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Home -> Composers -> Dede, Edmund


Edmund Dédé  (1827-1903)

African American Composer, Violinist & Conductor

A Creole Romantic in Exile



Table of Contents

  1 Birth
  2 Violin Prodigy
  3 Mon pauvre coeur
  4 Paris Conservatory
  5 Eugene Arcade Dede
  6 Conductor & Violinist
  7 Quasimodo Symphony
  8 Farewell to Segregation
  9 Death
 10 Hot Springs Music Festival
 11 Sheet Music Collections
 12 My Poor Heart   
 13 'Hidden Cultural Picture'
 14 Repertoire  
 15 Works
 16 Bibliography


Edmund Dédé
Hot Springs Music Festival
Richard Rosenberg, Conductor
Naxos 8.559038 (2000)

1 Birth
Edmund Dédé was a free Creole of color, born Nov. 20, 1827 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  His parents had arrived from the French West Indies around 1809.  Edmund's father was a bandmaster for a militia unit.  The composer's first name is often spelled "Edmond" but it now appears that spelling is incorrect.  The Houston Daily Post spelled his first name "Edmund" in an article of October 22, 1893 about his coming ashore in Houston after surviving the wreck of a steamship on which he had sailed.

2 Violin Prodigy
The boy first learned Clarinet, but switched to Violin, on which he was considered a prodigy.  The liner notes for the Naxos CD were written by Lester Sullivan, University Archivist at Xavier University in New Orleans. Sullivan writes:

He studied violin with Constantin Debergue, a local free black violinist and director of the local Philharmonic Society founded by free Creoles of color sometime in the late antebellum period, and with Italian-born Ludovico Gabici, director of the St. Charles Theater orchestra and one of the earliest publishers of music in the city.  He studied counterpoint and harmony with Eugène Prévost, French-born winner of the 1831 Prix de Rome and conductor of the orchestra at the Théâtre d'Orléans, and with New York-born free black musician Charles Richard Lambert, father of Sidney and Lucièn Lambert, and a conductor of the Philharmonic Society, which was the first non-theatrical orchestra in the city and even included some white musicians among its one hundred instrumentalists, an extremely large aggregation for the time.

3 Mon pauvre coeur
Subsequent instruction from Ludovico Gabici ended when white hostility against African American musicians forced him to flee to Mexico, where he continued his training.  Upon his return to New Orleans Dédé began working as a cigar maker.  He saved his earnings to pay for further studies in Europe.  Lester Sullivan adds:

In 1852 Dédé's melody Mon pauvre coeur appeared.  It is the oldest surviving piece of sheet music by a New Orleans Creole of color.  He supplemented his income from music with what today would be characterized as his day job: he was a cigar maker, as were a number of other local musicians.

4 Paris Conservatory
His savings and money contributed by friends enabled him to travel first to Belgium and then on to France.  An audition in 1857 secured his admission to the Paris Conservatoire de Musique (Paris Conservatory of Music). Marcus B. Christian writes in Africana Encyclopedia:

One of his teachers at the conservatory was the celebrated Jacques-François Halevy, who taught Charles-François Gounod.  In this way, Dédé later became an intimate friend of this great composer.  His other instructor was noted French violinist and teacher Jean Delphin Alard.

5 Eugene Arcade Dédé
Upon completion of his studies, Dede settled in Bordeaux, France.  He married a French woman, Sylvie Leflet, in 1864.  Their son, Eugene Arcade Dédé, also composed classical music.  Eugene's mazurka En chasse  (4:12) was orchestrated by his father and is included on the Naxos CD.

6 Conductor & Violinist
The elder Dédé served as Orchestra Conductor at the Theatre l'Alcazar (Alcazar Theater) for 27 years.  He also conducted performances of light music at the Folies Bordelaises.  As a highly accomplished violinist, Dédé performed his own compositions as well as those of others.  He favored pieces by the French composer Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831).

7 Quasimodo Symphony
An African American composer, musician and conductor named Samuel Snaer, Jr. (1835-1900) conducted the first New Orleans performance of Dédé's Quasimodo Symphony.  Patrons and music critics alike regarded the concert a great success.  Marcus B. Christian continues in Africana Encyclopedia:

Dédé's Quasimodo Symphony  was presented at the Orleans Theater on the night of May 10, 1865, before a vast audience composed of the leading blacks
of New Orleans and prominent Northern whites, with composer-conductor Samuel
Snaer, Jr. leading his own orchestra in its production.  All of his compositions were considered of the highest order, including his best known piece, Le Palmier Overture  (1865).  During a stint in Algeria he wrote Le Sermente de L'Arabe (1865).

