In the steadily growing inland port town of Ipswich on the Bremer River, popular entertainments were starting to be staged in the late 1850s. A purpose built Music Hall had been constructed behind a hotel near the river. In 1857, a touring group performed an American variety programme, popular at the time, which featured items from minstrel shows. The local press gave extensive coverage to a performance by the “New Orleans Serenaders”.

Advertisement for the Steam packet Hotel (The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser 5.8.1857)

THE NEW ORLEANS' SERENADERS. — During the past few days these talented musicians have given a series of entertainments, which were but thinly attended, owing to the inclemency of the weather; and, on Saturday evening last, they gave their farewell vocal and instrumental concert to a highly respectable and numerous audience, under the patronage of Colonel Gray, P.M., at the new Music Hall — a spacious wood building ---lately erected, behind the Steam-Packet Hotel, East Street.

The programme consisted of a first-rate selection of songs, refrains, burlesques, dances &c, among   which may be particularly noticed "the Opening Chorus" a well merited and literary production, which was sung with great taste;

'Lilly Bell' was also rendered in a truly pathetic manner, and called forth universal applause; "the Medley Chorus" was very creditably introduced, each performer joining in merry chime in the harmonious strain , the favourite ballad "We met by chance'' was very happily accomplished; the humorous song "Jordan's a hard road to travel," introducing many popular local topics, was received with much enthusiasm, and led to an encore: "the Blue-tail fly" (with imitations), created much merriment, the humming having been so successfully rendered as almost to deceive even the entomologist ;

the duet, "Sally is the gal for me", which was performed on the banjo and a horses' jaw-bones, produced much mirth; the Challenge dance, between Boley and Carson, was admirably executed, the betting of the performers having concluded entirely in favour of Dave Carson, which was conducted with great hilarity and emulation, both speculators very faithfully depicting the delineations of the coloured population of America.

Blackface Minstrels (University of Texas at Austin)

The evening's performances concluded with Miss Fanny Bloomer, in costume, by J. M. Foans, which was most effectually portrayed with much grace and spirit, and loudly elicited universal applause.

The whole evening's amusements were well responded to, and the unanimous approbation received stamps the company as a most clever and proficient troupe. The violin was played by Brower: the banjo by Boley; the tamborine by Foans; and the bones by Carson, the two latter gentlemen kept the audience in complete roars of laughter with their jokes and gestures.

Should they ever revisit our township, we trust that so interesting an entertainment will not be marred by   the absence of fine weather and good roads.[1]

Magic Lantern (Wikimedia)

Not all entertainments at the Music Hall were variety shows. Also popular at the time were magic lantern shows, featuring hand painted coloured slides, called Chromatropes[2], of diverse subjects such as scenes from foreign cities, nature, and “comic Figures”.

Magic lanterns were an early form of projector, using a variety of non-electric light sources such as limelight. By moving two superimposed coloured slides, action scenes could be simulated.

The program was invariably accompanied by a narration and piano music.

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser 15.12.1857

Many shows were presented by a self-styled professor, featuring new wonders of invention and illusion.  In 1859, Professor Bennet Clay visited Ipswich and set up his show at the Music Hall.

Magic Lantern Show (Wikimedia)

The program was finished with a magic lantern presentation. Popular at the time were scenes from the battlefront and in the 1850s, these were from the Crimean War.

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser 5.4.1859
© K. C. Sbeghen, 2013.

[1] The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser Tuesday 25 August 1857

[2] A magic-lantern slide consisting of two superposed circular glasses, brilliantly coloured,            one of which is made to rotate in front of the other. OED

[3] The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser Tuesday 15 December 1857

[4] A musical instrument named for the Greek muse of music, Euterpe.

[5] The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser Tuesday 5 April 1859



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