10 Pages

Chapter Four: Music-Hall Songs: a Social Mirror

The image of music-hall that we may well have today is of a large smoke-filled room filled with diners, drinkers and serving women, with a crude entertainment at one end presided over by a chairman. This Master of Ceremonies would be doing his best to ensure some semblance of order, that the artists might stand a chance of being heard. The music halls had their origins in the London Song and Supper Rooms, such as the Cyder Cellars, The Coal Hole and Paddy Green's. Max Beerbohm noted Marie Lloyd's rhythmic sense and her 'exquisitely sensitive ear, impeccable phrasing and timing', which George Bernard Shaw confirmed, adding that 'her intonation and the lilt of her songs are alike perfect'. But this supremacy of the performing artist marked the beginning of a new period of lowly status for the composer.