And the Band Played On

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Wars, poor harvests, and exhausted mines often forced the population of my home province into other professions besides farming. One of the most interesting occupations that grew out of necessity was that of itinerant musicians. During its heyday, from around 1860 to World War I, thousands of musicians traveled to France, England, Switzerland, Holland, Australia, and especially the United States. They played in seaside resorts (England), spas, circuses, symphony orchestras, on ships or at special events.

Some of them remained in the U.S., while others returned home regularly and built houses that still stand to this day. At home, businesses benefited by providing fabric, uniforms, shoes, and instruments for the travelers.

World War I spelled the end of an era for the itinerant musicians. By the time Germans were allowed to travel again, entertainment had shifted to records, radio, and movies. Their history is preserved in a fascinating museum, the Musikantenlandmuseum Burg Lichtenberg. Here you will learn about the life of an instrument maker, admire instruments, read original letters, and marvel at souvenirs from around the globe while listening to original music.

 

 

Image: Dieter Hahn, commons.wikimedia.org

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