Our goal has always been to find music written in or about Newport. In our search through newspapers from the 19th century we were able to find concert programs that bands and orchestras performed in the 1800s and early 1900s.
We began our search looking for music from the late 19th century but expanded that in both directions as we found music from the early 1800s and until 1920 as learned more about the world class bands at Fort Adams and the Naval Training Station in Newport.
We started sharing this music by sharing videos on our YouTube channel, which included photos of Newport in the 19th and early 20th century. We recently added an audio page where we have even more music available to hear. We encourage you to explore both to hear what we have shared so far.
Our biggest find to date comes from the microfilm archives at the Library of Congress. The marches of Joseph S. Peckham (1848-1904) include over 30 works written by Peckham, a lifelong Newport resident, member of the band at the Naval Training Station, and choir director at Channing Memorial Church.
But it is not just the music that keeps us searching, it is the people and the places. We want to know who the musicians were and where they played. We have catalogued over 500 musicians who lived and performed in Newport. They were the members of the bands stationed at Fort Adams, the members of the bands at the Naval Training Station, and those who played in the professional and community bands around the city.
We have learned about the Jeter Family of musicians. As we gain more knowledge of their story we can’t wait to tell their story. The father, Henry Jeter was the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Newport.
We have had incredible resources to help us with our journey and we can’t thank them enough. Visit our Resources page to see all of the great organizations in Newport and beyond that celebrate the city.
Looking forward to 2022 we have a lot of work to do. And we could use your help! Please consider helping with our fundraiser. We want to find more music and bring to you both online and in live performances! And by the end of 2022, we want to find a physical home in Newport
We thank you for your support! Without you we could not do this.
In the late 19th century, a number of steamships made calls to Newport, including the Canonicus, pictured above. In order to compete with each other, they would have full orchestras and bands perform and highlight them in their advertisements, as we see in the two newspaper clips below.
Both of these ads were for special “excursions” from Fall River to Block Island with stops in Newport. The bands used would range from bands created for the ships, including the Steamer Pilgrim’s Band, and local bands including Hall’s Celebrated Band, the band of Charles Hall, a local musician who for a time served as the band master at the Training Station in Newport.
The Artillery Company of Newport
The Artillery Company of Newport often took cruises on the Steamers and a band would accompany them. The Company has a rich storied musical past, including two marches composed in their honor. You can hear one of those marches by visiting our Music About Newport page. We are close to receiving a copy of the second march!
The Fall River Line
The Fall River Line operated from the mid 1800s until around 1937. The line ran from Boston to New York City, and included stops in Newport. The ships of the Fall River Line often included live music on the trips.
The Fall River Line became a favorite subject of composers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Fall River Line March, by R. Williams
The Fall River Line March was composed in 1882 for Military Band. The march was arranged for piano by E.M. Bagley. On the score is the steamer S.S. Providence. It also names the band that would perform on the ship, Hooper’s 3rd Regiment Band.
Hear an excerpt of the piano arrangement below!
"Fall River Line Audio for Website".
The Priscilla March and Two Step, by Tom Clark
Clark composed this work in 1895, and as you can see on the bottom of the score below, arranged it for a wide variety of ensembles as well as solo piano.
Hear the Piano version of the Priscilla March and Two Step!
"Priscilla March for Piano".
The Old Fall River Line
Words by William Jerome and Andrew B. Sterling, and music by Harry Von Tilzer
This song was composed in 1913. You can hear a recording from September 1913 for vocal duet and orchestra, held by the Library of Congress, by clicking on the score title page below.
Normally we must wait for a book to be turned into a film before music is added to heighten the emotional power of the experience. In The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1862-1937), we have a novel describing music during The Gilded Age in luxurious detail. For readers who are familiar with this music, the power of her prose is even more powerful. Take, for example, the opening sentence:
On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.
As a musician, educator, and avid researcher of Music of the Gilded Age, I am excited by how much there is to unpack in that opening sentence alone.
If I examine that sentence closely:
“On a January evening”
January was the height of the social season in New York City.
“of the early seventies.”
We discover in Chapter 19 that the exact year is 1872, which means a period at the beginning of The Gilded Age when “new money” was starting to butt heads with “old money.” Many people consider the official dates of the period 1870-1900, but I think those are somewhat arbitrary; I argue The Gilded Age spans the time between two culturally defining wars, the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the First World War (1865-1914).
