The majority of programmes in the collection are from a series of concerts held on Saturdays, known in later years of the series as the “Saturday Concerts”. The collection contains “Saturday Concert” programmes from 1856 through to 1904 – the series started in 1855 – though a sizeable majority of the programmes are from the 1880s and 1890s. The collection is by no means complete, and the programmes for this series are split between loose programmes and bound volumes, which are not mutually exclusive in their contents. The “Saturday Concert” programmes form the bulk of the contents of the bound volumes, and there are 135 programmes from the series in the boxes of loose programmes. The “Saturday Concert” programmes are chiefly from orchestral concerts, given by the Crystal Palace Saturday Orchestra - later the Grand Crystal Palace Saturday Orchestra – and conducted by August Manns. The programmes are from concerts that often featured longer symphonic works, as well as frequently featuring solo numbers for vocalists and/or instrumentalists. Occasionally the programmes represent concerts that were entirely or included choral works, featuring the Crystal Palace Choir.
The collection also contains programmes from concerts other than “Saturday Concerts”. For example, there are programmes from Manns Benefit Concerts, which were given at various points in the nineteenth century. There are a variety of programmes from concerts which took place in the twentieth century: these include orchestral concerts, large-scale choral concerts and some concert performances of opera. There is also a separate sequence of ca. 11 programmes from the National Band Festival – which first took place in 1900 – from the years 1921-1930 and 1934. Some of the programmes from this competitive festival contain loose press cuttings, which list prize winners of the festival. Some of the programmes contain loose sheet music of pieces examined in the festival. The collection also contains programmes from 1955 to 1975. These programmes represent orchestral concerts given by various orchestras during this period, including concerts given in the Crystal Palace Concert Bowl – an outdoor venue – from the years 1961 to 1967.
The collection contains other items of performance ephemera, which include press cuttings, a letter, leaflets and a photocopy of a review of a Crystal Palace concert in a musical journal. In addition, the collection contains a few bibliographic items including publications of lists of music performed at the “Saturday Concerts” from 1855-1895.
The collection is split between boxes of loose programmes and bound volumes. The bound volumes are arranged chronologically, and range from 1856 to 1901. However, there is often more than one volume covering any given time period. Though each volume is chronologically arranged, the overall sequence of bound volumes is not entirely linear. The boxes of loose programmes are also arranged chronologically and generally follow one linear sequence. However, there are exceptions to this. Material from the National Band Contest concerts is filed separately, at the end of the main chronological sequence. Performance ephemera items and oversize programmes are generally filed at the front of the box to which they relate, regardless of their exact chronological position within the main sequence of programmes.