Orpheus McAdoo

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Orpheus McAdoo(1858-1900)[1] was an African-American singer and minstrel show impresario.


Born Orpheus Myron McAdoo on 4 January 1858 in Greensboro, North Carolina He graduated from the Hampton Institute in 1876 and became a schoolteacher in rural Virginia. While teaching he also began his singing career, and towards the end of 1885 he joined the Fisk Jubilee Singers led by Frederick J. Loudin, to tour England and some of the colonies from April 1884 till April 1890.

Orpheus McAdoo married Mattie E. Allen on January 27, 1891, in Port Elizabeth, while on tour in South Africa.

In 1899 McAdoo and Belle F. Gibbons left Loudin's group to return to the USA and found his own company, the Virginia Concert Company, the Virginia Jubilee Singers, McAdoo's Vaudeville Company or even simply as The Jubilee Singers. This group would go on to tour extensively in Britain, South Africa and Australia.

He died in Sydney on 17 July 1900.

His contribution to South African Theatre, Film, Media and Performance

The first South African tour (lasting for two years, between 1890 and 1892) began in Scotland in 1890 where Orpheus McAdoo met Lady Loch, the wife of the then British Governor of the Cape, who invited them to Cape Town. They became an unlikely overnight sensation in the Cape,

In the end the company would spend almost five years in South Africa, on and off, and is credited by some with shaping the performance style adopted by Cape Coon Carnival tradition in later years.

Among the places they performed were Port Elizabeth , where it is reported that the “clever company of minstrels and variety artistes” from McAdoo’s Vaudeville Company gave a performance at the Port Elizabeth Opera House on January 11, 1898, for example, and Durban in the same year, where they ended their visits, before McAdoo returned to the USA.

In 2014 David Kramer wrote a musical based on this incident called Orpheus in Africa. It was first produced by Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre in January 2015. (See Orpheus in Africa)



Veit Erlmann. 1988. 'A Feeling of Prejudice'. Orpheus M. McAdoo and the Virginia Jubilee Singers in South Africa 1890-1898, Journal of Southern African Studies Vol. 14, No. 3 (Apr., 1988), pp. 331-350.[2]

Marianne Thamm. 2015. Orpheus in Africa: Celebration of an unsung African-American musical pioneer, Daily Maverick, 9 February 2015[3]