“Christine Nilsson was singing”
Born to peasants in Sweden and discovered at age 14 singing in a market, Christine Nilsson (1843-1921) became the leading operatic soprano of her time. This is a real-life, Gilded Age rags-to-riches story. Edith Wharton’s wit and musical insight are evident when she writes:
an unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audiences.
This opera, written by French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893) in 1859, was immediately popular and has withstood the test of time for over 160 years. The novel begins with the characters watching the Act 3 Garden scene. Listen to that first song here: No.10 “Faites-lui mes aveux.”
You might be confused if you are trying to follow the story; the character is the lovesick boy Siébel and is usually performed as a “pants role,” a male character played by a female singer.
Wharton also describes other vignettes from Faust via the audience’s reaction. For example, she identifies some scenes as “those the audience talked through” like that with Martha and Mephistopheles, or those where “the boxes always stopped talking,” such as “The Daisy Song” and “Ah! je ris de me voir si belle (Jewel Song).”
“At the Academy of Music in New York”
Opening in 1854, this 4,000-seat theater was the preeminent opera house in New York City and the center of social life for New York’s elite. The oldest and most prominent families owned seats in the theater’s boxes. The inability of new monied families like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Mills to obtain boxes prompted them to build The Metropolitan Opera House, promptly putting the old Academy out of business with a derisive, “You want to look down your nose at and exclude us? I don’t think so!”
Wharton stressed the importance of music during The Gilded Age throughout her novel as she described the musical education of principal characters, as well as the presence of Steinway pianos, opera hats, and velvet opera cloaks. The author continued to flesh out her story referencing other musical gems of the period, including:
…after taking his share of the felicitations, he drew his betrothed into the middle of the ball-room floor and put his arm about her waist.
“Now we shan’t have to talk,” he said, smiling into her candid eyes, as they floated away on the soft waves of the Blue Danube.
Although this music composed by Johan Strauss II (1825-1899) feels rather commonplace nowadays due to its ubiquity throughout pop culture, in 1872 this future classic was only five years old! It is now performed every New Year’s by the Vienna Philharmonic. In the above link, dancers waltz through the Vienna opera house with the same elegance as the guests at Julius Beaufort’s ball in The Age of Innocence.
Some of the younger men in the club box exchanged a smile at this announcement, and glanced sideways at Lawrence Lefferts, who sat carelessly in the front of the box, pulling his long fair moustache, and who remarked with authority, as the soprano paused: “No one but Patti ought to attempt the Sonnambula.”
This Italian opera written by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) in 1831 was widely performed during The Gilded Age. Above, I have linked the opera’s most famous aria, “Ah, non credea mirati,” recorded in 1906 by Adelina Patti.
A long time had apparently passed since his heart had stopped beating, for the white and rosy procession was in fact half way up the nave, the Bishop, the Rector and two white-winged assistants were hovering about the flower-banked altar, and the first chords of the Spohr symphony were strewing their flower-like notes before the bride.
Although opera is featured throughout The Age of Innocence, the music of Louis Spohr (1784-1859) is the first example of instrumental music. Wharton doesn’t specify which symphony, so in honor of the current warm August weather (which I am too soft to enjoy without central air), I chose Symphony No. 9 in B Minor, Op. 143 “Die Jahreszeiten”: Part II: Der Sommer: Largo.
The ring was on her hand, the Bishop’s benediction had been given, the bridesmaids were a-poise to resume their place in the procession, and the organ was showing preliminary symptoms of breaking out into the Mendelssohn March, without which no newly-wedded couple had ever emerged upon New York.
In Chapter 19, we learn just how quickly Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) Wedding March became the go-to recessional for society nuptials. Written in 1843, less than 30 years before our story takes place, the piece was composed as incidental music to accompany William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Dallas pursued. “Fanny made me swear to do three things while I was in Paris: get her the score of the last Debussy songs, go to the Grand-Guignol and see Madame Olenska.
Figuring out which Claude Debussy (1862-1918) songs Wharton referenced took a bit of sleuthing. The above scene took place nearly thirty years after the opening of the story, which was in 1872, so it must be roughly 1901. This eliminates the possibility of Debussy’s later songs completed between 1903-1915, narrowing the possibilities to either Debussy’s Chansons de Billitis (1897-98), based on a collection of erotic lesbian poetry, or Nuits blanches (1898), based on original text written by the composer.
What happens when a novel that describes music in luxurious detail is turned into a film? Martin Scorsese co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed cinematic adaptation of Wharton’s novel, which was partially filmed on location in Troy, New York using the city’s largely unaltered Gilded Age architecture.
