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
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Herr Julian Kändt and his Austrian Blue Band

28 March 2020

A conductor commands the pulse of his musicians.
They know the notes and rhythms
but they can't begin until
they see the flick of the baton.
And even then
the speed they play
is not of their choosing

but is strictly defined
by the conductor's gestures.

A band leader manages the show business of a concert.
He books the engagements; signs the contracts;
hires the soloists; procures the uniforms;
rranges the stage setup; and most importantly,
pays the musicians.

A music director selects the concert program,
arranging the music like a chef prepares a menu
to create a musical feast
that will please every kind of palate.

Not all conductors
have the business sense to be a good band leader.

And not all band leaders
have the artistic talent to be a music director.

Hull Daily Mail
1 August 1912
This is the story of one conductor
who had all the necessary musical skills and more.

He was a band leader who valued his musicians,
a music director who knew his audience,
and for extra bonus,
a violinist who played enchanting melodies.

His name was Herr Julian Kändt,
the favorite of Bridlington's New Spa.

In this first photo postcard, Julian Kändt stands on a small stage with his "Famous Band", as noted in the caption, at the New Spa Bridlington, 1910. With him are 17 musicians dressed in splendid uniform coats with military type hats. There are seven string players from violin to double bass. And an assortment of wind instruments including two horns, cornets, trombone, flute, and clarinet.

The location was Bridlington, a town in East Riding of Yorkshire, on the North Sea coastline of England. Promoted today as the "Lobster Capital of Europe", in the 19th century Bridlington became noted for its mineral water spring that turned it into a seaside spa and holiday resort. By the late-1890s developers had built numerous amenities and amusements that attracted thousands of seasonal visitors from around Britain and Europe.

1895 Bridlington Quay, The Parade, Yorkshire, England
Source: Wikipedia

In July 1896 a private enterprise opened a theater and seaside pavilion on the southern end of Bridlington's beach front calling it the Bridlington Spa. After a fire destroyed its theatre in 1906 it was quickly rebuilt as the New Spa. In this next postcard we can see an ornate octagonal structure pushing out into the promenade. This is the band stand, which I believe, is where Herr Kändt posed with his bandsmen facing an interior garden. Though the shadows are dark, I think there is a band playing inside the oriental gazebo as dozens of people listen on benches outside. The message on the side reads:

The Parade is better than
this. I have a monthly ticket

The writer may be referring to the other end of Bridlington's seafront, where the municipal council managed more amusements and hired a second band  to entertain the public in competition with the New Spa.

When the Bridlington Spa opened on 27 July 1896 its first concerts were performed by Herr Meyer Lutz's Grand Band. Meyer Lutz (1829–1903) was a Bavarian-born British composer, well known for his operettas and incidental stage music produced for London's theaters. Trained in Germany, Lutz was one of many German and Austrian musicians in the Victorian era who built a successful career after moving to Britain.

London Morning Post
9 June 1897
Julian Wilford Kändt, or Kandt, without the umlaut as it was usually spelled in English, was part of a later generation of Germanic musicians who emigrated to Britain, and his name first appeared in 1897 newspaper advertisements of musical ensembles for hire.

Julian Wilford Kandt's Celebrated Royal Salon Orchestra, under Royal Patronage, may now be engaged for Concerts, Parties, At Homes, &c. No agents, –Adress Curzon House, 35, Albany street, Regent's Park. Cutting from "Society," November 14, 1896.—"This orchestra is unequalled."
In the other adverts next to his listing were: Lacon and Ollier's Blue Hungarian Band; Herr Iff's Orchestra; The Plantagenet Orchestra;  Moritz Wurm's Original Viennese White Band; The Co-operative Orchestra; and Ashton's Blue Hungarian Band from Budapest. All available for balls, receptions, dances, garden parties, &c. and most appearing in costumes.
_ _ _

To judge by the number of curled mustaches on his musicians, as well as his own carefully groomed 'stache, Herr Kändt's orchestra presented a very Germanic appearance on the concert stage. The reason for this was due to the enthusiasm in Britain for the waltz, or more particularly the Viennese waltzes of Johann Strauss the Younger (1825–1899). Strauss was arguably the most influential composer of his time, crafting elegant tunes with infectious toe-tapping rhythms into brilliant waltzes and witty polkas that became enormously popular with audiences around the world.

