Downton Abbey and Music

And I'll bet they all loved music.(Photo: PBS)
And I'll bet they all loved music.(Photo: PBS)

 

You’re addicted, I’m addicted, everyone’s addicted, we can deny it all we like but never mind The Good Wife, Sunday nights now belong to PBS. Journey back to the good old days of huge, richly furnished houses, landed aristocracy with problems and bad behavior, and devoted and scheming servants below stairs. Downton Abbey is here to stay. Don’t believe me? The Guinness Book of World Records calls it the most acclaimed TV series ever. Take that, Tony Soprano!

What do you suppose the music of the time meant to the householders above and below stairs? Venturing some guesses:

Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville): Sturdy stuff, brass bands and an occasional hymn in the parish church.  One would sing lustily, and out of tune. I wager ‘Christ is Made the Sure Foundation’ to be a favorite. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ will have his Lordship in tears every time.

Lady Grantham ( Elizabeth McGovern), the American born lady of the manor, whose vast personal fortune enables the lifestyle to continue, said money to be lost as no male heir has been produced:  Lady Grantham would have frequented the Academy of Music in New York in her youth, and-to be seen-her Aunt  would have had a box in the Metropolitan Opera. Gently raised, her Ladyship would have heard Caruso at the Met, and grown up on stories of Tchaikovsky conducting at Carnegie Hall.

Matthew Crawley (Dan Sevens), the heir presumptive, a distant cousin, would have made time for the annual 1000 voiced Messiah in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall

The Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) would have found music and musicians annoying.

Mr. Carson (butler): We discovered he had a music hall past, over which this worthy man was shamed and offered to resign (not accepted.)  That said, he likes a touch of Elgar in the drawing-room (Salut d’amour was played last week for a charity concert) and is not above a few choruses on My Old Woman’s an Awful Boozer with a few pops in him.

Mrs. Crawley (Penelope Wilton),  Matthew’s mother, would have seen to piano lessons for the young lad, though she prefers the violin, and was devoted to the American violinist Maud Powell (1867-1920)

Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) has enough problems with her First Time interrupted when the gentleman died before his socks came off, and having to have the body dealt with not only by the chambermaid but her own mother.  Still, Lady Mary does the season in London (one does),  and tolerates Tetrazzini and McCormack at Covent Garden, while secretly yearning for Fritz Kreisler in the Queen’s Hall.

Thomas (William Mason), the evil footman, has no time for band concerts of starchy hymns. He’s a closet Wagnerian!

O’Brein (Siobhan Fineran) likes whatever a broomstick riding witch is supposed to like.

Lord And Lady Grantham would have entertained Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) . The Dowager Countess wold have found him ‘trade’ and decidedly low rent. Beecham’s fortune came from his father’s pharmaceutical empire, chiefly ‘Beecham’s Pills’, which did for the body what sometimes needed to be done for the body. Still, Sir Thomas brought the Ballet Russes to Great Britain and lived a louche private life.

Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931) may have visited. This might have been successful since that lady was known to have been a favorite of Queen Victoria, and what’s good for the goose…

Delius and Holst were still too foreign to be acceptable, their British roots going back less than 100 years.  Rachmaninoff would do, not to listen to of course (the ladies!), but it doesn’t hurt to have a dour Russian lurking about. Stravinsky? No. Puccini? Good Lord, those Eyetalians!

 

 

 

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