The film featured an original score, interpolated with the following historic selections:
Faust (Opera), written by Charles F. Gounod
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 (“Pathetique”), written by Ludwig van Beethoven
Radetzky March, written by Johann Strauss I
Emperor Waltz Op. 437, written by Johann Strauss II
Artist’s Life, written by Johann Strauss II
Tales From the Vienna Woods, written by Johann Strauss II
Quintet in B Flat Op. 87, 3rd Movement, written by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
As a historian, I wonder at the decision to include some musical works instead of others. For example, why painstakingly recreate the Academy of Music’s staging of Faust (the only selection appearing in both novel and film) yet exclude the immensely popular “Blue Danube?” I can only assume these decisions were made based upon deemed dramatic value to the screenplay, although I feel these choices deprive the viewer full appreciation of Wharton’s authentic New York cultural depictions.
Many readers of this blog join me in eagerly awaiting a new series also filmed in Troy, New York – HBO’s The Gilded Age, written by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey acclaim, set to be released in 2022. Time will tell if the musical consultants, scriptwriters, and showrunners have performed due research. Will the music be historically appropriate and reflect the true depth of the period? Between HBO’s production values and Fellowes’ reputation for painstaking attention to detail, all signs point to a gloriously produced and captivating story.
In the words of Tom Allen, from The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice, “I, for one, can’t wait to see it!”
In 1861, the decision was made to move the United States Naval Academy from its home in Maryland to Newport. If you want to read more about this move here is the link to an excellent article: When Annapolis Moved to Newport. They brought with them the Naval Academy Band, which was officially formed in 1852.
The academy’s first Newport home was Fort Adams, but they eventually settled in to the luxury of the Atlantic House Hotel. The Atlantic House was one of Newport’s early “Grand Hotels.”
During the 1850s, the Germania Musical Society would perform at the hotel and one of their members Carl Bergmann even composed the “Atlantic House Polka Redowa, in the early 1850s.
"Atlantic House Polka Redowa".
John P. Pfeiffer
The leader of the band when they arrived in Newport was John Philip Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer was born in Germany in 1815. Within a few months of their arrival in Newport he was replaced as the leader of the band but continued as a musician in the band. He was active as a composer and arranger of music while he was in Newport. Here are two arrangements of his:
The Members of the Band
A number of the musicians who served in the Naval Academy Band during their tenure in Newport also served in the band of the 1st Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, which was made up of members of the American Band, based in Providence, RI.
The members of both bands include Henry Dana, Thomas Fenner, Walter Kingsley, William Marshall, and Beriah Reynolds.
At the conclusion of the war, when the band moved back to Annapolis, some musicians stayed in Rhode Island, including William Marshall who taught music in the city until his death in 1891.
We end this post with a look at William Nayden who was a member of the Naval Academy Band during their days in Newport and continued as a member of the band until 1909. He died at the age of 78.
The Atlantic House and the Navy in Newport Today
If you drive down Bellevue Avenue in Newport you can see where the Atlantic House stood. Today it is the Elks Lodge, with a sign talking about the Naval Academy. The Atlantic House hotel was torn down in the late 1800s. Today the Elks Lodge is in a house built on the property after that.
The Navy has always had a strong presence in Newport, and you can hear music written for the Navy Bands of Newport on our YouTube channel!
Learn more about Newport’r rich musical history at Historic Music of Newport. If you have any comments or want to tell us your Newport Music History stories you can contact us here.
The Sousa Band made a few trips to Newport during the bands long tenure. The Band’s 1899 United States tour included a stop at the Opera House in Newport, Rhode Island, on May 15. Below is a photo of the Opera House in Washington Square, taken in 1905.
(Detroit Publishing Co., Copyright Claimant, and Publisher Detroit Publishing Co. Opera House, Newport, R.I. Newport Newport. Rhode Island United States, ca. 1905. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016804666/.)
The first article in the paper comes to us from the New Daily News, on May 6. (This was most likely not the first mention of the concert, but it is our first article for this post.)
Along with the two featured soloists, Sousa’s band would be performing their newest composition, Hands across the Sea.
The next article, from the May 10 Daily News talks a little about what a Sousa concert would be! Notice how the marches we all know and love today are encores, played between “some of the newest music of the day, and a number of standard favorites.” There will be an opportunity to see what could have been the band’s program further down the page.
Sousa had two soloists accompanying his band for the 1899 tour. Violinist Dorothy Hoyle, it seems, was familiar to the Newport crowd. The Library of Congress has a 1902 recording of her performing with Sousa’s Band. Click on the record below to hear!
The advertisement below first appeared in the Newport Daily News on May 12, and appeared every day up until the show.
The other featured soloist was soprano Maud Reese Davies. The Library of Congress has these two photos of her. In one we see her walking on train track with John Philip Sousa.
The city, and the Newport Daily News, loved the concert! While a little hard to read, you can click on the pages and enlarge them to make them easier on the eyes!
Want to read more about this tour, and the travels of the Sousa Band? Thankfully the “President’s Own”, United States Marine Band has the archives of Press Books the Band kept of their tours from 1892 to 1932. Below are the pages with clips from the Newport Herald talking about the 1899 tour. These pages include a few programs from other towns, but give you an idea of what they would have performed in Newport.
For a complete list of all of the scrapbooks click on the photo of Sousa below!
And in case you were wondering if it was all fun and games on a Sousa tour, here is a photo of the band’s train involved in a crash while traveling from Portland, Oregon to Spokane, Washington during the 1899 tour!
Fort Adams comes alive with the sounds of jazz and folk music for two weekends every summer. We think of all this musical activity at the fort as a more recent thing, but music has been a part of life at the fort since the mid 1800s. Hear some music written about the fort and music performed in Fort Adams in the 1800s! (The main photos comes from the Providence Public Library Digital Archives)
The Fort Adams March
William Schultze composed the Fort Adams March in 1857. It was performed by the Germania Musical Society in Newport.
The march was dedicated to Lt. Col. John Magruder, who was the commanding officer of the First Light Artillery, stationed at Fort Adams. Magruder, born in Virginia, would resign his commission and rise to the rank of Major General in the Confederate Army.
The Bands of the Fort
Fort Adams was the home to a number of military bands from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. Most of the units stationed at the fort had their own ensembles.
Here we see a list of musicians assigned to the Fort from the mid 1800s.
The Fort concerts were a social occasion for all of Newport. Below is a program given by the Fifth Artillery Band from August 26, 1873.
Included on the program was the Light Artillery March of J. Heine. This march was dedicated to Lt. E.L. Zalinski of the Fifth Artillery Company.
The Band of the 7th Coastal Artillery Company
Pictured below is the band of the 7th Coastal Artillery Company, probably from the WW1 era.
Below is the program the 7th C.A.C. Band gave at Morton Park, on July 6, 1912.
Auber’s Crown Diamonds was included on this program. Hear it below:
Chief Musician John T. Freeman was one of the conductors of the 7th C.A.C Band and his final resting place is the Fort Adams Cemetery.
He is just one of many musicians whose final resting place is Fort Adams.
For the past few months I have been searching through census records, Newport city directories, and newspaper archives to find out more about Newport’s musical past. I wanted to find answers to the following questions:
What bands and orchestras brought music to life in the city?
Where was music performed?
What was the role of music in the lives of the average Newporter?
Who were the musicians active in Newport?
There are a few more years of newspaper articles to pull out and then begins the task of cataloguing everything to make some sense of all I have found in my search. I learned my lesson though. Each time I find something new, I expand the years I want to research. Finally I have decided to stop at 1920 (for now.)
The Orchestras of Newport
In the 1850s, The Germanian’s were in demand in Newport. Read a little more about them here. But they were not the only orchestra to make Newport their home.
Some orchestras took up shop at the Newport Casino during the busy summer season. Orchestras lead by names like Mullaly, Conrad, and Wendt made Newport their home for a few months each year. If you are not a local, the Casino Theater is active today thanks to a joint venture by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Salve Regina University.
The casino was not the only place where orchestra’s performed in Newport, and there were a number of other orchestra’s that made a year round home in Newport. But I will save those for another day!
The Bands of Newport
Thanks to a strong military presence in Newport, between Fort Adams and The Naval Training Station, military bands have been an important part of musical life in Newport beginning in the mid 1800s.
Fort Adams and the Army Bands of Newport
From the beginnings of Army life at Fort Adams, musicians have been present. Whether it was buglers attached to units or full bands. The bands of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th United States Artillery Regiments made Newport their home during the 1800s, and the Band of the 7th Coastal Artillery Corps was in residence at the beginning of the 19th century. I have spent a little time talking about the musical life at Fort Adams in the past and you can read that post here. In future posts I will talk a little more about the musicians who lived, and in some cases died, at the fort, including Private Charles Klamke, who drowned in 1842 and is buried in the Fort Adams Cemetery. He is one of many musicians buried in the forts cemetery.
