Sunday, March 25, 2012


At the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States, one of the most popular events was going to Chautauqua.  Founded in 1874, Chautauqua would develop into a circuit of touring shows that provided education, culture, and uplifting and moral entertainment.  The shows would include music, lectures, skits, speeches, readings, and novelty acts.  The University of Iowa library has a large collection of items from the Redpath Chautauqua (1890-1944).  Here is a general overview of Chautauqua provided by the library.

Before I took the class "American Musical Entertainments" last fall, I had never heard of Chautauqua.  It is a shame that its history has faded because it made a huge impact.  As the article linked above explains, "At its peak in the mid-1920s, circuit Chautauqua performers and lecturers appeared in more than 10,000 communities in 45 states to audiences totaling 45 million people."

One group that performed was the University of Iowa band, then called the State University of Iowa Military Band.  The band's tour is a great example of what it was like to perform on the Chautauqua circuit.  From June 17, 1918 through August 30, 1918, the band performed in 75 each night.  These cities and towns were in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa.  Back then, the performers would often tour by train.  Also, the performers were in charge of their own setup.  Whatever instruments/set/props/costumes/personal belongings they had, they had to carry them from the train station to the performance site by themselves.  The performances would often be outside or in large tents because small towns did not have concert halls or other venues.  Just think how our performance opportunities are different today.

Several brass musicians performed on the Chautauqua circuits as members of brass chamber groups.  Below, I'm going to list a few groups that I found while researching.  Each name is a link to a picture or program in the University of Iowa digital library.  The photos are copyrighted so they will not be included on this page. Please check out the links.

Edna White Quartette (a female group with 2 trumpets, trombone, euphonium)
Herbert Petrie and his White Hussars (2 trumpets and 2 trombones)
Lieurance Brass Choir (2 trumpets and 2 trombones)
The Orpheans (trumpet, valve trombone, horn, saxophone)
The Rondoliers (2 trumpets, trombone, saxophone)
The Parland Newhall Company Brass Quartet (trumpet, 2 trombones, horn)
The Brass Sextette of Quintano's Royal Italian Band of New York City (2 trumpets, 2 valve trombones, 2 euphoniums)
Alberta and Lorene Davis (trumpet and horn)

If you would like to learn more about brass in Chautauqua, check out "Brass Chamber Music in Lyceum and Chautauqua" by Raymond Burkhart.  This is his Ph.D. Dissertation from The Claremont Graduate University in 2010.  It is available in the Special Collections part of the library.

No comments:

Post a Comment