The Christmas tree quadrille
This quadrille, ‘composed on old songs for young singers’, is for piano and child singers in a simple style, easily playable by young performers. The composer, Henry Schallehn (1815–1891), was a German musician active in Canada.
The cover illustration shows how a Christmas tree of the period might have looked, complete with jaunty international flag and trinkets nestling in the branches, and children dancing underneath.
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.
- 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.