Friday, October 12, 2007

Music to Their Ears

Did you learn a musical instrument growing up? I learned to play the piano. I loved playing, but I always got in trouble for not practicing enough. And I couldn’t stand recitals. All those people watching, all those fingers flying. Not much good ever came of it, that I could see.

Fashionable young ladies in the 1800s were also expected to learn to play an instrument and to practice until they were proficient. Obviously, the young lady here has learned her lessons well. Even the cherubs have stopped to listen.

A proper young lady would never play professionally, of course, though there were plenty of opportunities to play for family and friends. Sometimes a young musician would play for the family to entertain them after dinner. Musicales, where several people took turns playing or singing, were quite popular, at least for the proud mothers. I imagine quite a few young ladies would have preferred to stay home or play cards.

The harp was a frequent choice of instrument, as were the piano and the spinet, which was a type of harpsichord. Other types of harpsichords had mostly fallen out of favor by this time, although a few likely remained in some families. Some young ladies also learned to play the flute or violin. There was also an ophiclide, a tall, ungainly horn that was the forerunner of a tuba. I made the villainess in my current work-in-progress play that instrument. Someone like her should.

Maybe I’ll even make her give a recital.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

One of my favorite scenes in Pride & Prejudice is when Mary entertains by playing and signing at one of the balls. It always reminds me of school recitals.