Joseph Emidy – Musician

Joseph Emidy Performs in Truro, CornwallJoseph Emidy (also spelt Emedy or Emedee) had been second violin in the orchestra of the Lisbon opera house before being pressed into the Royal Navy in 1795.
Born in West Africa in c.1775 JOSEPH ANTONIO EMIDY was enslaved as a child by Portuguese traders, taken to Brazil and subsequently Portugal where he became a virtuoso violinist in the Lisbon Opera. Kidnapped by British sailors during the Napoleonic wars, he spent the next four years as a ship fiddler
Once discharged in 1799, he resumed his career as a professional musician both in Falmouth and Truro, to where he later moved with his family. Emidy also privately taught a variety of instruments, including the violin.
Over the years, he became a highly regarded and popular performer both at local balls and parties and among the local ‘harmonic societies’ (or amateur orchestras) and concert groups. For some time, he was leader of the Harmonic Society of Falmouth. This untitled anonymous drawing almost certainly shows Emidy performing with a harmonic society in Truro, in 1808.
Emidy wrote a number of musical compositions, many of which were performed at local concerts and benefits with great success. Fears, however, that his colour would render him ‘unacceptable’ to London musical circles meant that none of his compositions gained a wider audience and, unfortunately, no copies of his work appear to have survived. After his death, one of his former pupils, the anti-slavery politician James Silk Buckingham, described Emidy’s work as an ‘achievement of extraordinary perfection’.

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