Like Johann Strauss, Herr Kändt was both a violinist and a composer, and more appropriately an Austrian too. After a couple of seasons his advertisements announced a new name for his band. The Austrian Blue Band, with most elaborate and artistic uniforms. The term "band" and "orchestra" were often used interchangeably in this era and meant basically a small ensemble capable of playing arrangements of both orchestral music and band music. By 1900 many of these "Austrian" and "Hungarian" bands were represented by one large entertainment agency in London who probably used the colors–blue, red, white– to easily distinguish their groups.

London Morning Post
21 November 1899

By the early 1900s, Kandt's Austrian Blue Band was regularly booked for the summer season at British seaside resorts like Scarborough, and Weston-super-Mare. In the winter season his salon orchestra moved indoors for more refined concerts. In 1903 on the occasion of King Edward and Queen Alexandra's 40th wedding anniversary, Herr Kändt's orchestra entertained over 400 guests at a dinner party held at Buckingham Palace. Performing for such a prestigious event was a priceless endorsement for any musician working in the high society circuits of Britain. Kändt shrewdly used it to his advantage, and was soon engaged by the Royal Yacht Squadron at the Isle of Wight to provide the musical entertainment during its summer yacht races. The patrons at the R.Y.S. clubhouse at Cowes represented the elite of Britain's wealthy upper class, and orchestras like Kändt's became a prize when they performed for balls, house parties, and charity benefits.

Bridlington's society was probably a few steps down from London, but after Herr Kändt's band played its first engagement at Bridlington, his band's music and Austrian style quickly attracted a devoted following. A photo postcard of the Prince's Parade in Bridlington shows a typical crowd on a summer day. Though many people did indulge in swimming along a stretch of Bridlington's sandy beach, in this more genteel and modest age, most people simply strolled along the parade or promenade.

Kandt's band usually played at least two concerts, afternoon and early evening. Amplified by the bandstand's acoustics, the sound might have carried a fair distance down the promenade, but the concerts were designed to bring patrons into the Spa, which is what Julian Kändt's music was very good at doing. Reports of the competition between his band and the municipal band at the Prince's Parade always awarded Kändt with the most accolades. Part of this was due to Julian Kändt's beautiful violin playing.

In this souvenir photo postcard, Herr Julian Kändt stands with his violin at rest. He wears a kind of military uniform jacket with ornate toggle cording, doubtless colored in an Austrian blue hue. His Pince-nez glasses perfectly mirror his upturned mustache while he gazes calmly at some unseen vista. In the lower corner he has signed it.
Yours faithfully,
Julian Kändt 

It was sent from Taunton on 3 December 1904 to Miss May Alder of Taunton.

I hope you
have enjoyed
listening to my

The programs for Kändt's Austrian Blue Band included a wide variety of music. For balls or skating halls, the dance lineup usually had two dozen waltzes, mostly by Strauss, interspersed with an occasional two-step. A formal concert might include opera arias of Puccini, Bizet, and Verdi; overtures of Rossini, Weber, and of course Wagner;  music by Liszt, Elgar, Berlioz, Sibelius, and other composers now forgotten; and for an exotic flavor, Kändt might play a Hungarian czardas on his violin. One reviewer in 1910 said, "(Kändt) produces a flawless, silver filigree of sound...his band has a ruling passion for the dynamics of their music. They are ever sudden, but never do they go off at an outrageous tangent. They achieve the proper'bouquet,' or flavour, that you associate with Viennese music by means of attack, quick expressions of feeling, and amiable lingering on sentiment and luscious passages."

Lincoln NE Star
22 June 1904

Descriptions of Kändt's Austrian band style contrast sharply with the reviews of the many Italian bands that were then becoming a craze in the United States. The British public's taste for the exuberant Italian conductors like Oreste Vessella, in my story from August 2019, An Atlantic City Love Story, part 2, seemed less fervent and more attracted to the Viennese character.

In 1904 Julian Kändt was interviewed for his opinion about the new dance fashion in London of two-steps, cake walks, and ragtime music introduced from America. The two-step, (not to be confused with the foxtrot which came later) placed dance partners side by side rather than facing each other. This had a benefit of fewer shin kicks and torn gowns. But Herr Kändt felt "rag time" was altogether detrimental to dancing.

"It requires a very unmusical person to dance against the time," Herr  Kändt said, "and yet I have seen couples dance a sort of two step to a Strauss waltz.

"I have also seen dancers perform a cake walk under these conditions before a roomful of people. The steps of a cake walk are often unlike any known dance, and the effect is frequently ridiculous.

"But there are many beautiful dancers still, and I find that the very best style is to be seen at hunt or county balls."

The report was picked up by several newspapers in the U.S. and gives us a sense of Herr Kändt's personality as well as his position in London's entertainment hierarchy.

