Cities are Alive with the Sound of Music: Saengerfest and the Transformation of Urban Public Music in Nineteenth-century America

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Abstract

This article examines the development of outdoor public music in American cities during the nineteenth century and develops three primary arguments. Organized and recreational forms of public music – such as musical festivals and outdoor band concerts – became commonplace and integral to city life during the second half of the nineteenth century. Second, German-American singing festivals (Saengerfests) were major public events during the mid-nineteenth century and helped create this recreational public music culture by demonstrating how organized and recreational public music could enhance city life and suggesting to commentators and public officials that it could serve as a tool of reform. Third, public music – such as occurred during Saengerfests – helped bridge social divisions and made American cities more socially fluid, even at a time when some aspects of civic life were becoming more divided and contentious.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-296
Number of pages28
JournalAmerican Nineteenth Century History
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2 2015

Keywords

  • band concerts
  • musical festivals
  • public music
  • Saengerfest
  • singing societies

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