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Boston: Concert life to 1881  

Joseph Horowitz

The earliest documented public concert in America took place in Boston on 30 December 1731, in ‘Mr Pelham’s Great Room’. Among the city’s leading musicians in subsequent decades was the organist William Selby, who came from England in 1771 and directed a performance of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus (accompanied by the 64th Regimental Band) two years later. A seminal figure was the German-born Gottlieb Graupner, who arrived in 1797 having served as oboist in Haydn’s London orchestra. As conductor, publisher, and music and instrument dealer, Graupner was an entrepreneurial force. His Philo-Harmonic Society, begun in 1809 and lasting at least until 1824, resembled a club as much as a pioneering orchestra; its repertory included Haydn alongside many now forgotten composers. Graupner was also in 1815 a founding member of the Handel and Haydn Society, America’s oldest enduring oratorio society. George K. Jackson, the first doctor of music to settle in America (in ...