Far from the Fashionable Crowd is the story of the many organizations that brought classical music to Victorian London's working classes, now largely forgotten. It tells of their endeavour, their successes and their failures, and of the extraordinary reception given to the concerts in the most deprived districts of the East End.
Particular emphasis is given to the activities of the People's Concert Society and its main offspring, the South Place Sunday Concerts, since they were the most enduring. But the book also tells of the People's Entertainment Society, the musical exploits of the Kyrle Society and of the various settlements, including Toynbee Hall, Bermondsey and Passmore Edwards (now the Mary Ward Settlement).
Meanwhile, the suburban middle classes were also avid for Brahms and Beethoven, and three case studies here examine the musical activity in some of the capital's outlying middle-class districts during the late-Victorian and Edwardian periods. Concert life in Hampstead, Surbiton and Woodford is compared with that of the East End of the capital.
Alan Bartley MA, PhD
Born in London's East End in 1933, the author has a keen interest in the history and culture of the inhabitants of this often-maligned part of our capital; not only the native Londoners but also the people who, from all parts of the world, have contributed their customs and their music.
A career as arts editor and concert reviewer provided the opportunity to indulge a life-long love of music of every genre, traditional jazz and music of the 18th and 19th centuries being particular passions. At the same time, experience as a concert secretary and in publicity and marketing brought realization of the economics of music-making, as well as enabling close contact with performers and their listeners.
It was this that stimulated an interest in that vital aspect of any concert or recital, the audience and their reception of the music. How might they have been prepared for what they were to hear? How did they respond to it, and why? Did experiencing the music have any lasting effect?
The discovery that a branch of Victorian philanthropy brought classical music to London's working classes demanded answers to these questions and brought the author's two enthusiasms together. After six years delving in the archives of the city's local history libraries, its material largely gleaned from contemporary newspaper reports, Far from the Fashionable Crowd summarizes his findings.