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Francis Johnson

Francis Johnson


Listen to samples from the Black Composers, Classical Quartets collection here.

Francis Johnson, born in Philadelphia, was the first African American to have his works published as sheet music, and first became famous when his Collection of New Cotillions was published in 1818. Johnson is also credited as the first director to bring an American ensemble on tour abroad to Europe, in 1837. Despite the racial discrimination of the time, Johnson successfully received patronage and participated in racially integrated concerts in the U.S., and introduced the U.S. to the "promenade concert" style, which was a combination of strolling through beautiful gardens and dancing to waltzes, quadrilles, cotillions, and other styles. While much of his music only survives as piano transcriptions, reviews and accounts from audience members describe a lively and unique method of improvisation that some have labeled as an early nineteenth century jazz.

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