8 Farewell to Segregation
Edmund Dédé returned to New Orleans only once, in 1893.  He came ashore in Texas after the wreck of the steamer Marseille, The Houston Daily Post wrote on Oct. 22, 1893.  Dédé lost his treasured Cremona violin at sea when shipwrecked en route to the United States, but his performances on another instrument were praised by critics and audiences alike.  Lester Sullivan writes:

Dédé also introduced two new songs, one of which, Patriotisme,  he regarded as his farewell to New Orleans, for in it he laments his destiny to live far away because of "implacable prejudice" at home.  [The song is a setting of a poem of the same name, written by the African American historian Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes (1849-1928).]

Grateful for receiving honorary membership in the Société des Jeunes-Amis, a leading local social group composed mostly of Creoles of color of antebellum free background, but weary of the increasing inconveniences and indignities of racial segregation, Dédé returned to France and became a full member of the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers in 1894.

9 Death
Edmund Dédé died in 1903 in Paris, where many of his compositions have been preserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale (National Library).  It was there in 1998 that Richard Rosenberg found the sheet music for the Naxos CD.  He also found scores for works by several other Creole Romantics, including:

Eugene Arcade Dédé
Charles Lucien Lambert
Lucien-Leon Guillaume Lambert
Sidney Lambert

10 Hot Springs Music Festival
Rosenberg is Conductor of the Hot Springs Music Festival, which brings together 200 music students and professionals from around the world each Summer.  Master classes and public performances are given in the historic resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

11 Sheet Music Collections
Marcus B. Christian identifies two locations at which the early African American sheet music of New Orleans has been conserved:

For original scores of New Orleans black music, see the Howard-Tilton Library of Tulane University and the Marcus
Christian Collection of the Earl Long Library at the University of New Orleans.

12 My Poor Heart

When I see you Oh! my Creole love,
On your balcony Oh! I think I see a halo,
Decorating your brow,
Divine one, every day I beseech you,
With passion,
To share the flame that devours,
My poor heart.

13 'Hidden Cultural Picture'
A visitor to the Web site has left this comment on the biography of Edmund Dede:  "That is most fascinating - it reveals a previously hidden cultural picture which far too few of our contemporaries could conceive. This suggests a rarely seen dimension to that epoch, and raises a lot of questions."

14 Repertoire
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma
-- 1894/I/21; New Orleans; Salle des Amis de l'Esperance.

Mendelssohn, Felix.  Concerto, op. 64, E minor.  Mme. Serge, piano. ??Orchestra; Nickerson, conductor.

Alard, Delphin.  Rigoletto fantasy==.  Lucie Barès, piano.

Il trovatore Fantasy.  Mme. Nickerson; Mauret; E. Colin; P. Dominguez.

Si j'étais lui.  M. H. Beaurepaire; Basile Barès, piano.

15 Works
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma

Edmund Dédé, Naxos 8.559038 (2000). Liner Notes by Lester Sullivan, University Archivist, Xavier University, and Richard Rosenberg, Conductor, Hot Springs Music Festival.

Ables, ballet.

Après le miel, opéra comique (1880).

Arcadia ouverture, for orchestra.

Bikina; Conseil hygiéque, for  voice & piano.  Bordeaux: Emile Marchand, 1881.  Text: Quasimodo==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.733).

Bonsoir, Mimi!; Intermezzo valse, for orchestra, by H. Tarelli.  Nice: 1910.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm15 895).

Bordeaux, grand valse.

Caryatis, ballet.

C'est la faute à Colas; Chansonette, for  voice & piano.  Paris:  L. Coudere, 1881.  Text:  A. Denant==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.334).

Chant dramatique, for orchestra.  Schedued for première 1975/02/09 by the Symphony of the New World, New York, conducted by Kermit Moore==.

Chicago, grand valse à l'américaine.  Paris: E. Froment, 1892. -- for treble instrument, arr. by Clark Kimberling (PDF file) at http://imslp.org/wiki/User:Clark_Kimberling/Historical_Notes_1 (2010)

Chick-king-fo, operetta in1 act (1878). -- Bordeaux.

Chochotte; schottisch, by Heinrich Zellam [composer, arranger?==].  Nice: 1912.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm15 2753).

Comme une soeur, for voice & piano (1887).  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale K. 41560.

Cora, la bordelaise, for  voice & piano.  Bordeaux : Philibert, 1881.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.338).

Dernière caresse, valse lente, by A. Silvano[composer, arranger?==] , for orchestra.  Paris: 1908.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm26 19749).

Diana et Actéon, ballet.

Ellis, ballet.


En chasse; orchestrated by Edmund Dédé.  Duration: 4m12s. -- CD: Hot Springs Festival Orchestra; Richard Rosenberg, conductor. Naxos 8.559038 (1999).

Ernest's march, marche américaine, by Albert Petit==.  Nice: 1909.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm15 241).

Hernani, opera by ? , Bordeaux.