_ _ _

The musicians of Kändt's orchestra, as seen in this next postcard of his band, were not all Austrian or German. Some were Italian or Hungarian, and several were likely English but nearly all sported a mustache with a Prussian curl. Talented instrumentalists often switched bands, perhaps for better pay, or for engagements closer to their home, so his roster of players, generally between 12 and 18 musicians, was changeable, but newspaper reports said some bandsmen had been in the band for 10 to 15 years.

Rail travel in Britain was of course much easier for entertainers than in the United States, but music ensembles also crossed the channel for concert tours on the continent. However I've found no reports that Kändt ever did this with his group, working mainly in England, Wales, and Ireland. Probably this was because in Europe there was too much competition from similar German and Austrian groups.

This is another souvenir postcard of Herr Julian Kändt with his violin. He also signed this one in 1908. It is addressed to Mrs. Hall, R. Y. S. Castle, Cowes, I. o. Wight, who might have been the chairwoman of the entertainment committee of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

from, Julian
& Cissy Kändt 

Hull Daily Mail
19 August 1910

In 1910 Julian W. Kändt, at the height of his popularity, was interviewed by a reporter with the Hull Daily Mail and the piece provided lots of information on his background.

Kändt was born in 1874 in Linz, Austria on the upper Danube River. Though his father was not a musician, on Julian's fifth birthday he gave him a violin and it became his passion. After study in Leipzig and then Vienna, in 1893, at the age 19, he was invited by an English restaurateur to bring a small ensemble of eight Viennese musicians to London.

They played at a restaurant on King Street, St. James where Kändt had the good fortune to meet the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, (and also the commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron.) This good fortune opened new opportunities for Kändt to find work outside of London performing for the many people within the circle of the Prince of Wales.

In 1910 Kändt was married with two children. He and his wife Cissy, who was born in London, lived at 16 Regent's Park Terrace, in a fashionable part of London not far from the train stations serving the north of England.

_ _ _

In the summer of 1914
Herr Julian Kändt was 40 years old,
keen to finish his engagements at Bridlington
and return to Cowes for the R.Y.S. regatta.
The August event attracted hundreds of yachts,
under sail and steam, and in all sizes.
Even though Kaiser Wilhelm II
did not plan to attend Cowes on board his yacht,
he still managed to leave a big mark on the occasion.
Britain declared war with Germany on August 4, 1914
just one day before the start of the Cowes regatta. 

There would be no music.

After the start of the war in August 1914, many holiday resorts like Bridlington tried to carry on as usual. Bands added more patriotic material and some entertainers joined in military recruitment drives. It was a chaotic time yet most people expected the war would end in a few months if not weeks. But it didn't work out that way.

On December 16, 1914, the Imperial German Navy sent a fleet of 27 battle cruisers and destroyers to raid the English ports of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool and Whitby along Britain's east coast. The German warships' bombardment resulted in 592 casualties, mostly of civilians, of whom 137 were killed. The attack inflamed the British public with anger towards the German Navy and brought widespread condemnation of the Royal Navy for its failure to prevent the raid.

Just a month later on January 19, 1915 the Germans introduced the world to strategic aerial bombing with a raid of two Zeppelin airships that dropped bombs on Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, King's Lynn and surrounding villages. Casualties were thankfully very light, only sixteen people were injured and four killed, but the terror generated by the raid was immeasurable. More attacks were attempted in February and March but bad weather kept the Zeppelin air fleet from crossing the English Channel.

For an Austrian musician with an umlaut in his name,
it was not a favorable time.

Hull Daily Mail
18 February 1915

In February 1915, the development committee of the Bridlington town council decided it should reconsider the contract it had with Herr Kändt. In an effort to appease the public, they recommended buying out Kändt's 1915 season contract for £300, with an option to cancel his booking for 1916 and 1917 for an additional £200. A "Councillor Davis, in moving the resolution, said he had the greatest admiration for Mr. Kandt as a musical director and a musician, and also as a gentleman. They had, however, to face the fact of the war, in consequence of which there was a strong feeling that he would not be so generously supported as hitherto."  If the resolution carried and Kändt accepted, the committee would seek to engage a good "all-British" band with as many members as Mr. Kandt's, and to pay the conductor £640 for the season. Herr Kändt was paid £1,050.

The report on the committee debate said Kändt had strenuously objected, claiming that though some people "regarded him as Austrian, it was a fact that he was not an Austrian, but of Russian birth; that his father was a naturalised British subject, and that Mr. Julian Kandt was born in England." (a mistaken report) He "could not understand why he should not command the same support as in the past."

