The Bandstand

The Park Bandstand…historically it’s the place where gentlemen in their Sunday finest and ladies in white organza dresses listen to music in an idyllic park setting. Over the years it has come to have different connotations and today it’s looked upon as a passé, poorly attended form of entertainment… mostly that is. Because every so often some group gets together and does it right. On Sunday, Aug. 28 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Binney Park the Sound Beach Community Band will perform on such a bandstand and I leave it you to judge if it’s done right. For more info call Parks & Recreation at 203-618-7649.

In Edouard Manet’s infamous 1862 painting “Music in the Tuileries” a typical Parisian Sunday afternoon replete with bandstand entertainment is depicted. The painting was rejected by the jury for its sketchy treatment of modern life. Fashionable Parisians met and mingled in the Tuileries Gardens — hence the title: the men in their black frock coats and tall shining top hats, the women in their full skirts perched precariously on the new wire backed chairs and children playing mischievously. The painting features over a dozen portraits of notable Parisians such as Baudelaire and Champfleury, members of the artistic elite brought together in a crowd that included the artist, and they were all listening to the delightful strains of the bandstand.

In 1880’s London, Hyde Park featured many reputed Bandstand concerts. In the 1890’s, band concerts were held at this bandstand three times a week. The Graphic newspaper of Aug. 31, 1895 wrote: “It is only necessary to see the faces of the large crowd which gathers round the bandstand to know how greatly the boon in bandstands is valued.” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers song “Isn’t it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain” from the 1935 film “Top Hat” was set on the Hyde Park bandstand but actually filmed on a soundstage in Hollywood.

The famous trumpeter, Harry Mortimer, described Hyde Park’s bandstand as “uncomfortable, unsanitary, but much loved.” He did a week’s engagement on the bandstand during World War II in 1944 and wrote in his autobiography: “It is not easy to play or conduct beautiful music with one ear cocked for the sound of a doodle-bug engine, one hand searching for the strap of your gas mask.”

Queen Victoria gave permission for music to be played in Kensington Gardens in 1855. But before a concert could take place, permission was rescinded because of protests from the Archbishop of Canterbury who said music in the gardens would be “unseemly”, and the Keeper of the Privy Purse who thought working people could do without band concerts. The first bandstand was eventually erected in 1869. The design is Regency style with eight delicate iron columns supporting the roof. The shape is said to have better acoustics than the conventional design.

I have every confidence that the upcoming bandstand concert in Binney Park will be a memorable musical event and I urge anyone who can to enjoy it!

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