Opera at the Bandstand

Then and Now

By (author) George W. Martin

Hardback - £95.00

Publication date:

05 December 2013

Length of book:

290 pages


Scarecrow Press

ISBN-13: 9780810888531

In Opera at the Bandstand: Then and Now, George W. Martin surveys the role of concert bands during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in making contemporary opera popular. He also chronicles how in part they lost their audience in the second half of the twentieth century by abandoning operatic repertory.

Martin begins with the Dodworth bands in New York City from the 1850s and moves to the American tour of French conductor and composer Louis Antoine Jullien, bandmaster Patrick S. Gilmore’s jubilee festivals, the era of John Philip Sousa from 1892 to 1932, performances of the Goldman Band of New York City from 1920 to 2005, and finally the wind ensembles sparked by Frederick Fennell. He illustrates the degree to which operatic material comprised these bands’ overall repertory and provides detailed programs in the appendixes.

Opera at the Bandstand describes how the technological advancements sweeping the country, such as radio, automobiles, recordings, television, and air conditioning, along with changes in demographics, affected the country’s musical life. It will appeal to bandmasters and their players, as well as those with an interest in American history, music, popular culture, and opera.
Martin studies the concert bands that flourished in the US from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. During the 19th century, a major part of popular entertainment was band concerts, and a large percentage of the repertoire was opera. By the end of the century, there were nearly 10,000 bands, most of which were concert bands, not marching bands. Martin proceeds to examine the best known bands and conductors from 1850 to 1950, including the Dodsworth bands (bandmaster Mons. Jullien), the Jubilees and the 22nd Regiment Band (Patrick Gilmore), the Marine Band and Sousa's Band (John Philip Sousa), and the Goldman Band (Edward Franko Goldman). During the Depression, funds for the touring bands became scarce; the dance band became popular, and band repertoire accordingly shifted from opera arias to the waltz and the fox-trot. Martin observes that technology--the radio, the phonograph, television, the automobile--helped to bring about the decline of the touring civilian bands. Martin makes a plea for a revival of concert bands with operatic repertoire. The book concludes with 17 appendixes, which provide detailed programs from different bands of the period and numerous photographs of famous band conductors. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; professionals; general readers.