This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

A Bandstand Request

15 May 2015

... ... ...

To do what? Unfortunately the last line of this small sign
has been obscured by a bench rail so we can never know
what mischief it is intended to prevent.  

But we can guess,
as it is strategically placed just below the edge of a concert stage
where a suave debonair conductor stands surrounded
by the musicians of his orchestra. 

He is dressed in elegant white tie and tailcoat while his musicians, all men, sport black tie and wide lapel dinner jackets. On the left are five violins and on the right are winds – two trumpets, a blackwood flute, an oboe and a clarinet.

Further to the left are five more strings – a cello, two violas, and two men without instruments who are most likely the pianist and the double bassist. We will have to guess which is which.

On the opposite side are five more musicians – a bassoon, two horns, a trombone and an older gentleman who surely must be the percussionist of this small 20 piece orchestra. Though this photo postcard was never mailed and has no marks for date, the two horn players provide a clue for the general location as they have very distinctive piston valve horns, an instrument which was the standard for British orchestras for generations up until the 1950s. The three long piston valves and removable mouthpiece crook are a 19th century French design used by horn players of France, Belgium, and England from the 1850s to the 1950s.

German rotary valves, which eventually became the prevalent plumbing mechanism for modern horn makers around the world, were once considered deficient in some chauvinist way that supposedly made the German horn tone inferior to those with British piston valves. Considering that many of the early London horn players were of German origin, and that so too were many London conductors,  this musical heritage is even more unusual in how it gave British orchestras a  special quality that persisted for many decades.  

The full view of the stage shows the orchestra to be rather cramped for space. It appears to be an outdoor pavilion with decorative pillars that look vaguely Egyptian. The photographer's camera was placed about twenty feet from the edge of the stage and other than the bench rail, there are no other clues for location. But it seems a very model of a British seaside resort concert orchestra. The gentlemen's clean shaven and slick hair style suggest 1920s or possibly 1930s.

A Google search for the sign's abbreviated phrase surprisingly produced only four hits, and all were pages from a website called the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives. This privately run website, based oddly enough in Atlanta, GA, offers an extraordinary amount of historical material on US immigration, military documents, and particularly steamship passenger records. The four webpages reference a rule found in the passenger brochure for ships of the Canadian Pacific Ocean Services traveling from Liverpool to Quebec during the years from 1924 to 1928.

Candian Pacific Ocean Services
Source: Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives
Just below the names of the officers and 109 passengers who were on the S.S. Montrose during its voyage in February 1927, are numerous advisories. Between Lifebelts and Emergency Stations is this cautionary appeal:

Boat Deck.—Parents are respectfully requested not to allow their children to frequent this deck.

Just above it is this note on the ship's entertainment.

Orchestra at luncheon, dinner, and in the Lounge, and on Deck for dancing.

The ship's shop sold postal cards, stamps, candies, cigars, cigarettes, tobacco, pipes, magazines, toys, and novelties. Library Steward provides stationery, telegraph forms, books of reference and railway time tables.

* * *

So is this British orchestra by the seaside, or on it?
The answer remains uncertain without more clues.
But just imagine what childish misbehavior would compel
an ocean liner company to place such a notice on four different ships.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for more signs of the times.


Alan Burnett said...

Photo analysis at its very best. It really is an art form in the hands of an expert.

Postcardy said...

Based on the clues you found, I vote for a stage on the ship.

Nigel Aspdin (Derby, UK) said...

Note the substantial and high iron work (and presumably glass) above and behind the stage. For this reason I have been looking at Crystal Palace and Alexandra Palace, both London, and you will find plenty about them both on line. As yet I have not found this stage in any photos of these locations, but will keep looking.

Brett Payne said...

Intriguing. This seems too big to be on a ship, but not having been on an ocean liner since I was about two, I have little idea. Actually, I was given a tour of a cruise ship a few years ago, and I can tell you that the theatre stage was a lot smaller than this.

Bob Scotney said...

I guess children would have tried to swing on the edge of the stage. Never having been on a ship bigger than a ferry I'm not qualified to comment on whether it is on a ship.

La Nightingail said...

I remember a sign meant for adults, not children, when I was performing in the Golden Chain Melodrama Theatre in Oakhurst, CA. The audience sat cabaret style with some of the tables flush against the raised stage. Refreshments served included beer, wine, hot dogs, nachos, and popcorn! The first & second rows were prone to throwing popcorn on the stage whenever the villain made an appearance. There was a sign, of course, requesting the audience refrain from doing this, but no one ever paid attention to it and I'll tell you - it's not easy doing a between-scenes tap dance routine with popcorn all over the stage. There were times when a 'janitor' had to come out with a big push broom before we could continue & of course the audience thought it was great fun. Not so fun, though, when you have to use tweezers to pull pieces of popcorn out from under your taps!

Nancy said...

Ah, yes, I can imagine those children climbing up there, scampering around the stage, interrupting the musicians. Best to have a sign.

I enjoyed the way you shared the postcard bit by bit, explaining as you went. Good post, Mike.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to check what the theme photo is each week.
Just keep the posts coming the way that you do. The research and the stories are just great..

Joan said...

Mike, I did a head snap thingy with the worew, "distincitve piston valve horns." One can always tell when an expert is at work. Nice job.

Wendy said...

When adults are in a party mood, they soon forget their kids are even around. A sign is at least a gentle reminder - if you can get the adults to read it.


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