Edmond Dédé

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Edmond Dédé

Edmond Dédé (November 27, 1827 – January 5, 1901)[1][2] was a free-born Creole musician and composer. He moved to Europe to study in Paris in 1855 and settled in France. His compositions include Quasimodo Symphony, Le Palmier Overture, Le Serment de L'Arabe and Patriotisme. For more than forty years, he worked as assistant conductor at the Grand Théâtre and subsequently as conductor of the orchestras at the Théâtre l'Alcazar and the Folies bordelaises in Bordeaux.

Early life and education[edit]

Dédé was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the fourth generation of a free family of that city. His father was a marketman, poultry dealer, and music teacher.[3] 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 he left to seek work in Mexico at the end of the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848. When he eventually returned to the US at the end of 1852, he worked as a cigar maker, saving money to be able to travel to Europe. He went first to Paris and then Belgium, where he helped his friend Joseph Tinchant set up a branch of the Tinchant family's cigar business. He returned to Paris around 1857 and became an auditeur at the Paris Conservatoire. He studied at the Conservatoire with Jean Delphin Alard and Fromental Halevy.[3]

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 music hall conductor and composer of popular songs.[3]


In the early 1860s, Edmond Dédé went to Bordeaux to take up a position as assistant conductor for the ballet at the Grand Théâtre. Within a few years, he found employment at the Théâtre l'Alcazar, a popular café-concert in the city. Later in the 1870s, he moved to the Folies Bordelaises. Throughout Dédé continued to compose art music, which he sought to have performed at the more prestigious Grand Théâtre.[3]

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, he returned to New Orleans only once, in 1893. During the voyage to the United States, his freighter sank, occasioning a rescue. When he reached New Orleans, three benefit concerts were held in his honor, in which he participated. New Orleans' musical innovators and musical elite, including Jelly Roll Morton's teacher, William J. Nickerson, took part in the concerts. The welcome committee that organized the concerts for Dédé overlapped with the membership of the Citizens Committee, the group of social and legal activists who brought the legal challenges that led to the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling in 1896.[3]

Dédé died on January 5, 1901, in Paris.[3] Many of his compositions have been preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France 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)
  • Morgiane, ou, Le sultan d'Ispahan (1887) (opera in four acts)[3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Archives de Paris, Actes de décès, 14e arr., V4E 9803
  2. ^ Columbia College (Chicago, I. C. f. B. M. R., & Floyd, S. A. (1999). International dictionary of Black composers. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g McKee, The Exile's Song
  • Sally McKee, The Exile's Song: Edmond Dédé and the Unfinished Revolutions of the Atlantic World (Yale University Press, 2017).
  • 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

Further reading[edit]

  • Christopher T. F. Hanson, "Dédé, Edmond", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  • Sally McKee, The exile's song : Edmond Dédé and the unfinished revolutions of the Atlantic world (New Haven ; London : Yale University Press, 2017).