Price: $1; $1.50 reserved seats
Chamber (includes Solo)
15 August 2012
“He is a curiosity well worth seeing and hearing; for, though an insane negro, he is not repulsive in appearance, and his execution on the piano is really very fine.. He will execute on the pianoforte not only the most difficult of pieces, but will perform two of them at the same time and on the same piano.”
Steinway Grand “kindly furnished” by the firm.
His “singular performances have been much written about in the southern newspapers.”
“BLind Tom, The Negro Boy Pianist, gave his first concert at Dodworth Hall last evening. The house was well filled by a very fashionable and critical audience who listened to the performance and imitations of this wonderful musical phenomenon with the greatest astonishment, enthusiasm and satisfaction. As a wonder Tom merits all that has been said of him. His power of memory is remarkable; also in execution, touch and interpretation of some pieces he exhibits skill and the intelligence of a master, notwithstanding at times his look and motions are like one bereft of all reason. [Program given.] After the execution of each piece Tom applauds himself with all the enthusiasm of any member of the audience, and appears just as well pleased and delighted. He is certainly a wonder in his way, and his entertainment will not fail to interest and satisfy any one who may wish to see and hear a wonderful musical prodigy.”
“‘Blind Tom,’ now giving concerts in this city, is certainly an extraordinary creature. The loss of sight is not the least of the poor fellows [sic] misfortunes. He has also lost his reason. The surprise excited by many of his musical tricks is only equaled by the pain which any human person must experience in knowing that this is the last glimmering of intelligence left to him. Tom is by no means a remarkable piano-forte player. He hammers the instrument with infinite glee, and seems to be most pleased when making the greatest noise. But his temperament is exceptionally musical, and imitative to an extraordinary degree. Thus if anyone sits down to the piano and plays a piece of music, he will at once paraphrase it, preserving the melodic color of the original and some of its form; he will tell you what notes are struck in any chord or discord; and more remarkable still, can play one tune with his right hand, another with his left, whilst singing a third. This feat was performed in a singular manner yesterday afternoon. After indulging in the three melodies, according to the formula just given, he changed the key of each, and actually sang and played ‘Yankee Doodle’ in A flat, ‘Fisher’s Hornpipe’ in A; and ‘Tramp, Tramp, Tramp’ in G! The boy, like all blind folk has an excellent memory, and the slightest circumstance serves to recall former associations. On hearing the first few notes of a piece of music which had been played to him five years ago, he at once shouted out the name of the performer—remembering him in all probability by his touch.
Whilst playing, blind Tom throws his head back in a sort of unpleasant ecstasy, and makes many grimaces that are anything but pleasant. All his wits are evidently in music.”
“This extraordinary phenomenon gave a concert at Dodworth’s Hall last night before a crowded audience. Having to attend the opera, we arrived too late to hear his performance. We, however, heard him in the day and look upon him as one of the most remarkable instances of a person gifted with a single talent, while all the rest is blank. He has great power over the piano, his execution is remarkable, and his memory and his imitative powers are truly extraordinary. One of the solo pianists played for him a piece of several pages. Blind Tom listened with rapt attention and immediately after sat down and repeated the whole composition, perfect as to form, though not correctly as to actual notes. Still, the modulations were correct, and but few educated musicians could have followed the form and the modulation so closely to the original.”
