This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Herr Blomé's Berlin Meister Orchestra

18 July 2010

Music was an important part of holiday life at all the great resorts and in Britain around 1900 the biggest and best holiday destination was the seaside town of Blackpool. In the second half of the 19th century, it became the premier place for entertainment when improvements in the lives of the British working and middle classes allowed extra money to be spent on leisure time.

In 1893 the Victoria Pier (later renamed South pier) was opened as the third amusement pier along Blackpool's Golden Mile promenade. One of the featured musical groups was Herr Blomé's Berlin Meister Orchestra. They probably played popular songs and dance tunes and may have assisted in larger musical events. The Victoria Pier was marketed as being more upscale in its entertainment with concerts of symphonic and choral music. But the dance floor music was undoubtedly the draw for many holiday-goers.

This second photo with the larger orchestra is unique by including an oboe (middle row - 2nd R) and clarinets in three keys (Bb, A, & Eb). There is a horn player too (back row - 2nd R). Were these Berlin or Prussian musicians? It is possible, as many Germans immigrated to England at this time. But I found one reference to a musician named George Stewart - born in Glasgow 1870, studied music in Berlin, taught singing in Edinburgh, and toured with the Berlin Meisters Orchestra for two years. He played horn. Stewart emigrated to Canada in 1912 and made a career in music and conducting in Ontario.
The Canadian Encyclopedia - George Stewart

At some time Herr Blome must have produced some spin-off groups or may simply have changed names, and here we have his Viennese Band under a different conductor with the not very Austrian name of Garforth Mortimer. There is an oboe here too (back row - 3rd R) for class. The uniforms are similar but no hats. No doubt their specialty were the waltzes, polkas and gallops of Johan Strauss, Jr.

These postcards include no written identification and were never posted. The photographer was Y. Burns, The Studio, Victoria Pier, Blackpool. But two postcards have a curious divided back with the instruction on the left side: "FOR INLAND POSTAGE ONLY THIS SPACE MAY NOW BE USED FOR COMMUNICATIONS". The postal rules for the first postcards did not allow any message to be written on the back except the addressee. This was called the undivided back. In 1902 the rules changed in the UK to allow a message on the left side (in the US it was 1907), so a postcard with a printed instruction like this would have been produced probably in the years 1902-1905.

By 1914, and the start of WWI, Herr Blome's successful ensembles must have rushed to change their names. Even the British Royal Family changed from Saxe-Coberg to the House of Windsor. Perhaps Herr Blome changed his name too.

1 comment:

Brett Payne said...

Hi Mike,

I have a postcard portrait of my great-great-grandmother also taken at the Victoria Pier studio of Y(oung) Burns, which I'm currently researching. It occurs to me that I may be able to deduce something from the postcard designs - I'll contact you by email for scans of the reverse of these.

The building behind Herr Blome's Berlin-Meister Orchestra in the second image looks very much like one of the two buildings at the entrance to the South Pier, and I suspect this was the location for Burns' studio. I will continue my search for more information, but your post has provided the breakthrough - thank you. It seems quite likely that my g-grandmother was entertained by this orchestra, or one like it, on the day she had her portrait taken, 19th August 1910.

Burns was in partnership with a photographer named Ashton at Victoria Pier from 1904, but operated under his own name from 1907 until 1918.


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