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Justin Holland -

19th Century Black American Guitar Hero,

with a special look at his delightful set of twenty

SCRAPS FROM THE OPERAS

Arranged For
Two Guitars
by

JUSTIN HOLLAND

wherein Grand Opera meets Dueling Banjos meets Black History

 

Justin Holland, Scraps From The Operas

 

 


Justin Holland

Justin Holland (1819-1887) was a 19th-century black American guitarist. He was the most important guitarist of his generation. Over 300 of his guitar arrangements were published. His earlier editions predate the Civil War. He would have been a household name to anyone who played guitar in that era of home music-making. Virtually none of those guitar players would have been aware of Justin Holland's race.

Moreover, Justin Holland devoted much of his life working for the end of slavery and the advancement of his race. He participated in the operation of the Underground Railroad in Cleveland. He secured recognition of African-American Freemasons by white Freemasons in Europe. He joined other African-American leaders in local, state, and national Negro Conventions.

There's no sense in duplicating effort, so here are a few links to pages with some background information on Justin Holland:

Justin Holland pioneered 19th century classic guitar

Holland, Justin (1819-1887)

Justin Holland (1819-1886)

Justin Holland: Black Guitarist in the Western Reserve

Justin Holland (1819-1887); African American Composer, Guitarist & Teacher; Cleveland's First African American Professional

The Library of Congress site has a few things of interest about Justin Holland. Go to the main page of the Library of Congress. Then click on "American Memory". When that page comes up, enter "justin holland" (without the quote marks) in the search box. The first five hits of the search program are specific to Justin Holland:

Item Titles                                                   Collection Titles 
1. Justin Holland (1819-1886) [photograph or print]           African-American Experience 
2. Linquist Justin Holland, of Euclid Avenue [from newspaper] African-American Experience 
3. Delta Kappa Epsilon march /                                Sheet Music 
4. Still I love thee /                                        Sheet Music 
5. La prima donna waltz /                                     Sheet Music 

You can also see the titles of all the Justin Holland editions I have found in the Library of Congress collection. Go to my catalog of guitar music, principally arrangements, copied from the LC collection. Then search on the word "holland". You will find solos, duos and songs for voice and guitar. There are also arrangements by Holland's son, Justin Minor Holland.

I don't pretend to be a scholar of black history, but it seems to me that Justin Holland may have been the first African-American to create or produce something, in any field, that was recognized and appreciated by Americans on a nationwide basis. If that honor rightfully goes to an earlier African-American, Justin Holland's achievements must still be viewed as astounding. His earliest publications predate the Civil War by about eight years. Even some of his publishers didn't know he was a black man. I'm always surprised how little-known he is, in American history, and even in the guitar world.

 


Scraps From The Operas - introduced

I've enjoyed playing the many Justin Holland arrangements I found at the Library of Congress. After all, I'm a guitar aficionado with a penchant for "old stuff", in general, and Americana, in particular.

Holland's set of twenty Scraps From The Operas Arranged For Two Guitars hits on a few extra cylinders. I'm a big opera fan; the music is by some of the world's greatest composers; the individual "scraps" would have been the "top hits" of the mid-1800s; and I subscribe to the notion that guitars in combination make a much nicer listening experience than the solo guitar.

So it was only natural that I should get the bug to record the set of Opera Scraps. That was only made possible with the contribution of two excellent guitarists for the Guitar Primo parts: Bob Wysong and Chris Braddock. (Contribution??? - if you want to call the lion's share of the work a "contribution." I was the one who helped out!) The recordings were completed between November 2006 and January 2009.

 


Scraps From The Operas - listen or download!

You may enjoy the opera scraps as purely instrumental music, but your listening experience will be much more rewarding with the story which inspired the music playing in the opera house of your mind. Summarizing the whole opera would be going too far, of course, but each of these pages provides notes describing the scene in which the music is heard.

