In the days before gramophones and radios, if a family wanted to enjoy music they had to provide it themselves. A piano was a prized addition to many households.
Music was also an important part of entertaining guests. It might be a feature of an elegant soirée in a stylish drawing room, or perhaps a more modest entertainment in a small parlour; what Lizzie insists on calling a "soyree" (it's generally a mistake to let Lizzie know how a word of foreign origin is spelled, rather than just telling her how it's pronounced).
|New Zealand Graphic & Ladies Journal: A Musical Evening, [by an unknown artist]. 1890. Ref: PUBL-0163-1890-001. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22728993|
The soirée (or soyree) might be a gathering of only family and close friends, or might include people whose closer acquaintance was wished. And sometimes it might be a way to show off the accomplishments of a marriageable daughter, thereby increasing the prospects of a good match.
And sometimes the piano was played simply for pleasure, perhaps as a respite from the demands of a busy household.