Keeping a Shop; How Musicians of a Previous Era Managed to Survive #1

I entered the musical scene in London, England in mid 1945; which by then was rapidly changing.  I mentioned in previous blogposts the state of the musical profession pre.WWII which was a lot different compared with nowadays. In the old days not many people owned a telephone, so musicians were contacted by letter or telegram and also sought work in London by hanging around the Archer Street H.Q. of the Musicians’ Union in the West End which I visited  once in 1945.    Everyone carried a business card that they proferred to anybody whom they thought might give them work.  There was a small cafeteria and a notice board plus a poste restante and a telephone. It was all very primitive but it seemed to work.
Hitherto most musicians relied on what was called a “shop”, i.e. a theatre where they could be assured of an adequate (or barely adequate) living,  and most theatres allowed them to put in a deputy if they were offered a better paying gig outside the theatre.  There were many tea shops and restaurants that employed musicians and in the summer there was a migration to the seaside where practically all the major resorts employed a temporary summertime orchestra, also there were the dance bands and ships orchestras  that flourished.
During  the war many theatres had been bombed and were never repaired, and also the state of the economy had changed and developers eyed some of them for building supermarkets, Bingo halls and bowling alleys which were just coming into fashion, also so many fine theatres were demolished. Then there were technical improvements in the sound industry which have continued to this day.  We now have “virtual orchestras’, recorded music in the pit for ballet music etc,  home entertainment, the television, the telephone, the cell phone etc.etc.

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Published in: on June 2, 2008 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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