of the legitimate, or perhaps we should rather say the licensed theatres.

Morning Post 7 March 1861

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