Season 1, Episode 7: Irresistible Change

Aida (10:23): Gladys Russell is looking for a location to practice a dance called a quadrille for her coming-out ball, and gives Carrie Astor a tour of the family ballroom (filmed in the Breakers music room in Newport, R.I.), which garners the remark:

Carrie Astor: “My golly.”

Gladys Russell: “I thought we might practice in here.”

Carrie Astor: “We could rehearse a new production of “Aida” in here and still have plenty of room to spare.”

“Aida” is a reference to Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s opera that premiered in Cairo in 1871. It was immediately popular and performed all over the world, including the Academy of Music in New York City on November 26, 1873. Carrie Astor would have likely attended this performance and been impressed by the famously lavish production.

We also get to see a grand piano in the ballroom, meaning the Russell household has at least two pianos.

A picture containing art, painting, drawing, visual arts

Description automatically generated

Set design for “Aida” by Edouard Despléchin for Act 2, scene 2 (1871).


As Gladys and Carrie plan who to invite as dance partners for Gladys’ coming-out ball, Bertha Russel enters and finally agrees to set a date. Of course, plans need to be made.

Bertha Russell: “We’ll get a pianist in for your practice. And perhaps you have a name of a dance instructor?”

It is hard for us to imagine a world where musicians needed to be hired to dance at home, unless someone in the family played well enough!


The Edison Electric Illuminating Company Brass Band (40:20): In this scene, much of New York is gathered to witness Thomas Edison lighting up the New York Times building, and of course music was necessary for the festivities. We hear lively brass band music in the background. The scene cuts to Marian, Ada, and Agnes having a quiet time at home before returning to the evening’s excitement and more brass band music. The scene was filmed in downtown Troy, New York.

As the ceremony begins, we get to see a close-up of the brass band performing. (43:13)

The production company licensed four tracks from the 2006 recording by the Excelsior Cornet Band called, “Cheer, Boys, Cheer!” The original multi-track master files were sent to the production team so that the levels could be edited to match the scene. Portions of all four tracks are heard and are called Manual of Arms Polka and Skyrockets (both composed by Claudio Grafulla), Meditation: Twenty Years Ago, and 3rd U.S. Infantry QuickstepClaudio Grafulla (1812–1880) was a composer in the United States during the nineteenth-century, most noted for martial music for regimental bands during the early days of the American Civil War. 

On location, real musicians (many of them on the original recording) with period instruments mimed to the recordings, which were played through speakers off-camera. The scene was shot several times from different angles and distances. Jeff Stockham was the bandleader and organizer of this ensemble. 

A picture containing text, clothing, person, person

Description automatically generated

Sheet music by the composer whose music was used in The Edison Electric Illuminating Company Brass Band scene.