Continental Vocalists, the
- Phyllis Bruce
- , revised by Joanna R. Smolko
Male quartet. It was formed in 1853 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, by four singers from Connecticut: William Dwight Franklin, John Wesleyan Smith, William Frisbie, and Charles Huntington. Three of them had met at the Boston Teachers Institute, where they studied with Lowell Mason, George J. Webb, and George F. Root. John A. Sterry began as the group’s conductor and manager, although at some time Franklin became its leader. In September 1853, they toured across the United States. Frisbie’s death in 1855 cut short their second tour; he was replaced by Truman Watson. The group developed an American repertory, much of it patriotic, and many of their songs were written by Franklin, including “The Power of the Mighty Dollar,” “The Old Man’s Soliloquy,” and “The Mountain Bugle’s Echo.” The Continental Vocalists Glee Book (1855) also included works by many other contemporary composers. Their performance of “The Ballad of Johnny Sands” was important in the widespread dissemination and popularity of the song. The group concentrated on excellent singing and exploited their gift for entertaining, avoiding controversial programming. They performed in costumes of the Federal era, displayed flags, and accompanied themselves on flute, violin, cello, and melodeon. They made extensive annual tours from fall to spring during the 1850s and early 1860s, averaging four concerts weekly and playing to packed halls; in the 12 years of their existence they earned more than $70,000. Newspaper reviews were numerous and favorable; an undated review in the Buffalo ...