Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sissieretta Jones The Black Patti

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, known as Sissieretta Jones, The Black Patti (January 5, 1868 or 1869 – June 24, 1933. Compared to the Italian soprano at the time, Adelina Patti, Jones was dubbed the "Black Patti".

Among the more recent singers, perhaps the most distinguished is Madame Sissieretta Jones. She was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1870. Her father was pastor of the local Methodist Church. When still a young woman her parents moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where her voice soon attracted public attention. She showed her talent as a singer as early as five years old. After making a number of public appearances in Providence, she was invited to go to New York and sing at Wallack's Theatre.

At age fourteen she was accepted at the now defunct Providence School of Music and also attended training classes at The New England Conservatory in Boston. She aldo met and married her husband "David Richard Jones" a well known gambler.

Her success was so great that she was immediately engaged to tour South America and the West Indies. In 1886 she sang with great success in Madison Square Garden.

She has sung with success in all the principal cities of Europe, and during recent years has had her own company, known as the Black Patti Troubadours at the head of which she has appeared in every important city in the United States. The groups performances included blackface minstrel and “coon” songs also featured acrobats and comedians toured the United States and abroad for 20 years.

Sissieretta Jones The Black PattiOn June 1892 Jones became the first African-American to sing at the Music Hall in New York (renamed Carnegie Hall the following year). Among the selections in her program were Charles Gounod's "Ave Maria" and Giuseppe Verdi's "Sempre libera" (from La traviata). The New York Echo wrote of her performance at the Music Hall: "If Mme Jones is not the equal of Adelina Patti, she at least can come nearer it than anything the American public has heard. Her notes are as clear as a mockingbird's and her annunciation perfect."

She first performed at the White House in February 1892 for President Benjamin Harrison and returned to appear before Presidents Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. She also appeared before the British Royal Family.

In 1893 Jones met composer Antonín Dvořák, and in January 1894 she performed parts of his Symphony No. 9 at Madison Square Garden. Dvořák wrote a solo part for Jones.

At the age of 46, she returned home to Providence, devoting herself to church work, taking in homeless children, and caring for her ailing mother. To make ends meet, she sold three of her four houses and most of her medals and jewels, leaving her penniless when she died of cancer at age 74 in Rhode Island Hospital.

TEXT CREDIT: The story of the Negro: the rise of the race from slavery, Volume 2 By Booker T. Washington.

IMAGE CREDIT: The white side of a black subject: enlarged and brought down to date : a vindication of the Afro-American race : from the landing of slaves at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565, to the present time.


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