J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Concert “turned topsy turvy”

Though the Boston Whigs sneered that few young ladies attended the 22 Dec 1768 musical assembly at Concert Hall (as quoted yesterday), the 29 December Boston News-Letter gave the event more respectful coverage:

Thursday evening, the Assembly for the winter began at Concert Hall; at which, were present, the Honourable the Commissioners of the Custom, Commodore [Samuel] Hood, Brigadier General [John] Pomeroy, and most of the Gentlemen of the army and navy, &c. &c.
The commodore is shown here in a portrait from fifteen years later, after he had become an admiral and a baronet. (Eventually Hood was made a viscount.)

The next subscription or “private Concert,” a Boston News-Letter advertisement clarified on 12 January, was scheduled for the 25th.

In the meantime, the pro-Crown newspapers advertised another musical event:
of Vocal and Instrumental Musick
To be performed at Concert-Hall,
On FRIDAY the 13th
People could buy tickets for half a dollar at the newspapers’ printers or “the London Book-Store in King street,” which was run by John Mein, also co-owner of the Boston Chronicle.

That concert also got positive reviews from the pro-Crown press, as in the 16 January Boston Post-Boy:
Last Friday Evening there was a grand Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music at Concert Hall, at which were present a very polite Company.
James Joan was the main performer, if not the only one.

According to the Whigs, however, audience members weren’t so polite at Joan’s concert, and they behaved even worse at the first subscription concert on 25 January:
The court concert of the last evening was it seems, turned topsy turvy, as Joan the Italian’s was a week or two before—

Some officers of the army were for a little dancing after the music, and being told that G[overno]r B[ernar]d did not approve of their proposal, they were for sending him home to eat his bread and cheese, and otherwise treated him as if he had been a mimick G[overno]r; they then called out to the band to play the Yankee Doodle tune, or the Wild Irishman, and not being gratified they grew noisy and clamorous…
Gov. Francis Bernard had evidently asked the military officers to tone down their festivities in deference to local tastes. Even though he wasn’t at the assembly, the Whigs nonetheless managed to tie the disorder to him.

TOMORROW: And what disorder it was!

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