The resolution was moved to be referred back to the full Council. One alderman said he "did not believe there was any strong feeling against Mr. Kandt." Another said he "had been told by a prominent tradesman that unless Mr. Kandt came the Spa would go down." Ten days later the Bridlington Town Council rejected the recommendation of its committee. Herr Kändt's band would fulfill its contract for the 1915 season at the Bridlington Spa.

Cardiff Western Mail
5 March 1915

Despite the council's vote of approbation, Kandt must have felt threatened by the growing anti-German sentiment in Britain as three weeks later an advertisement tinted with his indignation ran in the Cardiff Western Mail. It was for a two week booking at the Park-Hall in Cardiff.

Kandt's Band under the personal direction of Julian Kandt, will present a series of patriotic and popular concerts. 

Special note. I Julian Kandt, take this opportunity of assuring my many Friends and Patrons that I am ABSOLUTELY BRITISH, being the Son of a Naturalised British Subject of many years standing, and of Russian origin, and my Band is composed of Fifteen British and Three Russian Musicians.

His soloists were Senhor Jose de Moraes, the famous Portuguese Tenor, and Miss Rosina Buckman, the famous New Zealand Soprano. After the grand opening concert on Sunday, there would be concerts every evening at Eight p.m. with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at Three p.m. Balcony seats, 1s,; Floor, 6d.

_ _ _

That summer in 1915, Julian Kandt dropped the umlaut and renamed his group "Kandt's Famous Band". In September the Yorkshire Weekly Post published a reviewer's impression of the seaside resort in wartime. The writer added some light humor, recounting how he tried questioning an old fisherman about the minesweepers in the harbor while being careful not to be mistaken for a German spy.

Yorkshire Weekly Post
11 September 1915

The "Princess Parade" shows no signs of having suffered from the effects of the war. The flower beds are as bloomingly gay as ever. The floral clock seems as floral as before, and the hall has its baskets as beautiful as at any other time. Both the bands here and on the New Spa are conducted as usual by Signor Scoma and Mr Julian Kandt respectively. Hitherto I have been unfortunate enough to be at Bridlington during Cowes week, and Mr Kandt was always at that place. This year I was more fortunate. There is no doubt about the personality of this conductor. He has the quiet style that tells. Sometimes he becomes so quiet as to cease conducting altogether for a time - this to show that the band can free-wheel downhill, so to speak, once it has got going properly. You should just hear "Rags" done by Mr Kandt. They don't merely flutter in the breeze, as under some conductors; they simply dance and wave and tear themselves to tatters. It is enough to make the most staid old party jump up and begin to stump around. Our strictly British upbringing makes us content ourselves with a mere shuffling of the feet under the chair.

_ _ _

Cardiff Western Mail
10 November 1915

By November 1915, Kandt was back in Cardiff. now advertising his show with more desperation than indignation.

This time it was Julian Kandt and his Famous (All-British) Band for two shows at 3 and 8. His soloists were Signor Lenghi Cellini and Miss May Huxley. The ad continued with:

Julian Kandt will give a Percentage of his Entire Receipts towards War Charities.

Julian Kandt invites wounded soldiers to any of his concerts, free of charge.

Kandt's Band.


Owing to rumours circulated in Cardiff respecting my nationality,
I, Julian Kandt, again emphatically state that I am a British subject of many years standing, and of Russian origin.

Furthermore, every member of mu band is British born.

I will pay the sum of £500 to anyone who can prove the above statements to be untrue.

_ _ _

The following week a notice in the Cardiff newspaper was placed that Mr. Julian Kandt had agreed to cancel his band concert so that the Glamorgan Yeomanry Male Voice Choir could give their farewell concert before they left for the front. Surrounding the notice on the page were long columns of names—soldiers and sailors on the official list of casualties and deaths.

Cardiff Western Mail
15 November 1915

Kandt's orchestra  returned to Bridlington in the late summer of 1916. Advertisements appeared under the heading 'Health Resorts'. "For a restful, delightful holiday, Bridlington, Bright, Breezy, Bracing."  Signor Scoma's orchestra played three concerts daily at the north end, and Julian Kandt's orchestra twice daily at the south end Spa. There were "plays and entertainment in the Opera House, Golf, Boating, Fishing, Open-air Promenade Concerts, First-class Vocalists.  Such Quantities of Sand."

But his bookings were not the same as two years before. There was no regatta at Cowes. No grand house parties or charity balls. The war time rationing and regulations altered so much of British society and civic life, that entertainment took on a different meaning and purpose.

