(b Philadelphia, PA, July 19, 1843; d Philadelphia, PA, 1918). American pianist, singer, educator, and composer. He studied music with his father Thomas à Becket Sr. (b 17 March 1808; d 6 Jan 1890) and in Philadelphia public schools. The father, a music teacher, actor and composer, wrote Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean. In 1855 Thomas à Becket Jr. performed at the Walnut Street Theatre in a work written by his father. He developed into one of the finest, most sought after accompanists in the city, joining with leading artists and singing groups. Member and president of the Mendelssohn Club, he sang in a series of 35 light operas produced at the Amateur Drawing Room (1868–72) and accompanied the Orpheus Club (1877–98). An important educator, from 1873 until he died à Becket taught and played the organ at Girard College, a residential school for orphaned boys. À Becket became a member of a group of professional musicians who evaluated music teaching methods in the Philadelphia Public Schools. À Becket family archives at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts include diaries (...
Martha Furman Schleifer
(b Genoa, 1821; d Milan, 1896). Italian mezzo-soprano . She studied with her father, the composer and teacher Natale Abbadia, making her début in 1836 at Sassari. In Vienna she sang Corilla in Donizetti’s Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali (1840). At La Scala she created Giulietta in Verdi’s ...
H. Wiley Hitchcock
revised by Katherine K. Preston
(b Chicago, Dec 9, 1850; d Salt Lake City, Jan 5, 1891). American soprano and impresario. She studied first with her father and by the age of nine was performing professionally. She joined an itinerant concert troup in 1866 and after it disbanded went to New York to study with Achille Errani; her concert début there was in December 1871. In 1872 she went abroad to study with Sangiovanni in Milan and Marchesi, Wartel and Delle Sedie in Paris. Her operatic début at Covent Garden was as Marie in La fille du régiment (2 May 1876), but her contract was cancelled when she refused to sing Violetta on moral grounds.
Abbott secretly married Eugene Wetherell (d 1889); in 1876 they returned to the USA, where she gave concerts. Her American operatic début was in New York on 23 February 1877, again as Marie. In ...
(b Cairo, 1910; d Cairo, May 3, 1991). Egyptian composer and singer. As a child he had a remarkable musical memory, and at the age of seven he joined a drama troupe to sing during intervals. In 1920 he began studies of traditional Arab music at the Arabic Music Club (now the Institute of Arabic Music), and he also studied Western music for a time at the Bergrün School in Cairo. He then embarked on a dual career as a singer-composer; possessing a fine baritone voice, he achieved great popularity, and he also won fame for his improvisations on the ‘ud (lute). His acquaintance with the poet Aḥmad Shawqī helped him socially, and his settings of Shawqī are classics of the genre. Chosen by Sayyid Darwīsh to perform in his operetta Al-barouka (or La mascotte), ‘Abd al-Wahhāb some years later completed Darwīsh's posthumous Cleopatra, though he composed no original music for the theatre. However, he played in many musical films, performing his own songs. Among the awards he received are the Order of Merit and the State Prize for the Arts....
Lisa A. Urkevich
[Muḥammed ‘Abdu ‘Othmān Marzuq al-Dehel al-‘Asīrī]
(b Jizan, Saudi Arabia, 1949). Saudi singer, composer and ‘ūd (lute) player. His father was a well-known sailor who died when Muḥammed was two years old. Muḥammed began singing at the age of six, and at nine he received his first vocal training through the study of Qur'anic recitation, which, along with the call to prayer (adhān), he offered at school events. About the age of 13 he became involved with amateur traditional singers and learnt to play the ‘ūd. Because of his close proximity to Yemen, he encountered master musicians of the al-yamānī style. He gained a diploma in shipbuilding and was offered a scholarship to study in Japan, but declined the offer, preferring to become a professional musician. His first recognized composition was Hala yā bū sha'ar tha'ir (1965). He went on to record over 80 albums in a variety of styles, including popular Egyptian styles, but he has been most appreciated for his folkloric, traditional Saudi and Gulf pieces. He gained an international reputation and has often been called ‘...
