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date: 22 October 2019


  • Frederick Crane


Educational movement begun in Massachusetts, USA, in 1826. Its founder Josiah Holbrook (1788–1854) conceived a national network of local groups whose members aimed to improve each others’ minds by lectures, discussions and presentations. Soon there were thousands of groups all over the USA, and professional touring speakers largely replaced local presenters. Music was at first only occasionally discussed; among the speakers were Lowell Mason and John Sullivan Dwight.

After the Civil War professional lyceum bureaus were formed to manage the travelling talent. The Redpath Lyceum Bureau, founded by James Redpath (1833–91) in 1868, eventually comprised a dozen semi-independent offices in all parts of the USA and one in Canada. The lyceum movement remained high-minded but now placed more emphasis on entertainment. By the 1900s music had become the largest element in the programmes. Lectures and performances were given throughout the autumn, winter and spring; singers, instrumental soloists and ensembles, choruses and bands appeared. Many of the presenters also appeared on the ...

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The New Grove Dictionary of American Music