Inéa.  -- Bordeaux.

Istria, grande valse, for orchestra, by J. Cortellazzo [composer, arranger?==].    Nice: 1910.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm15 835).

J'la connais!, for voice & piano.  Paris: Duhem, 1884.  Text:  H. P. Denneville= and Ghedé (Chedé?).  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.339 & 340).-- Paris: Duhem, 1885.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 41585).

Kikipatchouly et Kakaoli, duo.  Paris: G. Ondet, 1892.  Text:  C. Nogent==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 41475).

La confirmation des amoureux, chansonette, for voice & piano.  Paris: Ghelieve, 1881.  Text:  Gaston Faure==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 41561).

La femme de glace, operetta. -- Bordeaux.

La femme au vitriol, operetta.  -- Bordeaux.

La journée champêtre, for TTBB.  Paris: E. Froment, 1890.  Text:  Elisa Cruyon==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 41485).

La malagaise; Seguedille, for voice & piano.  Paris: E. Froment, 1888.  Text: Charles Giugno==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.343).

La musique aux lanternes, operetta.  -- Bordeaux.

La phocéenne; Grande valse.

La sensitive, ballet in 2 acts.  -- Bordeaux.

La vachalcade; Quadrille burlesque, for orchestra.  Paris: E. Gaudet, 1900.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm26 14987; 2 copies).

La valse des sourires; Chanson valse.  Paris:  E. Meuriot, 1894.  (E.M. 1262)  Text:  Louis Bouvet==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47450).

L'abile de la chouette, féerie.

L'amour! c'est-y bon?, for  voice & piano.  Bordeaux : E. Philibert, 1877.  Text:  A. Demarton==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 41557 &  Vm7 47.332).

L'anneau du diable, féerie in 3 acts.

L'antropohage, opera in 1 act (1880).

Le barbier de Seville, arrangementof themes.  -- Bordeaux.

Le chef de musique, operetta.  -- 1889; Paris; Gaité-Montparnasse

Le garçon troquet, chanson rhythmée, for voice & piano.  Paris: Raymond Viel & Masson, 1887.  Text:  E. Bessière and A. Appert==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.338ter).

Le grillon du foyer, opera.

Le klephte, for voice & piano.  Paris: E. Froment, 1888.  Text:  Charles Giugno==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.342).

Le noye, opera.

Le palmier ouverture, for orchestra (1865). -- Bordeaux. -- 1865; New Orleans.

Le roi des boudinés, operetta. -- Bordeaux.

Le sultan d'Ispahan, opera in 4 acts (begun in 1865, unfinished).  -- Le serment de l'arabe.  Trotter, James Monroe.  Music and some highly musical people.  Boston: Lee and Shepherd; New York: Charles T. Dillingham, 1881. -- New York: Johnson Reprint, 1968, 1881.  -- Chicago: Afro-Am Press, 1969, 1881-- EBook #28056, 2009, 1881 (Project Gutenberg).== , p53-59 [appendix]).

Le triomphe de Bacchus, ballet.

Les adieux du coussier, for voice & piano (1888).  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 41556).

Les canotiers de Lorment, ballet (1880).

Les deux Marthes, célèbre valse, by Richard Ewers [composer, arranger?==], for violin & piano.  Paris: 1906.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm19 2001). -- Paris: 1906.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm19 2001). -- Paris: 1909.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm26 19962).

Les étudiants bordelais, opera in 1 act.

Les faux mandarins, ballet.  -- Bordeaux.

Les femmes viennoises, polka, by Victor  Soulaire==, for orchestra.  Paris: 1904.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm26 14994).

Les nymphes et chasseurs, ballet in 1 act.                                                

Mephisto masqué, polka fantastique.  Paris: L. Bathlot et Hèraud, 1889. - for euphonium & orchestra, arr. by Gunther Schuller.  Newton Centre MA: Margun Music.  (#BP-2019).  Duration: 4m45s.  Instrumentation: euphonium (or ophicleide), 2-2-2-2; 2-2-2-0; timp perc; strings (1-0-1-1).  -- LP: Gerard Schwarz, euphonium; Columbia Chamber Ensemble; Gunther Schuller, conductor.  Columbia M 34553 (1977).  Library: CBMR (Lerma). -- for treble instrument, arr. by Clark Kimberling (PDF file) at http://imslp.org/wiki/User:Clark_Kimberling/Historical_Notes_1 (2010)

Mirliton, fin de siècle. polka originale, for orchestra.  Paris: E. Froment, 1892.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm26 3260). --  for piano & mirliton.  Paris: E. Froment, 1898.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm12 1963).

Mon beau tyrolein, tyrolienne comique, for voice & piano.  Bordeaux: E. Philibert, 1876.  Text:  Laroche and E. Duhem.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.345).