(b Aberdeenshire, 1653; d ?Cambridge, after 1716). Scottish countertenor, composer and lutenist. The first occurrence of his name in official records is on 1 May 1679, when he was admitted ‘extraordinary’ then ‘in ordinary’ to the Chapel Royal. From the same time he is listed among the musicians of the King’s Private Musick as one of the lutes and voices and also as a violinist, though the latter post was probably a sinecure. Between 1679 and 1688 he received considerable sums of ‘bounty money’ for undisclosed services to the king while travelling abroad. Evelyn recorded (27 January 1682):
After supper came in the famous Trebble, Mr Abel, newly returnd from Italy, & indeed I never heard a more excellent voice, one would have sworne it had been a Womans it was so high, & so well & skillfully manag’d.
He graduated MusB at Cambridge in 1684...
(b Lemberg [now L’viv], July 14, 1872; d Weidling, nr Vienna, Sept 1, 1932). Polish soprano of Austrian parentage . She first appeared as a child prodigy, singing operatic arias in her native town. At 13 she entered the Vienna Conservatory; she later studied in Milan, becoming highly proficient in florid singing while developing a voice of considerable power. She made her début (1889) in La sonnambula at the Vienna Opera. In the Munich première of Falstaff she sang Mrs Ford, and at Dresden in 1902 sang Tosca in the opera’s German première. She retired in 1908, having sung some 70 operatic roles, ranging from coloratura parts such as the Queen of Night and Lucia to dramatic roles including Sieglinde and Venus. A few rare gramophone records made in 1902 display some dubious stylistic qualities along with an extraordinary fluency in decorative work and a warm, limpid tone characteristic of the Lamperti school....
[Masikini, Abeti ]
(b Stanleyville [Kisangani], Belgian Congo [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Nov 9, 1951; d Paris, Sept 29, 1994). Congolese singer and songwriter. Abeti first reached prominence in West Africa in the early 1970s under the tutelage of Togolese impresario Gérard Akueson who later became her husband. On the strength of her West African following, Abeti performed at the Paris Olympia concert hall in 1973 and made her first recording shortly thereafter, an album called Abeti for the record label of Pierre Cardin. Abeti returned home to Congo to widespread acclaim. Her enormous popularity opened the door for other women to enter the region's male-dominated music business.
Abeti helped to pioneer le spectacle, the ‘show style’ of performance. Her stage presentations included an array of musicians (Les Redoutables) and dancers (Tigresses), lavishly costumed and precisely choreographed. She played Carnegie Hall in 1974 and the Olympia again in ...
(b Cape Town, June 26, 1947). South African drummer, percussionist, singer, and leader. Known first for his singing, he developed as a drummer by accompanying other singers in Cape Town and playing with the quartet led by the pianist Cecil May. In 1962 he joined the Coon Carnival stage show. He then spent seven years in Swaziland, where he played bop with the pianists Roy Peterson and Howard Belling and accompanied Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. In 1975 he traveled to England and worked in variety and dance bands before joining Dudu Pukwana’s group Zila. In 1981 he founded the trio District Six with Mervyn Afrika and the guitarist Russell Herman, both of whom grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town; with Abrahams as its leader, the trio expanded to a sextet (including Jim Dvorak from 1983 to 1993 and Claude Deppa at some point thereafter) and became an important focus for musicians who played both jazz and African rhythms. Abrahams also worked with Ronnie Scott, John Taylor, Johnny Dyani, and the Brotherhood of Breath. In ...
Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson
(b c1758; d Torquay, March 8, 1821). English soprano and composer. She made her début in October 1775 as the little gypsy in May Day, a piece designed for her by Garrick with music by her teacher Thomas Arne. However, she had limited success as a stage personality and in 1780 she left Drury Lane to become a principal singer at fashionable London concerts and provincial festivals. She appeared in the Handel Commemoration concerts in 1784, when Burney praised the sweetness and taste of her singing, in the next three Handel festivals, the Concerts of Ancient Music, and concert series organized by Rauzzini, Ashley and Salomon. Her sister Theodosia (d Torquay, 4 Nov 1849), whose voice Mount-Edgcumbe described as the most beautiful contralto he ever heard, often sang with her. In 1783, the Public Advertiser, while admiring Harriett's solo singing, commented that the ‘Forte...
