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The Message Bird

(New York, 1849-1852)

Prepared by David A. Day
1 volume (1992)

The Message Bird: A Literary and Musical Journal began publication in New York City on 1 August 1849 and continued under this title until 16 August 1852. Published twice monthly the journal treats general artistic matters including the fine arts and literature in the first part of each issue, and music in the extensive second part. Music supplements, distributed regularly, consist mainly of popular salon pieces composed specifically for the journal. Some of the more frequent contributors include the English violinist George Loder, band instrument authority Allen Dodworth, the English composer of operas William Vincent Wallace, as well as William J. Wetmore, Augusta Browne, Samuel Jackson and Richard Dunning.

The beginnings of many historically significant American music institutions and the personalities active in the country’s musical life are documented in these pages. The establishment of the New York Philharmonic and the New York Harmonic Society, for example, are treated in The Message Bird; the careers of Max Maretzek and the singers associated with Italian opera productions at the Astor Place Opera House and Castle Garden are discussed in first-hand accounts throughout the journal. The brilliant and somewhat sensationalized American debuts of the well-known soprano Jenny Lind and contralto Marietta Alboni are reported in detail and debated at length by correspondents. Also treated are a number of now obscure concert performing groups such as Dodworth’s band and the touring Alleghenians, as well as Theodore Eisfeld’s chamber music concerts, and the concerts held at Niblo’s Saloon, the Broadway Tabernacle and the Apollo Rooms. A series devoted to church music in New York City and Brooklyn provides a regular and detailed critique of choirs, choirmasters and organists at individual churches. Several innovations such as Ernest von Herringen’s new notational system and Alley and Poole’s euphonic organ are described. The journal’s editors, Oliver Dyer and Richard Storrs Willis, conscientiously supported contemporary composers and musical education, and the American phenomenon of “conventions” promoting the study of music literature. The major personalities associated with these meetings, including William B. Bradbury, are dealt with in considerable detail.