Music and Dance

Carnegie Hall and Nellie Melba: Built by Andrew Carnegie in 1891, Carnegie Hall quickly became the most popular concert hall in New York City. Far less expensive than the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall offered an eclectic range of events. One could hear the New York Symphony conducted by Tchaikovsky or a lecture by Mark Twain.   As early as 1895, comedy acts such as the Amateur Comedy Club had audiences laughing.

On their first date, Nathan and Bessie would hear the famous Australian soprano Nellie Melba at Carnegie Hall. Melba toast and the dessert peach melba are both named after her. Although her concerts focused on well-known arias from Italian and French opera, Melba included popular songs. Always a lady, she wore a hat and carried a small purse while recording “Home Sweet Home”:  Click here.

A BBC Fox Movietone newsreel of her half-mile long funeral procession in Melbourne in 1931 would be seen in movie theaters around the world including at Loew’s and the RKO in New Rochelle: Nellie’s funeral.

Dance Craze: From going to a sleazy dance hall on the Lower East Side to learning the latest dance at an uptown studio to dancing in a ballroom to the big bands, everybody danced. Watch the Hesitation Waltz as Nathan and Bessie would have danced it before they were married: 10 seconds of hesitation waltz

Or how about a lesson in the Fox Trot? 1920s Foxtrot

Young couples loved animal dances such as the Grizzly Bear, but Nathan and Bessie would find them too risqué:  Grizzly Bear

Glen Island and the Big Bands: Bessie celebrated her 19th birthday in 1906 with Nathan at Glen Island, one of the earliest amusement parts in the country. Glen Island closed in 1908 (see General Slocum below), reopening as a dance pavilion and speakeasy during prohibition.

After prohibition, Bessie’s children and their spouses or dates would go to Glen Island to dance to the big band sounds of Ozzie Nelson (long before the 1950s TV sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” fame), Les Brown, and the Dorsey Brothers. In 1939 Glenn Miller and his orchestra would get their start at Glen Island. Listen to a tune from Ozzie Nelson’s orchestra.

Musical Theater

45 Minutes from Broadway: Listen to Bill Murray, a popular early 20th century singer, in the title song from this George M. Cohan musical featuring New Rochelle. Nathan took Bessie to see 45 Minutes from Broadway on one of their first dates. The digital recording is taken from an original Edison cylinder recording from 1906:  Click here to listen.

Showboat: Musical theater focused on comedy and dancing until 1927 when Showboat opened on Broadway. The first musical with a coherent plot and songs, Showboat confronts gambling, poverty, and racism. Bessie, Lou, and their children would have many opportunities to see Showboat on Broadway and at the movies in New Rochelle. Paul Robeson, actor, singer, and civil rights activist, sang the role of Joe in American performances in 1932, 1936,  and 350 times in London. See scenes from Showboat and listen to Robeson sing “Ol Man River”:  Paul Robeson sings “Ol’ Man River.”