Barry Jean Ancelet
(b nr Gueydan, LA, June 27, 1913; d Basile, LA, May 13, 1981). American cajun accordionist, singer, and songwriter. He came from a musical family; his father, mother, and at least one uncle played instruments. He was among the second generation of Cajun musicians to record, in the 1930s, and helped lead a revival of accordion and traditional Cajun music after World War II. He sometimes performed with Amédé Ardoin. The titles of some of his best known songs, such as “Service Blues” and “French Blues, indicate that blues was a major influence. In 1949 Abshire had a regional (Gulf Coast) hit with “The Pine Grove Blues,” after which he named his band, the Pine Grove Boys. Its various lineups included such musicians as Will Kegley (fiddle), Ernest Thibodeaux (guitar), Atlas Frugé (steel guitar), and Robert Bertrand (fiddle and vocals), and its best known recordings were released by Swallow Records. In the 1960s Abshire performed with Dewey Balfa and his brothers at colleges and festivals across the country and in doing so helped bring Cajun music to the national folk music circuit. He was featured in several documentary films, including ...
[Alexander, John Marshall ]
(b Memphis, TN, June 9, 1929; d Houston, TX, Dec 25, 1954). American rhythm-and-blues singer and songwriter. He served in the US Navy in World War II, then played piano with the Memphis-based group the Beale Streeters alongside Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Roscoe Gordon, and B. B. King; they played electric blues in the style of Sonny Boy Williamson, and in the early 1950s recorded for Ike Turner and Sam Phillips. Ace then signed a contract as a solo artist with Don Robey’s Duke recording company; his record “My Song” reached number one on the rhythm-and-blues chart in 1952, as did “The Clock” the following year. Using a smoother style, he made a series of successful recordings in 1953 and 1954, and became a popular live performer. After his death, his song “Pledging my Love” (1955) became his greatest hit; it was later recorded by Elvis Presley, among others. Ace developed a sophisticated type of rhythm and blues, and had more success as a performer of emotional ballads than as a bluesman. His earnest, suppliant style became a model for later romantic singers....
(b Helsinki, April 23, 1876; d Nummela, Aug 8, 1944). Finnish soprano. She studied first with her mother, a principal soprano of the Helsinki Opera, and made her début there in 1893. After further study at the Paris Conservatoire, she appeared at the Opéra, on 8 October 1897, as Gounod’s Marguerite. Her success there and in other European cities led to her engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, where in 1904 and 1905 her roles included Marguerite and Juliet in Gounod’s operas, and Wagner’s Eva, Elsa and Elisabeth. In 1907 she sang with Van Dyck’s company in the German season at Covent Garden, and in the same year at Leipzig gave her first performance as Richard Strauss’s Salome, the role for which she became most famous. She sang it also in the British première in 1910 under Beecham and was commended especially for performing the Dance of the Seven Veils herself. The later part of her career was spent largely in Finland, where in ...
(b Maynardville, TN, Sept 15, 1903; d Nashville, TN, Nov 23, 1992). American country singer-songwriter and publisher. He was first influenced by traditional music heard at home, much of it British, and by music at the church where his father was the pastor. His Southern Baptist heritage became evident in the mournful, wailing style of his vocals. A keen sportsman, he was denied a professional athletic career through ill-health, but learnt to play his father’s fiddle. His early career was in so-called medicine shows, and radio appearances with local musicians led to the formation of his first group, the Tennessee Crackerjacks. His first record followed in 1937, and he made his début on ‘The Grand Old Opry’ radio show, subsequently becoming a regular contributor as Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys. His recording of the Carter family classic Wabash Cannonball earned him a gold disc and led to nationwide tours as well as work in Hollywood....
(b Dresden, Aug 1, 1926). German bass-baritone. As a boy he was a member of the Dresden Kreuzchor, and he studied in the city and at Weimar before making his début at the Dresden Staatsoper in 1949. He joined the Berlin Staatsoper in 1952. That year he made his début in a small role at Bayreuth, graduating to King Henry in 1954 and to Wotan in 1963; his later roles there included the Dutchman, Amfortas and Hans Sachs. At the Salzburg Festival he was heard as Ochs (1969) and Wozzeck (1972), and at the Vienna Staatsoper he sang the title role in a new production of Don Giovanni in 1972. Also in Vienna he sang a memorable Pizarro in the Beethoven bicentenary production of Fidelio at the Theater an der Wien in 1970, conducted by Bernstein. His other roles included Philip II, King Mark and La Roche (...
