Tin Pan Alley was named for the overwhelming collective sound of cheap upright pianos simultaneously playing different tunes during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s known as a landmark district for the birth of popular music of the time. City activists want to ensure the area’s preservation. They have gathered over 17,000 signature via a Care2 petition to name the neighborhood an official cultural historic district. (See the petition here.)
“Save Tin Pan Alley Day” will take place October 22 on 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue from 2 PM to 5 PM. In addition to performances that demonstrate the significance of the district in the history of popular music, there will also be three walking tours offered and an exhibition of Tin Pan Alley sheet music. Activities will be centered at Pergola Restaurant.
The three tours are “Tin Pan Alley and the Tenderloin,” “Tin Pan Alley in Context of Madison Square,” and “African-American Composers and Performers of Tin Pan Alley.”
The activities have been organized by the Save Tin Pan Alley Project Initiative of the 29th Street Neighborhood Association, led by Geroge Calderaro. The organization has advocated historic designation to the area by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, but has been rejected to date.
“Tin Pan Alley’s influence would be hard to overstate,” said Mario Messina, president of the 29th Street Neighborhood Association, in a statement. “Here, for the first time, publishers and songwriters learned to promote, devising techniques of ‘song plugging’ that helped them market sheet music to a buying public. Blues, Broadway, jazz, ragtime, Latin rhythms—all coalesced into a musical force that emanated from this single block.”
The history of the New York City haunt inspired Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2009 play The Tin Pan Alley Rag. Set in 1915, the play is about Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin and their careers at the Tin Pan Alley. The show was written by Mark Saltzman and directed by Stafford Arima.
For more information about the day’s programs, visit SaveTinPanAlley.org.