Hull Daily Mail
27 June 1917

In June 1917 the Hull Daily Mail announced that Mr. Julian Kandt would be unable to come to to Bridlington this season owing to illness. He had struggled through the past season's engagements under very painful conditions, but was now unable to resume his work. The Development Committee proposed to engage a band of 16 and conductor at a cost of 100 guineas per week.

_ _ _

Three weeks later on 17 July 1917, King George V
issued a royal proclamation 
that henceforth
he and his family would no longer be members

of the German ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha,
but would instead become known as
the House and Family of Windsor. 

When the war ended in November 1918, Britain returned to normal, but many activities and entertainments would never be the same again. The summer holiday season returned to Bridlington, this time with an "all-British" band. Waltzes fell out of favor and another American import—jazz music— took over the younger folk's need for rhythm. Newspaper classified sections no longer advertised Austrian bands of any color. It would be some time before German/Austrian musicians would be received in Britain with the same appreciation they had enjoyed before the war. 

Hull Daily Mail
13 June 1919

On 13 June 1919, the Hull Daily Mail ran a three sentence report in its music column.

The news of the death of Julian Kandt, at one time the musical conductor of the Parade orchestra at Bridlington, has been received. An Austrian by birth, and educated in Germany, he was a popular figure in his profession if somewhat of a showman. He was 44 years of age and suffered a long and serious illness.

I've been unable to find
any other death notice or obituary
for Julian Wilford Kändt. 

* * *

When I first began collecting vintage photos of musicians, I never expected to learn much about their backgrounds. The postcards of Herr Kändt and his Austrian Blue Band seemed a novelty of British culture, a faded oddity of another time. But as I began to put Julian Kändt into context of his time I was startled by his success and celebrity. It was amazing how he resembled André Rieu, the Dutch violinist, who today performs the same kind of romantic music to audiences around the world. Yet another example of the lasting influence of Johann Strauss. 

But as my research uncovered Kändt's struggle to remain a performer during the Great War while fighting a giant wave of anti-German prejudices that was affecting the British public, his story took on a desperate and ultimately tragic tone. As all I know comes from brief newspaper adverts and reports, we can only read between the lines and guess at the personal pain endured by Julian and his family, not to mention his bandsmen too. The rules of civil societies were very different in 1914-18 than today. Bigotry, racism, and hatred were often expressed openly and rarely hidden. Kändt's claim that he was "Russian" could suggest he was Jewish. Though I have no evidence he was, that would certainly add another dimension to his story. 

Many entertainers, musicians, orchestras, and bands in the 21st century world of show business frequently cross over the dividing lines of national origin and ethnicity. Music seems international, free of intolerance. But in 1914 Julian Kändt probably thought the same of his musical world. He was obviously proud of his Austrian heritage and musical training in Germany. But clearly he thought himself an emigrant too and a loyal British citizen. Hateful prejudices will always exist, even in music and art. 

Shortly after he mildly criticized the influence of American ragtime music, Julian Kändt followed his audience's taste in music and sometimes included a ragtime number on his programs. What the musicians of his Austrian Blue Band thought of this is unknown, but I bet they could put a Viennese swing onto any syncopated rhythm. 

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where anyone on a seaside holiday
should    at    all    times    remain    at    least    6    feet    apart.


Virginia Allain said...

Wow, wonderful photos and certainly takes us back to fun times at the seashore 100 years ago.

La Nightingail said...

As always, a perfect match to the prompt picture with all kinds of interesting information about the band and it's talented director and how he was involved with the Bridlington spa and parade, plus some neat old pictures of the Bridlington promenade. Funny thing, I almost used that 1895 tinted postcard of the promenade in my post - wondering if it eventually became the pool in the prompt picture until I saw another picture of the pool and realized it wasn't in the same area as the park and promenade. :)


Herr Kändt has quite a mustache.

Barbara Rogers said...

I enjoyed learning about the band, and Mr. Kant's leadership (and what a mustache!). I wish we knew more of his personal life, but you have stretched the news data, and the great post cards, to fill in his professional life. I have relations who were in the theater who changed their name to not appear of a certain "affiliation" and be more acceptable on the stage. Thus the Shultz family became the Hilliars.

Bob Scotney said...

I'm very impressed that you have so many cards from Bridlington and could trace the history of the band and Mr Kant. It's many years since I last saw a seaside band.

Wendy said...

44!!??!! He packed a lot of life into a short time. His being German at the "wrong time" reminds me of the plight of the Japanese who for several generations were American but were shuffled off to internment camps anyway.


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