- Beth E. Levy
Although the term “pageant” has a substantial history in reference to European liturgical drama and postwar beauty contests, the dramatic form known as the pageant held special significance for American composers between the 1910s and the 1930s. Combining spoken dialogue, dance or pantomime, and musical numbers, pageants were most often staged outdoors and were usually characterized by some type of civic or social aim and by amateur or community involvement, sometimes on a massive scale.
The most widely propagated type of pageant was the community or historical pageant. Bringing the ideals of the new pageantry movement in Great Britain across the Atlantic, William Chauncy Langdon and the American Pageant Association (founded in 1913) advocated an episodic, locally generated drama in which “the place is the hero and its history is the plot.” For such productions the music was often a pragmatic pastiche of old favorites, contrafacta, and newly composed scores. Ernest Richard Kroeger and Frederick Shepherd Converse wrote music for the gargantuan ...