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Sharon McCoy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 17 Mar 2013 06:29:48 -0700
text/plain (62 lines)
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=
ing on=20
> 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=
ment." I=20
> 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