Article Concert Life in Philadelphia before the Revolutionary War

Image: The state-house in Philadelphia 1776
Detail from " The state-house in Philadelphia 1776." John Serz, engraver. Philadelphia: Janentzky & Co., c1873. Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-DIG-pga-04142

The first documented public concert in Philadelphia took place in the Assembly Hall of the Masonic Lodge in Lodge Alley, the first Masonic lodge in the United States, on January 25, 1757. The concert was organized by Mr. John Palma, about who little is known. According to a notice in the Pennsylvania Journal, tickets could be acquired at the London Coffee-House and cost one dollar each. The concert must have been at least a moderate success, since a second concert took place a few months later in the same venue. The second concert on March 25, 1757 was attended by George Washington, at the time only a young military officer, but it is the first documented instance of Washington attending a public concert in Philadelphia, which he would do on a regular basis in the subsequent years.

Public concerts in Philadelphia were relatively rare before the first "subscription" concert series (meaning that audience members were required to buy "season tickets" to attend any of the concerts) was established in 1764. The lack of public concerts was due, in part, to the active private concert life enjoyed by the city's cognoscenti in the homes of such prominent Philadelphians as composer and diplomat Francis Hopkinson, John Penn, the last governor of colonial Pennsylvania, and James Bremner, the organist at St. Peter's Church and Hopkinson's teacher.

On the theatrical stage, Philadelphia was home to one of the premiere opera companies in the colonies. The American Company of Comedians performed operas (in a style closer to Broadway musicals than to Grand Opera) in Philadelphia as early as 1750. Despite their success, by 1775 the company had decided to embark for Jamaica "where they intend exerting their justly applauded talents for the entertainment of the ladies and gentlemen of that polite and opulent island, until the unhappy differences that subsist between the mother country and her colonies in America subside." (New York Mercury, Feb. 6, 1775)

About this Item

Title
Concert Life in Philadelphia before the Revolutionary War
Subject Headings
-  Parlor and Concert Stage
-  Songs and Music
-  the new nation (1783-1815)
-  Articles
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Online Format
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online text
Description
The first documented public concert in Philadelphia took place in the Assembly Hall of the Masonic Lodge in Lodge Alley, the first Masonic lodge in the United States, on January 25, 1757. The concert was organized by Mr. John Palma, about who little is known. According to a notice in the Pennsylvania Journal, tickets could be acquired at the London Coffee-House and cost one dollar each. The concert must have been at least a moderate success, since a second concert took place a few months later in the same venue. The second concert on March 25, 1757 was attended by George Washington, at the time only a young military officer, but it is the first documented instance of Washington attending a public concert in Philadelphia, which he would do on a regular basis in the subsequent years.
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