Thomas Bauman and Paul Corneilson
(b Rohr, nr Rothenburg, Bavaria, Feb 22, 1740, or Munich, July 6, 1743; d Vienna, Aug 24, 1804). German tenor. In 1755 he studied singing with J.E. Walleshauser (Giovanni Valesi) while at the Domus Gregoriana, a Jesuit institution in Munich. In 1760 he joined the Kapelle of Duke Clemens and on Clemens’s death in 1770 was taken into the elector’s Hofkapelle. After making his début at Munich in 1772 he sang leading tenor roles in opere serie at Modena, Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome (taking the italianized stage name Valentino Adamonti) from 1775 to 1777, then at the King’s Theatre in London until 1779. Following appearances at Florence and Milan, he joined the Singspiel company of the National Court Theatre at Vienna, where he made his début on 21 August 1780. In 1781 he married the Viennese actress Marie Anne Jacquet (1753–1804). On the dissolution of the Singspiel company in ...
revised by Giancarlo Rostirolla
(b Bolsena, Nov 30, 1663; d Rome, July 22, 1742). Italian singer, writer and composer of Venetian origin. After early study at Montefiascone he was sent to Rome. Though his admission to the Cappella Giulia was recorded on 1 December 1682, he did not take up a post there until much later. In 1682 (or at the latest 16 September 1686) Adami became a member of the Congregazione dei Musici di S Cecilia, a fact which would confirm his professional activity in the sacred circles of Rome. He was a castrato of obviously unusual talent, but the remarkable success of his career also owed much to the fact that he enjoyed the protection of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni – the most influential Roman music patron of the day – in whose palace he served as musician-in-residence from 1686 to 1740. On 5 October 1690 he became a member of the Arcadia – the foremost musico-literary academy in Rome – where he was dubbed ‘Caricle Piseo’. Aided by Ottoboni’s patronage he was admitted as a soprano to the Cappella Sistina at the age of 26 (...
(b Kingston, ON, Nov 5, 1959). Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and photographer. The son of a diplomat, he spent his youth in England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. After returning with his family to North America, he began performing and recording at the age of 15 with rock bands in British Columbia and Ontario. In 1978 he began what became a long and successful songwriting partnership with Jim Vallance, with whom he created most songs recorded under his name up to 1987, as well as songs recorded by Rod Stewart, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Diamond, and the Canadian groups Prism, BTO, and Loverboy.
Adams’ albums characteristically alternate between down-tempo piano ballads and straight-ahead rock numbers. His third solo album, Cuts like a Knife (1983) launched him to the status of an international celebrity; its singles included the ballad “Straight from the Heart” and the anthem “Cuts like a Knife,” which both featured for weeks on magazine charts and music television. The next album, ...
H. Wiley Hitchcock
revised by June C. Ottenberg and Jonas Westover
(b Charlestown, MA, Feb 9, 1834; d West Harwich, MA, July 4, 1900). American tenor. Adams was one of the most prominent American singers in European opera houses throughout the 19th century. He studied singing in Boston and in 1856 was soloist in the Handel and Haydn Society’s performance of Haydn’s The Creation. In 1861 he made concert and opera appearances in the West Indies and Holland. He studied in Vienna with Carlo Barbieri and was engaged for three years by the Berlin Royal Opera, then for eight out of nine years (1867–76) as principal tenor of the Vienna Imperial Opera. He also sang at La Scala and Covent Garden. In 1877 he returned to the United States. During the 1877–8 season at the Academy of Music in New York he sang the title role in the first American production of Wagner’s Rienzi. An excellent singer and fine actor, he had a commanding stage presence. His voice was described as very powerful and “a very sweet one and one of great range.” Adams made his way to Chicago in the 1880s, where he regularly performed oratorios with the Chicago Musical Union. Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Manrico, and Rienzi were his most celebrated parts. From ...