The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was celebrated as a key moment in the cultural life of the city and the nation. Music played a significant role at the Fair, both in the Exposition proper and on the Midway, from the officially sanctioned orchestral concerts by the new Chicago Symphony Orchestra and other classical musicians to the various cultural ensembles and street musicians on the Midway and beyond. Primarily at the Midway, Americans received their first taste of musical exoticism, including their first exposure to Indonesian gamelan music and the Hawaiian hula. Most visitors regarded the sounds as “cacophonous” rather than musical, but a door had been opened to a wider world of musical experience, and it would never be closed again.
This musical performance with accompanying commentary will feature music drawn from the Newberry’s extensive archive of World’s Columbian Exposition material. The program will include pieces actually heard at the Fair in 1893 as well as compositions that were sold as “souvenir” pieces–i.e., pieces that were quickly written by composers to capitalize on the “Fair craze” that seized the nation and meant to be taken home and performed in living rooms and parlors across the country.