BBC Music Magazine : 2019-04-17

First Transconti­nental Railroad : 45 : 47

First Transconti­nental Railroad

47 BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE Tourist. ‘Merry-making and jokes, conversati­on and reading pass the time until 10 o’clock, when we retire.’ Among the first symphony orchestras to hit the rails were the New York Philharmon­ic, which ventured to Detroit and Kansas City in 1882, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which gave annual concerts in Chicago between 1886 and 1893. Opera companies also caught the touring bug. New York’s Metropolit­an Opera embarked on its first west coast tour in 1900, in five weeks travelling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Lincoln, Kansas City and Minneapoli­s. The conductor Walter Damrosch establishe­d the Damrosch Opera Company in 1894, specialisi­ng in German opera and travelling to 27 cities on one tour. Oscar ★ammerstein I (grandfathe­r of the famous lyricist) created the short-lived Manhattan Opera Company in 1906, which also enjoyed a busy touring schedule. The Met’s tours were for decades central to the company’s lore, rooted in the maxim that ‘everything but the opera house must go’. Crates of scenery and costumes were trucked to rail yards as soon as the curtain closed on the Some of the early 1870s Pullman cars were even equipped with organs revues, operettas, magic acts, ‘horse operas’ and minstrel shows, often staged by resident stock theatre companies. Still, the word ‘opera’ had a magic to it. With the constructi­on of theatres, the number of singers and troupes traversing the country exploded. One of the railroad’s earliest passengers was the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, who in February 1870 rode the newly opened Union Pacific Railroad to San Francisco, pleased to avoid the onerous trip across the Isthmus of Panama, where he had previously contracted yellow fever. Though there are few published details about Bull’s journey, contempora­neous accounts suggest that music was sometimes performed on the trains themselves. Some of the early 1870s Pullman cars were even equipped with organs, and the evenings brought ‘musicales’ by travelling theatre troupes. ‘Music sounds on the prairie and dies away far over the plains,’ wrote ★enry Williams in The Pacific

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