Most of the arrangements are made up of two or three familiar excerpts, or "scraps", from the opera. You will see times in parentheses (1:22) which indicate where the scrap begins within the recording. You'll see that Holland's scraps are often out of order relative to the story of the opera, so the Scrap 3 note may make Scrap 1 clearer, for example. It takes a little effort, but is worth it.

ATTENTION: check the address bar of your browser to make sure you are at www.donaldsauter.com/justin-holland-guitar.htm, with or without the "www". If not, go there now. These pages may appear on other sites without the sound files.

1. Faust Waltz (Gounod)
2. Faust March (Gounod)
3. Fra Diavolo (Auber)
4. Der Freischutz (Weber)
5. La Fille du Regiment (Donizetti)
6. Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti)
7. Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti)
8. Maritana (Wallace)
9. Martha No. 1 (Flotow)
10. Martha No. 2 (Flotow)
11. Masaniello (Auber)
12. Oberon (Weber)
13. Norma No. 1 (Bellini)
14. Norma No. 2 (Bellini)
15. La Traviata (Verdi)
16. Il Trovatore (Verdi)
17. La Sonnambula (Bellini)
18. Vespers Siciliennes (Verdi)
19. La Favorite (Donizetti)
20. The Crown Diamonds (Auber)

The twenty editions making up this series were each "Entered according to Act of Congress A.D. 1868 by J. L. Peters in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of N.J." I found 19 of the 20 duos at the Library of Congress. The missing one, Il Trovatore, was found in the Vahdah Olcott Bickford collection.

 


Scraps From The Operas - enjoy on YouTube!

I've worked up a music video (ok, a slide show) for each of the opera scraps and put them on YouTube. You should be able to get an idea of the action, or the main plot of the opera, without as much effort as trying to follow my liner notes. Here's the whole set of 20 in a YouTube play list. Watch them all in order, or skip around at will.

Scraps From The Operas playlist
Scraps From The Operas - all 20

 
Or pick and choose from the list below. (Tip: use the maximum YouTube screen size.)

Faust Waltz (Gounod) on youtube.
1. Faust Waltz (Gounod)

 
2. Faust March (Gounod) on youtube.
2. Faust March (Gounod)

 
Fra Diavolo (Auber) on youtube.
3. Fra Diavolo (Auber)

 
Der Freischutz (Weber) on youtube.
4. Der Freischutz (Weber)

 
La Fille du Regiment (Donizetti) on youtube.
5. La Fille du Regiment (Donizetti)

 
Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti) on youtube.
6. Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti)

 
Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti) on youtube.
7. Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti)

 
Maritana (Wallace) on youtube.
8. Maritana (Wallace)

 
Martha No. 1 (Flotow) on youtube.
9. Martha No. 1 (Flotow)

 
Martha No. 2 (Flotow) on youtube.
10. Martha No. 2 (Flotow)

 
Masaniello (Auber) on youtube.
11. Masaniello (Auber)

 
Oberon (Weber) on youtube.
12. Oberon (Weber)

 
Norma No. 1 (Bellini) on youtube.
13. Norma No. 1 (Bellini)

 
Norma No. 2 (Bellini) on youtube.
14. Norma No. 2 (Bellini)

 
La Traviata (Verdi) on youtube.
15. La Traviata (Verdi)

 
Il Trovatore (Verdi) on youtube.
16. Il Trovatore (Verdi)

 
La Sonnambula (Bellini) on youtube.
17. La Sonnambula (Bellini)

 
Vespers Siciliennes (Verdi) on youtube.
18. Vespers Siciliennes (Verdi)

 
La Favorite (Donizetti) on youtube.
19. La Favorite (Donizetti)

 
The Crown Diamonds (Auber) on youtube.
20. The Crown Diamonds (Auber)

 


Scraps From The Operas - or buy a handy CD.

