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Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Hello Afrigeneas Writers:

My dear friend Fabrice sent me an e-mail from Paris telling me that the city's new mayor has named one of its streets after one of the world's most illustrious composers of the 18th century. His name was Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the son of an African slave from Guadeloupe and a French aristocrat.

De Saint-Georges, along with England's Samuel Colderidge and America's William Grant Still were some of the most prolific composers of African descent. Although I lean to classic soul and classic jazz, there is nothing more exciting than the classical music and intricate melodies of baroque composers such as de Saint-Georges.

His life is a fascinating read. He was a master swordsman, an athlete and was reported to swim in the Seine in the middle of winter with one arm behind his back. In 1761 de Saint-Georges joined the King's Guard. Eight years later he was the first violinist in the prestigious Le Concert des Amateur.

De Saint-Georges is often referred to as the "Black Mozart." Perhaps, but some historians note that it was Mozart who came to The Paris School to study with its illustrious members, one of whom was de Saint-Georges. Marie Antoinette must have been taken with his musical talent when in 1775, she appointed him Music Director.

De Saint-Georges survived the dangerous intrigues of the Revolution in spite of his association with Queen. He joined the Revolutionary army and in 1792 became Colonel of the Legion des Hussards Americains. Under his command, 1,000 men of color petitioned The National Assembly to allow them to fight in defense of the Revolution.

There are so many aspects of de Saint-Georges' life that reminds me of Paul Robeson. They are both a study in contrasts.... artists of the aesthetics, and yet strong athletes.

De Saint-Georges' life is detailed on several sites. My favorite that includes several of his portraits is hot linked below. Others are listed for you to cut and paste. You'll enjoy them all.

A heartfelt thanks to Mayor of Paris, Bertrand DelanoŽ for naming a street in the memory of de Saint-Georges, and also to Fabrice who inspired me to share this story with you.

Here are the other URL's:

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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