Around the Christmas Tree quadrille
This quadrille is a set of ‘seasonal’ dance-rhythm pieces for piano in a popular, uncomplicated style, playable by most domestic performers. The cover illustration shows how a Christmas tree of the period might have looked, complete with candles and trinkets nestling in the branches.
Victorian Britain reinvented Christmas in the mid-1800s, introducing or re-introducing many of the traditions familiar to us today: trees, carols, family gatherings, food and drink.
The Victorians even pioneered the idea of what a century later would be called the ‘Christmas single’: seasonal novelty pieces for the thriving market of amateur pianists entertaining at home. The piano was a symbol of gentility and accomplishment, and tens of thousands were sold every year – though the cheapest Broadwood still cost £45, a year’s salary for many manual workers.
Little is known about the composer, Hyppolite (the correct spelling) van Landeghem, a freelance teacher, composer, and polemicist on disabilities, active in South London in the 1860s.
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- Popular culture, The middle classes
Judith Flanders describes how many of our own Christmas traditions – from trees and crackers to cards and carols – have their origins in 19th-century industrial and commercial interests.