Please feel free to download any or all of the 20 opera scraps mp3s for your own music collection. If you're inclined to do so, you might find it quicker and easier to order a copy of the complete set, in full CD-audio sound quality, on CD from me. The price is just $6, which includes postage and handling.

If interested, please follow these steps:

1. Check the address bar of your browser to make sure you are at www.donaldsauter.com/justin-holland-guitar.htm (with or without the "www"), which is the active and up-to-date version of this page. If not, go there now.

2. Send me an email at donaldsauter@gmail.com indicating your interest in ordering the OPERA SCRAPS cd for $6. Also include your MAILING ADDRESS (optional, if your address on file with PayPal is up-to-date.)

3. Wait for a CONFIRMATION EMAIL indicating everything is in order. This is mainly for your benefit; without confirmation you might not be sure this offer is still in effect.

4. Deposit $6 in my PAYPAL account, using my email address, donaldsauter@gmail.com . In PayPal, click the button for "This is a purchase of Goods." A short note in the "Email to recipient" box is optional.

If you don't want to fool with PayPal, I can tell you how to send payment in the mail, no problem.

That's it. Sit back a wait a few days.

 


The Arrangements

Justin Holland arranged these pieces for either one or two guitars. In other words, the "Guitar Primo" part was complete in itself, and the mostly chordal "Guitar Secondo" added thickening. Being self-contained, Guitar Primo could be, in musician parlance, "a bear." Adding Guitar Secondo, which duplicates many of the notes in Guitar Primo, presented the obvious solution; Guitar Primo simply drops notes handled by Guitar Secondo. In fact, it could go both ways, Guitar Primo occasionally taking over a problem note from Guitar Secondo. Moreover, by deliberately avoiding duplication of notes between the parts, a smoother, lighter sound is obtained. If all the notes of Guitars Primo and Secondo were played there would be a slight overload of notes yielding a mildly "clunky" effect.

In addition to dropping or handing off notes, we sometimes rearranged the notes in a chord to keep it out of the way of the Guitar Primo melody. We occasionally changed the arpeggio pattern of Guitar Secondo to more closely suggest the operatic orchestration. We occasionally added a repeat or altered the route through the piece to match the opera performance. While Holland may have viewed each work as a connected medley, we sometimes felt a complete separation of unrelated sections was more appropriate. In those cases, we often added basic one- or two-measure intros like the ones Holland wrote. Bob also changed a note here and there based on a comparison with opera recordings.

In two instances, Holland made use of arrangements by European guitarist Matteo Carcassi. Guitar Primo material in Holland's "Fra Diavolo" and "Masaniello" comes from Carcassi's Fantaisies on "Fra Diavolo" and "La Muette di Portici", opuses 37 and 33, respectively. In both cases, there is material in Holland's arrangement not found in Carcassi's. I'm not aware of any other instances of borrowings by Holland in this set; for example, he made no use of Carcassi's arrangement of "Der Freischütz" (op. 19) or "Les Diamants de la Couronne" (op. 71).

 


The Guitarists

Bob Wysong - Guitar Primo on all pieces except Nos. 12, 13, 14, and 18.

Chris Braddock - Guitar Primo on Nos. 12, 13, 14, and 18, plus the Jewel Song in No. 1.

Donald Sauter - Guitar Secondo throughout.

Guitar Primo is always placed on the left channel; Guitar Secondo on the right. You should hear the recordings on a real stereo system, such as from the mid-1980s.

Recording began on November 4 2006 and was completed on January 2 2009.

 


Afterword

There are 45 different "scraps" from 17 operas in these twenty duos. I hope you enjoy most of them. They were, after all, the "hottest hits" of the mid-19th century. Have our ears or brains changed that much since? If any of the scraps in particular capture your imagination, you should have little trouble finding a recording of the complete opera. And if you happen to catch the opera bug, I say, "Good for you, and welcome!"

Donald Sauter

 


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Parents, if you're considering tutoring or supplemental education for your child, you may be interested in my observations on Kumon.