Saturday, November 27, 2021

Francis B. "Frank" Johnson [1792-1844]: "Black Virtuoso, Composer, Bandleader Born Free in Philadelphia" is Honored on Poster at Philadelphia's Ridgway Building

Francis Johnson: Influenced Generations
The Library Company of Philadelphia
The Ridgway Building also pays tribute to Francis B. "Frank" Johnson (1792-1844) as a Musician of African Descent.  An African American Bugler, Band Leader & Composer, Francis Johnson led the first African American band to visit Europe.

Francis Johnson played the bugle, keyed bugle, cornet, violin and other instruments.  He also composed music for band. Among the recordings of his works is The Music of Francis Johnson and His Contemporaries: Early 19th-Century Black Composers,  Music Masters 7029-2-C (1990). The music is performed on original instruments by The Chestnut Brass Company and Friends, accompanied on violin by Diane Monroe and led by Tamara Brooks, Conductor. The CD includes marches and dances of the period by Johnson's four African American contemporaries in Philadelphia who also wrote band music:  James Hemmenway, Isaac Hazzard, A.J.R. Conner and Edward Roland.

The liner notes for the recording begin by emphasizing the unusual nature of Francis Johnson's professional activities:

The career and musical legacy of Francis "Frank" Johnson (1792-1844) represent one of the most singular achievements in the history of American music.  In an era when full-time musicians were a rarity in the United States, Johnson fashioned a career of such variety and importance that it would be the envy of many a modern musician. Even more remarkable is that Johnson, an African-American, was able to achieve such success against a background of racial strife which worsened even as his work progressed.

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