Who Were They?

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

Photo of Germania Musical Society from the New York City Public Library

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 orchestras 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.)

United States Naval Academy Band in Newport, from the Providence Public Library Digital Archives

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.

A Brass Band performing at Easton’s Beach from the Providence Public Library Digital Archives.

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.

Newport Daily News 10/2/1860

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.

From the 1880 Newport City Directory

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.

From the 1865 Newport City Directory

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.

Until then!


William G. Hammond

Discover the life of William G. Hammond, organist, choirmaster, and composer, and his life in Newport and beyond.

Read More »

The City Drummer

Read the story of City Drummer Benjamin Lawton’s Revolutionary War service in his own words!

Read More »

Historic Music of Newport is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Help support our mission to preserve Newport’s rich musical heritage!

P.O. Box 539
Newport, RI 02840

Share this:

Like this:

Like Loading...
%d bloggers like this: