This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. —— David Skilton

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he form of harmonic recreation known as a smoking concert is at the present day among the most popular of the people's pleasures, and it is partronised as freely by princes as by lesser people.

It is a delightful way to mix intellectual and sensual pleasures in the perfection of dolce far niente [sweet idleness], and the man who cannot get his full measure of rational amusement out of a smoking concert must be indeed difficult to please.

It has for years been the habit of certain people to turn up their noses at the music-halls, and to talk of them as dens of sin and iniquity. There is no doubt that music-halls have their faults, and that some of them do no good, if they do not actually do much harm. But a well-conducted music-hall provides healthy amusement for a class of patrons whose thinking power, if not conspicuous by its absence, is not of the highest order.

The Vocal Comedian

In the music-halls the working-man can smoke his pipe, enjoy his glass of beer, and see a variety entertainment which does not make any serious demands upon his intellect, but which at the same time pleases and amuses him.

To him the entertainment is almost a secondary consideration. It is the privilege of being able to smoke that he enjoys so much, and provided the show given him, along with the right to smoke, be anything like respectable, he will never be heard to complain. It is his smoking concert.

The Chairman

The present craze for smoking concerts is a sort of back-handed compliment to the despised patron of the halls, for with the swell as with the coster the charm lies in the freedom with which the fragrant weed can be indulged in at such entertainments. It is, perhaps, in club land the smoking concert is seen in its most flourishing condition; for in the domain where freedom and Bohemianism grow side by side there are many opportunities of getting together a representative collection of vocal and other talent.

The great artist casts aside his public manners when he turns in to do a song at his club smoking concert, and the man who but a couple of hours before has been worrying people to shut doors and objected to the cigarette of a visitor to the ante-room, will sit and smoke his pipe, and afterwards sing several songs in an atmosphere so thick with tobacco smoke that you could almost cut it with a knife.

In this atmosphere he will stay until daylight, and do far more work than he would put into an engagement at his highest fee.

The Man who tells Funny Stories

There is no restraint about a smoking-concert, and the comic singer is as welcome — generally more so — as the most admirably trained tenor or baritone. These concerts are a sort of go-as-you-please entertainment, and variety is an element seldom if ever absent from them.

I should not be a bit surprised if one of these days the ladies set up opposition and give their concerts with the aid of the mild cigarette and the refreshing cup of coffee. They might do far worse.

As showing how closely allied to the music-halls smoking concerts are, I may point out that in London both public and private promoters of this class of entertainment include in their programme the most popular of the variety artists from the once despised music-halls.

Among the objections to smoke concerts is the fact that they conduce to late hours. There is an insidious temptation to stay 'a few minutes longer.' The few minutes get to an hour, the hour to two, and so on. It takes a great deal of 'two o'clock in the morning courage' to withstand an invitation to have another glass, especially if the talent provided and the spirituous liquid be equally palatable.

One of the Audience

Yet they are a pleasant form of amusement, and with all their faults they are far more enjoyable to the majority of people than the ordinary set and formal entertainment known as a 'popular concert.' The beauty of the average 'smoker' is that it does not confine itself to any one line of feature, but makes all fish that comes into its net, with the result that if one item does not please another has a chance of doing so. Taken all round, 'smokers' are not things to be avoided, but rather looked upon as the latest phase of sociability to be fostered and cultivated.

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Last modified 27 April 2022