“Blind Tom is a veritable wonder. Many believe because of the peculiar position of the negro boy that some little aptitude for music has been magnified, from charitable or interested motives, into genius, and an ignorant facility on the pianoforte into first class manipulation. Such belief has no foundation in fact. The boy has positive genius, or never from out the darkness of his mind could spring such powers of delicate and tender expression or such a keen comprehension of the beauties of the musical art. Blind, with a mind almost vacant, with a personnel so awkward, so disproportioned, so opposed to the idea of the dwelling place of a soul, awake to the refined influence of divine harmony, he executes the compositions of great minds with an intelligence and a kindred sentiment which many artists of education who attempt them cannot reach. Memory and imitativeness are the two organs by which he accomplishes the extraordinary results to which we have listened with wonder and admiration. He learns the difficult pieces which he plays by hearing them from the hands of another. His memory is wonderfully retentive, so that after a second hearing he repeats correctly the most complicated passages. He seems to have comprehended at once the system of fingering; and, although he sometimes outrages the laws, his substitution is always ingenious and effective. By his imitative power, he seizes the style of each performer, and by the combination of memory and imitation he is enabled to reproduce immediately any composition that he hears for the first time, absolutely correct in form, the leading themes preserved and the passages in detail almost as he heard them. His ear is so acute that he can tell the name of every note in dispersed chords or the most confused discords, beginning with the lower note and naming each in succession. His vivid perception of the individuality of tones suggested to his teacher to adopt a system of the alphabet top the tones, so that Tom can read anything on a card as fast as his teacher’s fingers can move over the keys. It is a matter of astonishment to hear this blind negro boy play a sonnet [sic] by Beethoven, as well as Gottschalk’s ‘Last Hope,’ with all the refined sentiment, the pathos and abandon which the composition requires, and to listen as he plays Thalberg’s ‘Home, Sweet Home,’ with its so well sustained theme, and its delicate manipulations so finely rendered. He has a large repertoire, to which he is constantly adding, and he plays all that he knows with a sentiment and a con brio which indicate that his heart and all his mind are in his work.
Blind negro Tom is a study as well as a wonder, and every time we hear him we gain some additional insight into his character; but where the light of music comes from, where all else is so dark , is one of those mysteries of Providence which we seek in vain to unravel. Last evening Mr. Charles Fradel, an artist well known in this city, was present, and was kind enough to perform one of his most beautiful and difficult compositions, after which Tom immediately performed it with entire satisfaction, and amid to greatest enthusiasm.
He plays nightly at Dodworth Hall, and public attention is beginning to be directed towards him. When it is fully aroused thousands will flock to listen to the most remarkable phenomenon of this or any age.”
“The Gentlemen who manage Blind Tom, the ‘Negro Boy,’ have formed a somewhat erroneous idea of the estimation in which the ‘cullud persuasion’ are held in this city, if we may judge by the terms of admission to the colored soirees. In Philadelphia the black boy was exhibited at 50 cents, ahead, reserved seats, 75 cents. Presuming that we entertain a still higher opinion of the colored race than the fiery drabs of the Quaker City, so we are to be taxed one dollar per head, and one dollor [sic] and a half for reserved seats just double what was charged in Philadelphia. Thomas and his brethren will not be long in discovering the mistake they have made.”
“Blind tom, The Negro Boy Pianist.—This exceptional specimen of the human family continues to excite the wonder and astonishment of all who see and hear him. Each asks the other how is it possible that this half idiotic boy can do that which requires so extended an education and so refined an intelligence to understand and perform? It takes years and years of directed labor, both physical and mental, to arrive at anything approaching a creditable manipulation of the piano; yet this boy, with a darkened mind, without the aid of vision, and with a physical conformation which it would seem impossible to mould to any harmonious purpose, has arrived at nearly the same point in many respects, with every outward circumstance against him. We hear him play long and difficult pieces with precision, delicacy and power; we hear him repeat a new composition just played to him, with faithfulness to form, modulation and idea; we hear him disentangle the most complicated and widespread discord, note by note, and we marvel at the power and the source from whence it proceeds. It is wonderful—it is mysterious—more occult, more seemingly impossible than Herrmann’s Eastern mysteries, and no one can fully understand the extent of the wonder and the mystery unless they see Blind Tom and hear him play. Dodworth Hall is crowded nightly by the fashionable and learned of our society, and much high flown theory is expended on Tom’s account. But no one has fathomed the mystery of Tom’s wonderful talent, and probably no one ever will. Let those who doubt the assertion go themselves and strive to fathom this unaccountable negro.”