Mon beau tyrolein; Tyrolienne comique, for voice & piano.  Bordeaux: E. Philibert, 1876.  Text:  Laroche and E. Duhem==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.345).

Mon pauvre coeur, for voice & piano (1852[6]).

Mon sous off!, chansonette, for voice & piano.  Bordeaux : E. Philibert, 1876.  Text:  H. Min & E. Duhem==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 346).

Mon sous officier, quadrille brillante, for orchestra.  Bordeaux : E. Philibert, 1877.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm26 3296).

Montmartre la nuit; Marche polka sur les motifs de Le chevaliers de la Butte, opèra buffe en 3 actes, by Albert Petit==.  Paris: 1909.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm12 2).

Néhana, reine des fées, ballet in1 act.

Nocturne  -- for treble instrument, arr. by Clark Kimberling (PDF file) at http://imslp.org/wiki/User:Clark_Kimberling/Historical_Notes_1 (2010)

Ous' qu'est mon toréador?; Chansonette, for voice & piano.  Paris & Bordeaux: Vve. Heraud, 1899.  Text:  Eugène Grégoire==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.347).

Papillon bleu, grand valse.

Paris, grand valse.

Patriotisme, for voice & piano (1893).  Text: Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes (1849-1928).]Rudolphe Lucien Desdunes[7].


Réverie champêtre, fantaisie, for violin or flute, cello or bassoon & optional piano. --  for violin or oboe & piano.  Paris: Chez l'auteur, 1891.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 41484).

Si j'étais lui, voice & piano. New Orleans: A. E. Blackmar.  Text: M. V. E. Rillieux==

Si tu m'aimais, for voice & piano (1893).  Text:  A. van Erbs.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 35766).

Si tu m'aimais, for voice & piano (1893).  Text:  A. van Erbs==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (K. 35766).

Spahis et Grisettes, ballet in 1 act.

Sylvia, for orchestra.

Symphony, Quasimodo (1865). -- 1865/V/10; New Orleans; New Orleans Theater; Samuel Snaer*, conductor

Tchi-tchick ou Atchi-tchich; Chansonnette, for voice & piano.  Paris:  L. Bathelot-Joubert, 1892.  (L.B. 7924)  Text:  Freddy Xar==; text in Spanish by ?.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.442).--  Paris:  L. Bathelot-Joubert, 1893.  (L.B. 7982).  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 442bis).

Titis, débardeurs et grisettes; Chansonette, for  voice & piano.  Paris: Smite, 1876.  Text:  J. J. La Grace, fils==.  Vm7 47.351.

Titis, débardeurs et grisettes; Chansonette, for  voice & piano.  Paris: Smite, 1876.  Text:  J. J. La Grace, fils==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.351).

Traveller's march, by A. Lebert==, for orchestra.  Paris: 1914.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm9 9066).

Tricoche et Cacolet; Musique de scène pour le comédie de Meilhac et Halévy, by Emile Bretonneau [composer, arranger?] (ca. 1914).  12 parts.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vmms 127).

Une aventure de Telemaque, operetta. -- Bordeaux.

Une femme qui bégaie, operetta.  -- Bordeaux.

Une noce en musique; Chansonette comique.  Paris & Bordeaux:  Ve. Héraud, 1889. Text:  Camille Nogent==.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 47.3530).

Vailliant belle rose quadrille.

Veillée de Noël; Chanson d'enfant, for voice & piano.  Paris:  J. Leone [Leane?], 1904.  Text:  Jean Leone.  Library: Bibliothèque Nationale (Vm7 122306).

Vous souvenez-vous, Marquise?; Menuet chanté, by Emile Pessard[composer, arranger?], for piano.  Paris: 1893.

16 Bibliography
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma
Brawley, Benjamin.  The Negro in literature and art.  New York: Duffield & Co., 1921, 1918, p129-130. ebook #35063, 2011, The project Gutenberg.

Carter, Madison H.  An annotated catalogue of composers of African ancestry.  New York: Vantage Press, 1986.

Handy, D. Antoinette.  Black conductors.  Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1995.

Hare, Maud Cuney.  Negro musicians and their music, introduction by Josephine Harreld Love.  New York: G. K. Hall, 1996, 1936.  xl, xii, 439p.  (African-American women writers, 1910-1940, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., general editor).  -- Washington: Associated Publishers, 1936.

Horne, Aaron.  Brass music of Black composers; A bibliography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Horne, Aaron.  Woodwind music of Black composers.  New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Microsoft Encarta Africana Encyclopedia, on CD-ROM. -- Basic Civitas Books, ed. by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Sullivan, Lester.  "Composers of color, nineteenth-century New Orleans;The story behind the nusic" in Black music research journal, v8 (1988) p11-41.

Sullivan, Lester.  Liner notes for CD Naxos 8.559038 (2000).




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