NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Benjamin Franklin wore many hats during his 84 years. Among the best known: pamphleteer, printer, inventor, philosopher, politician, sage, soldier and statesman. But there is another hat he shared with many of his fellow founding fathers: that of a music lover.
An appreciation of music was common among the founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson was an avid violinist and practiced up to three hours a day. A young Col. George Washington once paid the equivalent of $300 for a ticket to a concert in Philadelphia. But arguably, Franklin was the most enthusiastic music lover of them all, and his appreciation will be the focus of Benjamin Franklin’s Musical Life, a free public concert Wednesday, June 11, 4 p.m. at Rutgers.Internationally renowned soprano Julianne Baird, distinguished professor of music in the Department of Fine Arts, Rutgers University-Camden, will perform a program that encompasses the full range of Franklin’s 18th century world. His eclectic tastes ranged from simple Scottish folk songs, tavern tunes and political satires to Handel’s Messiah and French opera. Baird, one of the world’s 10 most recorded women and an admired musical scholar, will be accompanied by Rebecca Cypess, assistant professor at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Edward A. Mauger, founder of Philadelphia on Foot and author of several books and articles on Philadelphia and colonial life, will serve as narrator, and the narration is taken from Franklin’s own words. The concert has been performed in such venues as Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan and in London for the Benjamin Franklin House Museum.
The 90-minute concert will take place in the Schare Recital Hall (second floor), Marryott Music Building, 81 George St. in New Brunswick. It is presented by the New Brunswick Summer Session.
“What can you learn about the founding fathers from their musical tastes?” Mauger asks. “The multifaceted, brilliant Franklin was perhaps the most enthusiastic music lover of them all. Of his many inventions, the one that brought him the greatest personal satisfaction was his glass armonica.”
Franklin invented a radically new arrangement for the instrument, which was played by rubbing water-filled glass or crystal goblets or bowls.