Sunday, April 26, 2009

Philadelphia Inquirer: 'Johnson was the first black American to have his compositions published'

[The Music of Francis Johnson & His Contemporaries: Early 19th-Century Black Composers; Diane Monroe, Violin; The Chestnut Brass Company and Friends; Tamara Brooks, Conductor; Music Masters 7029-2-C (1990)]

Posted on Sun, Apr. 26, 2009 
Francis Johnson lived in Philadelphia in the early 1800s and became one of the most popular band leaders in the city. As the first black American to give public concerts, Johnson and his band performed at functions all over Philadelphia, from balls to private parties. Philadelphia politician Samuel Breck wrote in his diary about attending a ball at the Rush house on Chestnut Street in 1828. 'Johnson, with five of his band, was there,' Breck wrote. 'The Black musician is a man of taste and even science in his vocation. He has organized a large Band, and gives lessons upon various instruments; and what is still more useful and certainly more singular, is the talent he has of turning every lively tune in the new operas to his purposes.'

"Johnson also performed outside the city, at resorts in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Cape May, and led a small ensemble on a European tour in 1837. He was famous for his skills on the violin and keyed bugle, and for his dramatic performance style."  [Full Post] [Francis B. Johnson (1792-1844) was an African American bugler, bandleader and composer whose life has been researched by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin. The research has been made available for the Francis B. Johnson page at]

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