world’s first public performance of African-American-influenced music most probably
occurred at the Federal Street Theatre, Boston, in 1799, but not quite in the
manner the time-worn myth or Wikipedia portrays.
era’s leading classical musicians, the German oboist, Johann Christian Gottlieb
Graupner, is said to have performed his own slave-style song wearing blackface that
by mistake into a slave quarter in Virginia in 1795. This story has led to
Graupner being acknowledged, by some music historians, as the Father of Negro
Songs in America.
American writer and musician, Shlomo Pestcoe, shows it was
actually Gottlieb Graupner’s English wife who did the performing.
question was the acclaimed opera singer, Catherine Comerford Hillier, who had a residency at the Federal Street Theatre, while Graupner would later co-found the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.
interlude between acts at the Federal Street Theatre in late 1799. (And that’s the way they spelt ‘theatre’ in America back in those days, rather than the ‘theater’ Americans use now.)
not disputed that Graupner wrote that first African-American-style tune during
his time in America, just that he performed it and performed it in blackface.
It was his English wife. Shlomo Pestcoe has the documents that prove it.