The Navy Bands of Newport
Navy musicians have been in Newport for a long time, and continue to be a presence in Newport today. During the Civil War, the United States Naval Academy was moved to Newport (Where the Elks Lodge is today. There is a marker on Bellevue Avenue.)
It has been a little harder coming across information about the Navy bands and musicians, but I have been able to find the names of at least some of the musicians pictured above, and the names of musicians in other bands, including the band of the Naval Training Station, which was active in Newport around the beginning of the 20th century.
Bands of a number of training ships made their home in Newport, the most well known being the band of the New Hampshire. Yes, the photo of the NH Band, from the Library of Congress digital archives is a little fuzzy… The NH Band was hired by the Casino one summer and the dispute between them and another orchestra had to be resolved by the Secretary of the Navy.
Community Bands in Newport
The main photo at the top of the post is of the Newport Municipal Band in 1915. They were one of many bands that made Newport their home. From the Lincoln Band to the Newport Band, they performed at Touro Park, Morton Park, and Easton’s Beach to huge crowds.
Musical Life in Newport
Music was a big part of life in Newport, for everyone from the wealthy summer residents to the locals who worked on the wharfs. Organizations were founded including The Philharmonic Society and the Oratorio Society, to bring music to life in the various concert halls of the day. Concerts took place at venues like Aquidneck Hall, The Opera House (hopefully coming back to life soon!), the Peoples Theater, Armory Hall, and the Masonic Hall, to name a few. Churches presented concerts and often the programs were announced in the Daily News and Mercury.
I am looking forward to creating posts about these halls and the concerts that took place at them in the coming days.
The Musicians of Newport
They came from Austria, Australia, England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Malta and many other countries to serve in the Army and Navy Bands of Newport. They served in the Civil War, were saved only by being transferred out of the 7th Cavalry right before Custer took them into the field in 1876, and they for California on the doomed San Francisco in 1853.
They were beloved band leaders who were laid to rest at Fort Adams.
But it wasn’t just military musicians who made their mark on musical life in Newport. Local professionals and amateurs made music thrive in Newport going back into the 1700s. Community bands and orchestras were everywhere on the island, and groups like the American Band made the trip to Newport to perform for inauguration parades and concerts at the various concert halls.
Music teachers brought their craft to Newport, and many hosted recitals to highlight the talent of their students. The photo below shows only a few teachers, but by the beginning of the 20th century we find the list grows to double digits.
I am looking forward to exploring more in depth the music stores that made their Newport their home throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. From AJ Wards from the mid 1800s to Barneys which cornered the market on great advertising, music stores have been around as long as Newport has. Down the road I will do a whole post on the master marketing of Barneys Music Store. And pianos were definitely in style over the years!
I am looking forward to sharing more about music from Newport past. I have spent some time talking about Music Published in Newport and Music and the Old Stone Mill and you can hear music that was performed in Newport here. There is a lot more music to share, and even more music still to discover!
I end this post with a name that I have found that I look forward to exploring. Remond Chase is listed in early city directories as the organist at Belcourt, and in a census his occupation was listed as “Caretaker of Organ” in 1900 Census. I know he lived on Bath Road (Memorial Blvd today) and was Black. He went on to work as a city laborer, and had a sister who was a music teacher. I am excited to find out more about Remond Chase and the hundreds of other names I have found who have contributed to musical life in Newport.
Newport’s Old Stone Mill has been the subject of lots of rumors and music through the years! Today we focus on two works written with the landmark in mind.
Sounds from the Old Stone Mill
T. Brigham Bishop composed this song cycle in 1857. The works were dedicated “Respectfully to the citizens of Newport and visitors of the Old Stone Mill” by the composer. Bishop included this poetry on the cover pages:
We trace some Planets radiant Course; Tell when the Comet shall return; Measure the Wind’s resistless force; And Nature’s mighty secrets learn; Yet vain our toil when we begin; Old Tower to trace thy origin; And as thou art, thou aye will be A marvel, and a mystery
Included below are the first three songs in the cycle and an audio of the introduction to the second song.
The Tale of the Viking
George Whiting composed this cantata in 1881 with text from a poem by Longfellow. The text of the poem and an explanation by Longfellow are included in the piano score for the cantata and you can read them both below (click on each image to enlarge):