Edmond Dédé

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Edmond Dédé (November 20, 1827, New Orleans, Louisiana – 1903, Paris, France) was a free-born Creole musician and composer. He moved to Europe to study in Paris in 1857 and settled in France. His compositions include Quasimodo Symphony, Le Palmier Overture, Le Serment de L'Arabe and Patriotisme. He served for 27 years as the conductor of the orchestra at the Théâtre l'Alcazar in Bordeaux.

Early life and education[edit]

Dédé's parents had arrived in New Orleans from the French West Indies around 1809, after the Haitian Revolution. His father was a militia unit bandmaster. As a boy, Dédé first learned the clarinet, but soon switched to the violin, on which he was considered a prodigy. He would later go on to perform compositions of his own as well as those by Rodolphe Kreutzer, a favored composer of his. Dédé's teachers in his youth included violinists Constantin Debergue and Italian-born Ludovico Gabici, who was the director of the St. Charles Theater Orchestra. He was taught music theory by Eugène Prévost and New York-born black musician Charles-Richard Lambert, the father of Sidney and Charles Lucien Lambert.

Dédé's instruction from Gabici ended when white hostility towards musicians of colour forced him to flee to Mexico. He continued his studies there. When he eventually returned to the US around 1852, he worked as a cigar maker, saving money to be able to travel to Europe. He went first to Belgium, then Paris, where he managed to obtain an ultimately successful audition at the Paris Conservatoire in 1857. He studied at the Conservatoire with Jean Delphin Alard and Fromental Halevy.

Marriage and family[edit]

In 1864 Dédé married a Frenchwoman, Sylvie Leflet, and settled in Bordeaux. They had one son, Eugene Arcade Dédé, who became a classical music composer as well.


Edmond Dédé served for 27 years as the conductor of the orchestra at the Théâtre l'Alcazar in Bordeaux. He also conducted light music performances at the Folies Bordelaises.

Samuel Snaer, Jr. (1835–1900), an African-American conductor and musician, conducted the first performance in New Orleans of Dédé's Quasimodo Symphony. It was premiered on the night of May 10, 1865, in the New Orleans Theater to a large audience of prominent free people of color of New Orleans and Northern whites. Dédé was not present at this performance.

After settling in Bordeaux in 1864, Dédé returned to New Orleans only once, in 1893, to give a performance. During his journey to the United States, he lost his precious Cremona violin. Forced to use a different instrument, Dédé still performed to accolades.

Edmond Dédé died in 1903 in Paris. Many of his compositions have been preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France [1] in Paris.

Some compositions[edit]

  • "Mon Pauvre Coeur" (1852)
  • Quasimodo Symphony (1865)
  • Le Palmier Overture (1865)
  • Le Serment de L'Arabe (1865) (written during a stint in Algeria)
  • Mephisto Masque (186?) (ophicleide and orchestra or piano solo)
  • Morgaine, ou, Le sultan d'Ispahan (1887) (opera in four acts)

External links[edit]


  • Edmond Dede, CD Naxos 8.559038 (2000). Lester Sullivan, Liner Notes by University Archivist, Xavier University, and Richard Rosenberg, Conductor, Hot Springs Music Festival.
  • Microsoft Encarta Africana Encyclopedia, on CD-ROM and in book form published by Basic Civitas Books. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Editors.
  • Zick, William. "Edmond Dede (1827-1903)", AfriClassical.com. February 15, 2010