Many of the circus clowns (who often performed in blackface in the early part of
the century) were also minstrel performers or later became minstrel performers.
There was a significant overlap in the music, too. Foster, yes, but many, many
other composers as well. And opera was one of the favorite targets of
post-bellum blackface minstrel parody.
From: Alan Kitty <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Sun, March 17, 2013 8:56:41 AM
Subject: Re: Horse Opera
Presume the music one might hear at a circus of the period might have been c=
alliope music by Stephen foster? It's a guess based on Twain's love of the e=
asily played minstrel tunes by the composer.
Sent from my iPhone
On Mar 16, 2013, at 7:22 PM, Robert E Stewart <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> In the first known article signed " Yours, dreamily, Mark Twain," referenc=
> is made by Twain of his playing the piano. He wrote: "I sat down to the=20=
> piano and sang - however, what I sang is of no consequence to anybody. It =
> was only a graceful little gem from the horse opera. "
> A dictionary today says Horse Opera is "A film or other theatrical work=20=
> about the American West; a western"
> The first written "westerns," often later called "Dime Novels" or "Dime =20=
> Westerns" made their appearance in about 1860. But of course, no western =20=
> movies until a long time after that. So what was the music Twain was play=
> the ivory keys at former California governor J. Neely Johnson's party in=20=
> Carson City?=20
> The Sheboygan Journal of May 21, 1857, page one, col. three says ". . . t=
> the circus, more tastefully termed the 'horse opera,' which last is=20
> patronized to a greater extent in this city than any other place of amuse=
> found a few other newspaper references confirming it as a mid-1800s term=20=
> for a Circus.
> Twain, taught piano by his sister, was tinkling out a piece of circus=20
> music of the period.
> Bob Stewart