The History of Circus Music: An Introduction to This Fun Summer Family Activity by the Royal Canadian Circus
Almost everybody’s heard of the “Entry of the Gladiators” instrumental that accompanies every cartoon depiction of a circus or carnival. But did you know that other forms of popular music like waltzes and foxtrots can be described in a similar style? In fact, there is a rich history of carnival-based music that you might not know when you visit the Royal Canadian Circus this year for a fun summer family activity.
So, as you awe at the performances, acrobats, and aerialists, remember what you will learn about circus music in the next few minutes.
In the Beginning
While there is still controversy over whether Ancient Roman circuses could be considered real circuses, circus culture nonetheless began with the Roman practice of entertaining the masses through public spectacle.
Circus music, on the other hand, started early on as fiddler music. It wasn’t until the 20th century when large bands of musicians came together to produce the music you hear in the big red and white tent for a fun summer family activity.
The First Circus
Philip Astley, the original inventor of the circus and a skilled equestrian, made the first Paris-based circus in 1782. His partner, Charles Dibdin, financed the theater where it happened and produced the music, making him the first circus music composer. He was well-known at the time and produced many other works before partnering with Astley.
At this circus, he published intermezzos, music that would bridge performances, and a few comedy pieces. Sixty children were enlisted as singers for tracks like “Clump and Cudden,” “The Graces,” and “Pandora.” The last of which was once used in satirical puppet shows of the time.
Since they add so much to the flair of this fun summer family activity, it makes sense that a lot of works have been produced in this subgenre of music.
Julius Fucik composed the famous “Entrance of the Gladiators” mentioned in the introduction. Known as the “Bohemian Sousa” from how many compositions he made in his career, Fucik unintentionally crafted the most famous circus piece known in modern times even though he never expected his work to be played at a circus.
Another famous composer was Karl King, who composed “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite.” He started by playing baritone at the age of 19. Unlike Julius, King wrote specifically for the circus audience and produced unique music at a time when modern popular pieces didn’t fit in with the performances.
One piece you probably wouldn’t expect is “Stars and Stripes Forever,” which is played at circuses when emergencies come up to alert the workers.
Fun Summer Family Activities | Royal Canadian Circus | Scarborough, Mississauga, Milton
Present-day circus music varies wildly in instrumentation and style thanks to years of circus music culture. If you want to experience it all for yourself or with your family, purchase your tickets online at the Royal Canadian Circus today.
The Royal Canadian Circus Spectac! 2019 will have shows running from July 18th till August 18th, 2019 across Ontario at locations in Etobicoke, Scarborough, Mississauga, Milton, and Burlington. Consider donating a few tickets as well to children in need. Interested in learning more? Contact us today!
• There is a surprisingly rich history and variety behind circus music, dating back to Philip Astley’s first showing in Paris centuries ago.
• Circus music has been crafted by many composers to reflect the high-energy and anticipation of the circus acts.
• Are you looking for fun summer family activities to share this vacation? Why not try out the Royal Canadian Circus. Nowhere else can you find this many professional performers all coming together in one place.