One of our goals at Historic Music of Newport is to help preserve music that is part of the city’s history, and we recently were invited to look through a private collection of music. The sheer volume of music was overwhelming and well preserved, and we found some gems that were important to add to our collection. We found music with a Newport story, music by two Rhode Island composers, and music by an international superstar you most likely never heard of. Here is the story of what we found:
First, we need to give credit to the family that let us into their home to spend time searching through this collection. This music was part of a collection of late 19th and early 20th century piano, violin, and song sheet music belonging to the Suter and Kurze families of Providence and later of Cranston and Middletown. We cannot thank them enough for their gift to Historic Music of Newport.
Very Good Eddie, was first produced in 1915 on Broadway and ran for about a year. The show also ran in Australia in 1917 and at the Palace Theatre, in London, in 1918.
You can read a synopsis of the show here:
Very Good Eddie (Musical) Plot & Characters | StageAgent
Was Very Good Eddie ever performed in Newport? Absolutely!
Anthony “Tony” Augustus was a Chief Commissary Steward, of Fall River, was an active singer and actor in the Navy and before. He performed in Fall River before and after his time in the Navy. This production of Very Good Eddie took place in 1921 at the Naval Training Station in Newport.
Here are two 1916 recordings of songs from Very Good Eddie from the Library of Congress Digital Archives. Click on the record to hear these songs.
In 1917, Clifton Sellers Anthony composed his work The Whole World is Calling You and dedicated it “to the Boys of the 76th Division, Camp Devens.”
Camp Devens was established in 1917 as a training camp for World War 1. It was at first a reception center for trainees and became a demobilization center for returning troops after the war. The camp, and later Fort Devens, was located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts and named after Brevet Major General Charles Devens, who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Devens was officially closed in 1996. You can read more about the history of Fort Devens here.
Clifton S. Anthony was a member of Company B, 301st Engineers and trained at Camp Devens. Sellers was born in 1889 and died in 1944. He is buried in Swan Point Cemetery, in Providence, Rhode Island. Below, you can see his name made the announcement in the Boston Globe for those going to Camp Devens for training.
Here is another composition by Anthony, copyrighted in 1918. He published his own music in Providence.
Our big mystery of the set is this ballad composed by Blanche C. Read, which she composed in 1924, and published in Providence, Rhode Island. We have been able to find out some information on a Blanche Read who was born in Providence in 1888 and died in 1951 in Kentucky, but this Blanche Read (married name Brown) lived in Oklahoma in 1924! We will keep digging!
Sabbath evening chimes was composed by Willie Pape most likely in the 1870s. There is no publishing date listed anywhere in the music, but another edition of the same piece by G. Emery, & Co. of London was published in 1874 and is available at the British Library, St. Pancras. This library has been a great resource for music of Newport composers, especially during the World War 1 era, but that’s a story for another time.
If you don’t know who Willie Pape is, you definitely should. William Barnsmore Pape was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1850. His father, a virtuoso violinist got his son started on piano lessons at the age of 4. Pape would go on to perform over 700 concerts in Europe and become the royal pianist for Queen Victoria. (This bio information comes from this article, read more about his life at: A famous Mobilian you should know: Willie Pape, piano prodigy – al.com)
Here are two articles about his tour of Europe, showing the music he was performing at the age of 15.
Pape would devote his later life to medicine. He died in 1901.
If you have music you want to find out about or are related to a musician who made their home in Newport in the 19th and early 20th centuries, we would love to hear from you. This is music we want to share, and the stories of those musicians need to be told! Contact us and we can tell the stories and help get the music performed again!
Please consider donating to Historic Music of Newport, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to preserving Newport’s rich musical heritage. Click on the button below. You can make an online donation through our website or PayPal or fill out the form and mail it to our Newport address.
P.O. Box 539
Newport, RI 02840