- Renee Lapp Norris
(b 1823, in Lancaster or Philadelphia, PA; d Chillicothe, MO, Sept 10, 1868). American composer, manager, arranger, singer, and pianist. Of German ancestry, Kneass began his career as a child, appearing in 1828 in Philadelphia. By the early 1840s, he was performing vocal concerts in New York with a group that included Mrs. Eliza Sharpe (whom he may have married), George Holman, and Joseph H. Kavanagh. In the autumn of 1844, Kneass, Holman, and Kavanagh sang in the chorus for the American premiere of Michael William Balfe’s opera The Bohemian Girl. In the spring of 1845, Kneass directed and performed as a blackface minstrel with the Ethiopian Troupe of Burlesquers, which also included Sharpe, Holman, and Kavanagh. They performed opera parody skits at Palmo’s Opera House in New York City, including The Virginian Girl, a parody of The Bohemian Girl. During the next several years, Kneass performed with the New Orleans Serenaders, a troupe known for its opera parodies, and managed the Sable Harmonists, which toured the American South and the British Isles. In ...