Thursday, 23 July 2020 14:07

Talking About Statues in Congress Park? Perhaps Some Consideration Should Be Made for Music Man Francis Johnson

Frank “Francis” Johnson. Image provided. Frank “Francis” Johnson. Image provided.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In 1821, renowned composer, musician, show man and bandleader Francis Johnson was hired to come to Saratoga and entertainer summer visitors at Congress Hall. 

The Philadelphia-born fiddle player had adapted his musical skills to the newly designed keyed bugle which earned him high prominence on the early 19th century concert circuit, providing him bookings   all across North America as well as overseas. 

Born a free black man, Johnson led his band in Saratoga Springs for more than 20 years - between 1821 and 1843 - missing only the 1840 season. He played to overflow crowds that invited extended bookings. 

"The groves and spacious halls of Saratoga resounded with the notes of this enchanting bugle and violin," reads one anonymously penned local review of the era, praising Johnson and his band's performance of "music from all the recent operas, together with waltzes, gallopades, marches and quicksteps." 

Johnson performed twice a day in Congress Park and alternated evenings at Congress Hall and the United States Hotel. His compositions included pieces titled in honor of the region - "Saratoga," "Congress Hall," and "Ballston," among them. 

He entertained families with cheerful marches, livened up parties with cotillions - brisk, lively dance tunes, enjoyed by audiences that included James Monroe and John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. 

For his band, Johnson hired what was regarded as some of the best black musicians of the early 19th century, and shortly before his death in 1844, he staged what are believed to be some of the first integrated concerts in America. 

The bandleader was recognized in Saratoga Springs on July 20, 1978 – which was declared Frank Johnson Day, in a proclamation issued by the city of Saratoga Springs and signed by Mayor Raymond Watkin.

Read 659 times
Login to post comments

Blotter

  • POLICE Karissa A. Sanchez, 27, of Malta, was charged Aug. 3 in the town of Ballston with misdemeanor DWI, aggravated DWI – a felony with child under 16 tears of age in the vehicle, endangering the welfare of a child, and multiple other infractions.  According to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office, Sanchez had been traveling northbound on Schauber Road when the car swerved to avoid a deer, causing the car to flip over onto its roof. There were three children aged 2 to 6 in the vehicle at the time. The were not injured.  Andre Simmons, 19, of Schenectady, was…

Property Transactions

  • BALLSTON SPA 5 Pasture Place, $309,500. Rosetti Acquisitions LLC sold property to Ashley Crews and Timothy O’Connor.  32 Mann Rd., $392,000. James Frering sold property to Jessica Blascak.  5 Hollins Lane, $335,000. Wendy and Charles Haugh, Jr. sold property to Michael and Victoria Every. 14 Roseland Blvd., $250,000. Timothy Winslow sold property to Mathew and Kayla Parenti.  59 Midlinie Rd., $75,000. Pamela Schirnhofer sold property to Kyle Schirnhofer. 23 Kasey Pass, Unit 23, $297,489. Brookview Court Inc./Pigliavento Builders DBA sold property to Jeremy and Mary Spraggs.  96 Lancaster Court, $368,857. Bordeau Builders Inc. sold property to Katherine Ladd. 60 Beacon…
  • NYPA
  • Saratoga County Chamber
  • BBB Accredited Business
  • Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau
  • Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association