The Germania Musical Society in Newport

Their Arrival in the U.S.

In 1848 a small group German musicians arrived in the United States with the goal of establishing themselves as a professional orchestra. The group performed their first concert in New York City on October 5, 1848, under their first musical director in the United States, Charles Lenschow. They would perform their arrangements of music of living and recently dead composers. It would most likely have been the first time anyone in the U.S. had heard the music, especially by a professional orchestra. You can read more about the full hearly history of the orchestra here.


Hear Lenschow’s arrangement of the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Germanian’s would continue to perform in New York, Philadelphia and in Boston the first few years of their time in the United States.


In Newport

from the 1856 Newport Directory

In 1849, the orchestra would arrive in Newport for the ensembles first summer season. They would make the Ocean House Hotel their base of operations, although it was not the only place they performed! The program from their second concert of the 1848 Newport season is below.

The Herald of the Times, August 2, 1849

In 1850, with a new conductor, Carl Bergmann, they were back in Newport. The orchestra members appear in the United States Census that year, listing the Ocean House Hotel as their “home.”


Missing from the census are new director Carl Bergmann, who had arrived from Germany that year and took over as conductor, and F.B. Helmsmuller, the orchestra’s manager and agent. 

1850 United States Census

F.B. Helmsmuller was also a composer, writing a number of works, including the song below, in 1850.

Carl Bergmann composed a set of songs based on times of the day titled “Sounds from Newport”. Hear his Midday Polka, composed in 1854.

In 1854, the members of the Germania Musical Society would call it quits as ar orchestra, going their separate ways. Members would land with the New York Philharmonic, and other orchestras in primarily in the northeast. 

Herald of the Times, November 30, 1854
Herald of the Times, September 21, 1854

The "New" Germanians

There would be new orchestras with the Germania Musical Society name, which would include a number of the original members. They would be spend their summers performing in Newport, again mostly based out of the Ocean House, but also other hotels in the city! 

The members of the orchestra would continue to compose music for their time in Newport! They would still be hired to play at private parties in addition to their concerts at the grand hotels and other venues in the city, including Fort Adams, where this march would have been heard in 1857.

The Atlantic House Hotel, drawing from the 1865 Newport City Directory

A year before the Fort Adams march, Carl Bergmann, one of the early conductors of the orchestra would compose a set of four dances, one for each of the “Grand Hotels” of Newport. You can listen to them here!

You can read more about the members of the orchestra and hear some of the music they composed on our page dedicated to the

Germania Musical Society.

or by visiting our

Music of the Germania Musical Society SoundCloud Playlist.

Historic Music of Newport is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to preserving Newport’s rich musical heritage.

Help support our mission today!


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Newport, RI 02840

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