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Aaron J. R. Connor
( d Philadelphia 1850)
Connor was a trombonist, flutist, cornetist, and singer with Franck (Francis) Johnson’s Band (based in Philadelphia) in the 1830’s. He stayed with the organization for over a decade, until two years after Johnson’s death under the leadership of Joseph Anderson (See Joseph Anderson in this chapter). He toured with Johnson and three other members of the group (William Appo, Edward Roland and Francis V. Seymour) to London, England in November 1837. They gave a series of concerts beginning on 11 December 1837 at the Argyll Rooms on Regent Street. They played through the last week of December 1837. Connor was involved in a variety of selections, including playing the cornet on brass band arrangements of the Overture from Il pirata (by Bellini), Introduction and God Save the King (arranged by Johnson), Pas Redoublé (by Walch), and the American National Airs of Hail Columbia and Yankee Doodle (as a finale.) He even sung Can I my love resign (by Rossini), Crows in the Cornfield (by T. Phillips for the vocal trio of Connor, Johnson, and Appo) and Potpourri (from the opera La Dame Blanche) (Southern 1977, 3-29).
In 1844, he started publishing songs and band pieces arranged for piano. Three of his famous pieces were The Evergreen Polka, Chestnut Street Promenade Quadrilles, and the American Polka Quadrilles. After his tenure with the Frank Johnson Band, he organized his own band in 1846, which played at many society functions in the Philadelphia area, including many summer resorts (Eileen Southern, "Connor, Aaron J. R.," in BDAAM).
Four works of Aaron Connor were still published in the United States as late as 1870. They were Remedy against Sleep Waltz, published by Lee & Walker of Philadelphia; Valse à cinq temps, published by Oliver Ditson & Co. of Boston; Evergreen Polka, published by Oliver Ditson & Co. of Boston; and Chestnut Street Promenade Quadrilles, published by S. T. Gordon of New York City. These compositions are listed in the Complete Catalogue of Sheet Music and Musical Works, 1870 (Board of Music Trade of the United States of America 1973, 441, 447, 457, 502). Sources of information are listed throughout this entry.
Ernst Albert Couturier
(b Poughkeepsie, NY 30 Sept 1869; d Wingdale, NY 28 Feb 1950)
His early musical studies at age ten were on the piano, but almost total blindness in one of his eyes hindered these studies. He had three operations for this blindness during his lifetime, but they only gave him temporary improvement. Apparently, this condition was present shortly after birth, but was not detected by either the doctors or his parents. He had three siblings who all died before the turn of the century.
He chose the piano at age ten, violin at age eleven, and the cornet at age fourteen. When he entered the New England Conservatory in c1885, his studies improved on the violin, piano, and theory, but he had problems with the cornet. His teacher even recommended to his parents that he stop playing the cornet altogether and spend more time on his other studies. He then left the Conservatory and received employment in his uncle’s watch repair shop in Poughkeepsie. Later, after hearing Theodor Hoch playing in Central Park, New York City, he sent a letter to Theodor’s employer, the Fischer Publishing Company, asking for lessons. Hoch taught Ernst to play with pressure only on his lower lip, leaving the upper one to vibrate freely. He took lessons for four years with Hoch and improved so much that he performed Arban’s Fantasie and Variations on The Carnival of Venice at age seventeen. He had also memorized many solos by Hoch, Levy, Hartmann, and Arban. In the 1880’s, Ernst played in the Twenty-first Regiment Band, the Eastman Business College Band (under the baton of the cornetist, John Hey), and in many touring minstrel shows and circus bands, including the Heywood Peerless Concert Company. He and his own band performed at the St. Louis Exposition of 1892, and beginning in 1893, he was soloist with Innes’ Band and with the Gilmore Band. For a few weeks he assumed responsibility of conductor of the Gilmore Band after Victor Herbert resigned in 1898.
It was during the 1890’s that Couturier began composing. The First Commander March and The Van der Veer Two Step are two works copyrighted in 1896. In 1898, his march The Maine’s Avenger was published, and he also had many piano arrangements published at the turn-of-the-century.
It is possible that Couturier performed at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 either with Innes’ Band (since Couturier had already established a good working relationship with Innes, and the band did play at the fair) or with a band of his own. Couturier was located in St. Louis by 1902 and was appointed conductor of the Louisiana Purchase Band of seventy-five members,"and when the great fair opens will be augmneted to 100 men" (C.G. Conn 1902, 19). The author of this document has not yet found any specific contemporary documentation to prove his musical contribution to the St. Louis World's Fair, but he was listed residing in the St. Louis City Directories in 1903 and 1904. The Fair was postponed until 1904 due to many logistic and financial problems. Beginning on 12 November 1902, Couturier played a solo tour with amateur bands through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. During this period he performed on a CONN Wonder Cornet, which he was reluctant to relinquish for a Queror (C. G. Conn 1902, 19).
In 1905, Couturier and fourteen colleagues established the P. S. Gilmore Band Library Publishing Company in St. Louis, Missouri. Couturier had acquired the entire library of Gilmore’s Band of 18,000 pieces through an arrangement with Gilmore's widow. The best music of the library was to be "rescored and condensed" and republished at a later date (Schwartz 1957, 142). In 1908, Carl Fischer purchased their entire library, thus terminating the company.
In 1906 he visited Europe on a solo tour and astounded his audiences with his high range, as well as his ability to play a total of six full octaves. He also performed multiphonics on the instrument.
He rejected the offer in 1907 to tour the United States with Sousa’s band because of an offer from Holton to be a demonstrator and consultant for their line of cornets. Holton employed him for four years. It was with Holton that the "Couturier Model New Proportion Cornet" was developed. It was a wide bore long model instrument with a small shepherd’s crook. It could be ordered with slides for both high and low pitch (A=440) and replacement slides for each of the valves.
After leaving Holton, Couturier received a patent (US #1073593) for his "continuous conical bore cornet" in 1913. J. W. York & Sons in Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first to produce this instrument, the "York Couturier Wizard Cornet", probably no later than 1915.
In 1916, Couturier, Melvin G. Lathrop, and William N. Barlow opened their own business, "E. A. Couturier Co., Ltd.," with the intention of producing their own line of conical bore instruments. Couturier transferred all of his patents from J. W. York & Sons to his new company. According to their catalogue of 1816, his company did produce an entire line of conical bore instruments, including the saxophone. In 1918, the firm moved from New York to LaPorte, Indiana, and was bought by Lyon & Healy in 1923. It operated until 1929.
He played cornet in vaudeville in Los Angeles until 1928 or 1929 when he returned to Mt. Vernon. He had a mental breakdown and died in the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Wingdale, N.Y. He was not a highly recorded artist, as he justifiably refrained from the sometimes-cut versions appearing on record by other artists. He recorded for Edison, however, Schubert’s Serenade, Endearing Young Charms, A Dream, and The Rosary.
Information for the above entry appears throughout "Ernest Couturier, Neglected Cornet Virtuoso: A Study in Musical Americana" (Galloway 1985), Pioneers in Brass (Bridges , 37-39), Bands of America (Schwartz 1957, 142), and The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 163).
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