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The early 20th-century community singing movement was an organized effort by music educators, composers, musicians, and others to refine the quality of American patriotism, morality, musical taste, and sense of interconnectedness, as well as to better define American culture. This movement resulted in the publication of 18 Songs for Community Singing, a songbook that included patriotic songs, Stephen Foster classics, and European folk songs. Simultaneously, the United States War Department led programs for establishing community singing. Eventually the music industry took the mantle of community singing to popularize and sell their products. Community singing soon manifested as the organ solo in picture palace programs and was widely discussed in trade publications by the mid-1920s. Organ solos aimed to reflect the audiences’ taste, yet the audiences’ taste and familiarity was defined by the community singing programs and the music industry. Consequently, the organ solos often featured a mixture of music, such as the contents of 18 Songs for Community Singing and commercial music. To better understand what organ solos reveal about early 20th-century American values, I have analyzed nearly 250 trade published reviews of organ solos from 1915 to 1927 that appeared in the Exhibitors Herald, Variety, and Motion Pictures News. Using the Database of American Sing-Along Repertoire, I have analyzed the content of the songs performed at these events, identifying frequent themes including African American stereotypes, nostalgia, patriotism, and love. I will discuss these themes and how organ solos effected American communities.


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  • Subject
    • Music

  • Institution
    • Dahlonega

  • Event location
    • MPR 3

  • Event date
    • 22 March 2019

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Dr. Esther Morgan-Ellis