The History of Music Hall

Samantha PillingHistory

Music Hall

Our music hall themed murder mystery dinners are incredibly popular. With many of the actors previously completing stints in the West End, the acting, murder and mayhem are always well received. But for those of you who haven’t heard of music hall, what exactly is it and why do we use that as the theme for our murder mystery evenings?

Music hall and Victorian history

Music hall played an important part in Victorian history. It originated in the saloon bars within public houses during the 1830s, but went on to give professional songwriters a platform for new songs and music. They went on to become an important part of an industrial conflict between actors and stagehands, against the theatre managers, before paving the way for what was to become the modern-day variety performance theatres.

The Grecian Saloon

One of the most famous music halls was the Grecian Saloon at The Eagle. Set back off City Road, the Grecian later became known as the Grecian Theatre. Proprietor of the Gaiety Theatre, London, and friend of W.S. Gilbert, is said to have described the Grecian Saloon as the father and mother of music hall. Like other music halls at the time, entertainment consisted of singing, drama, dancing and comedy.

The entertainment music hall produced, sounds like that of the theatre, but music hall had one major difference – the layout. Unlike theatres, music halls had long tables running their length. Visitors could then sit at the table, with their drink, watching the entertainment unfold.

From music hall to variety theatre

At the height of the music hall era, there were 78 large music halls in the metropolis and 300 smaller ones. Stricter licensing requirements and the improvement of cinema, along with the development of radio and cheaper gramophones, led to the demise of the traditional music hall. Many were redeveloped or rebuilt as variety theatres – the London Pavilion was one such example.

Rebuilt in 1885, using the best architecture and the highest quality décor, the Pavilion, illuminated with electric lighting and boosting luxurious foyers, became a deluxe theatre of variety and splendour.

The demise of the music hall

Music hall continued until the late 1900s. With competition from the modern music scene, as well as other theatres, radio and television, the largest music hall chain, Moss Empires, closed most of its theatres in 1960. A few years later, the English comedian and music hall stalwart, Max Miller died. It is said that, upon his death, music died also. Max Miller, also known as the ‘Cheeky Chappie’, was regarded as the greatest comedian of his generation. He, along with the likes of Gracie Fields and George Formby, made their name on the music hall stage – and they helped pave the way for the modern-day variety performers of today.

Why not experience one of our popular Murder Mystery Dinners for yourself! Not only is it a great evening out, you get to enjoy a sumptuous three-course meal too. Check out our events calendar, for further details: Grim’s Dyke Entertainment Calendar

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