The Twelfth Day of an 1862 Christmas…

On the twelfth day of Christmas the 1862 Committee gave to me… twelve Drummers Drumming

View of the East Entrance to the International Exhibition Building, South Kensington, 1862, photograph, Victoria and Albert Museum, 41: 219 © V&A, 2014

View of the East Entrance to the International Exhibition Building, South Kensington, 1862, photograph, Victoria and Albert Museum, 41: 219 © V&A, 2014

For our final post on the twelve days of an 1862 Christmas, let us conclude by having a look at the interior of the exhibition in this contemporary photograph.  Imagine the hustle and bustle, the sights, the sounds, the noise, the smells.  This was a place of show, competition, wonder and awe.  This atmosphere was created by the people and activities that were conducted in this space, as much as the huge number of objects on display.  On the 31st July 1862 the New York Times published an article from their own correspondent, reporting back to America about the prize giving ceremony held at the 1862 International Exhibition.  Despite finding the affair somewhat bewildering, and noting that if he had had to listen to any more military music someone would have got hurt (!), the author was complimentary of the quality of the music played.  Or we should say, the quality of most of the music played.  Given particular attention in this report were the band from Egypt:

“composed almost exclusively of Arabs and clarionets, with an infidel drum and a dog of a trombone that would not be silenced.” 1.

While most of the other musicians played with sensitivity and musicality, the American in London described how the Egyptian drummer sporadically broke out in random, but loud flourishes of his sticks as a means of attempting to organise the direction of the Egyptian delegation.  Perhaps our American friend should have counted his lucky stars that the Eqyptians had one, rather than twelve, drummers drumming.

1. ‘The International Exhibition: The Ceremonies of the 11th Bands, Especially Those of Norway and Egypt Corrected List of Awards America’s Position in the International Race.’, The New York Times, 31st July, 1862, http://www.nytimes.com/1862/07/31/news/international-exhibition-ceremonies-11th-bands-especially-those-norway-egypt.html [accessed, 23.12.2013]

© Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, 2014

 

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