Javascript Menu by Deluxe-Menu.com

The Armonica in England

The music glasses became quite popular in England. Jackson's Oxford Journal for December 12th, 1761, contains the following:

The Young Gentleman who has performed on the Musical Glasses, by permission of the Vice-Chancellor, takes this method of returning thanks for the great encouragement and kind reception he has met with: and to give notice that this day ... will be positively the last of his performances at Oxford; and that early Monday morning he will set out for Bath, and purposes to stop that day at the New Inn at Abindgdon for the entertainment of the Ladies and Gentlemen of that town.

They were mentioned in Oliver Wakefield's popular novel of the day The Vicar of Wakefield (1761):

They would talk of nothing but high life, and high-lived company; with other fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare and the musical glasses. [Chapter 9. An almost identical quote is found in chapter 10.]

As we have seen, Marianne Davies performed on the armonica throughout Great Britain from early 1762 to 1764[question about their chronology], and in London from June 1767 to fall 1768. She seems to have returned to England around 1797—she doesn't appear to have performed any more. Schuman and Largeau were two other armonica players who performed in London from 1762–1767—little is known of them. 1

In 1778 Frick arrived in London and apparently performed until around 1795 (when he experienced his spiritual conversion).

Kirchgaessner arrives in London in 1794 and performs until 1796 when she leaves for the Continent.

In Samuel Coleridge's play Remorse (1812), the beginning of Act III finds itself in an underground crypt with a sorcerer, and the script indicates 'soft music from an instrument of glass or steel.'2.

In 1818 Samuel Coleridge writes in The Friend:

A true musical taste is soon dissatisfied with the harmonica, or any similar instrument of glass or steel, because the body of the sound (as the Italians phrase it), or that effect which is derived from the materials, encroaches too far on the effect from the proportions of the notes, or that which is given to music by the mind.3

I'm not sure I understand what he means (the rest of the essay isn't much help), but it's certainly clear he doesn't care for it!

I haven't found any further mention of glass armonica performances in England in the early 19th century—did the fact that it was invented by the British "traitor" Benjamin Franklin have something to do with that? Meanwhile, performances on the musical glasses in variety shows are frequent.


1 Pohl (1867), 374

2 Coleridge (1903), 378

3 Coleridge (1866), Section II, Essay 6