The Wetmore house on Bellevue Avenue in Newport was completed in 1852 and has a lot of musical history. We aren’t going to go into the history of the home. For that you can visit the Preservation Society of Newport County page dedicated to the house.
The house has a great history and appears in a number of scenes in the HBO series “The Gilded Age”
Our story begins with a book.
This bound book of music is one of our most recent finds. We were told about the book by our friends at the Facebook page Newport, Lost & Found. As soon as we got the message, we went to LeMay & Co. in Newport to find out the story of this bound book of music.
The book is a collection of music, some for piano and some for voice and piano bound together. But when and why would it have been bound? A major clue on the year it was bound comes from the inside cover of the book and an advertisement in the Newport Daily News.
The sticker on the inside cover: “Bound by Akerman, Providence” and an advertisement for binding services done by Akerman from the Newport Daily News narrows down the time frame of this book to most likely the late 1850s. (Click on the photos to get a better look at them!)
The book contains more than 20 pieces of music. Some are individual songs, and some are sets of music. The handwritten index at the front of the book tells us what to find inside. (The handwriting is a little dim)
We have decided to focus on a few of the works, their composers, and their stories.
George C. Howard composed this work in 1853. The inscription on the bottom of the title page reads “Little Cordelia Howard the EVA of the age was born in Providence, R.I. in the year 1848, first played Eva at the Troy museum 1852, made her first appearance in New York, in that character, The National Theater, 1853” It was dedicated “To her mother”
George C. Howard was born in Nova Scotia in 1815. You can read a bio of him here.
Howard commissioned a stage version of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. This work is a song based on the stage version. Below is an advertisement for the music.
This collection of songs was composed by Carl Czerny (1791-1857) but we don’t know the exact date of this composition. Czerny was born in Austria and was a pianist, teacher and composer. One of his students was a 15-year-old Franz Liszt! He published nearly 1000 works in his lifetime. For a more detailed bio, click here.
Jenny Lind was born in Sweden in 1820. She made her operatic debut in Der Freischütz in Stockholm in 1838 and became an international star. In 1850 she toured the United States, sponsored by P.T. Barnum (the story in the movie musical isn’t all that accurate though.) Later in her life she taught at the Royal College of Music, London. She died in 1887 in England.
We do know that Jenny Lind visited Newport!
Les Progrès des Jeunes Èléves (The Progress of Young Students) was a set of popular songs arranged by Ferdinand Beyer, first published in 1839. One of the first set of pieces is simply titled La Norma and refers to Bellini’s opera which premiered in 1831 in Milan. The Beyer work is a theme and variations based on deh, con te ti prendi from Act 2 of the opera.
There is so much more in this book that we will be back with more music from it in another blog post soon!
And now on to the party!
In 1857, Mrs. Wetmore held a grand party at Chateau-sur-Mer. (Clink on the articles to read them)
The orchestra that performed was an offshoot of the original Germania Musical Society, that made their home in Newport in the early and mid 1850s. You can read more about the Germanians here.
Here is one of the dances performed at the party!
We have most of the music from the party except the one piece written for the party! The Fête Champêtre March is out there somewhere and we are not giving up on finding it!
We will revist the Fête Champêtre in a future post and play more of the music from the party!
Historic Music of Newport is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to preserving Newports rich musical history. Help us continue our work!
P.O. Box 539
Newport, RI 02840