Kavanaugh [Kavanagh], Joseph H.
- Renee Lapp Norris
(fl 1840s–60s). American singer and composer. Throughout the 1840s he appeared frequently in New York in vocal concerts, often in the company of Frank Lynch, George Holman, and Nelson Kneass. Kavanaugh also sang in the chorus for several operas, including Ferdinand Herold’s Zampa in 1841 and Michael William Balfe’s The Bohemian Girl in 1844. Early in 1845 Kavanaugh appeared with Kneass’s Ethiopian Troupe of Burlesquers at Palmo’s Opera House, again with Holman and Lynch. This troupe performed burlesques of opera in blackface. By the early 1850s Kavanaugh’s name appeared more frequently in advertisements for minstrel troupes than for the vocal concerts and operatic performances that characterized his early career. In 1849 he composed “Virginia Rose Bud,” a popular sentimental song. The refrain parodies the overture to Daniel Auber’s opera Le cheval de bronze. “Virginia Rose Bud,” which was performed both in and out of blackface, constitutes a fitting representative of Kavanaugh’s career: he was able to remain active for decades by moving between legitimate genres and minstrelsy....