- 1 The Minstrel
- 2 Minstrelsy or Minstrel shows
- 3 Minstrels and Minstrel Shows in South Africa
- 3.1 The introduction of minstrel shows to the country
- 3.2 Minstrel companies and their performances in South Africa
- 3.2.1 The 86th Royal Downshire Minstrels
- 3.2.2 The African Minstrels
- 3.2.3 The Amateur Coloured Troupe
- 3.2.4 The Amateur Dramatic and Christy Minstrels Company
- 3.2.5 The Carolina Minstrels
- 3.2.6 The Christy Minstrels
- 3.2.7 The Ethiopian Serenaders
- 3.2.8 The Harvey-Dougherty-Leslie-Braham Minstrels
- 3.2.9 The OIO Christy's Minstrels
- 3.2.10 The Phoenix Club
- 3.2.11 The S.A. Minstrels or the Corps of S.A. Minstrels
- 3.2.12 The Virginia Jubilee Singers and Orpheus McAdoo
- 3.2.13 The Young Men’s Institute Amateur Christy’s
- 4 Sources
- 5 Return to
For more information go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minstrel
Minstrelsy or Minstrel shows
The original "Christy's Minstrels"
The name was sometimes also used by local South African troupes, e.g. as an informal name for the players of the Young Men’s Institute Amateur Christy’s (1860s) and the Amateur Dramatic and Christy Minstrels Company (1867).
Minstrels and Minstrel Shows in South Africa
The introduction of minstrel shows to the country
There are also troupes who do not use the name "Christy", but perform in the Christy style, e.g. the Ethiopian Serenaders, Amateur Coloured Troupe, the African Minstrels, the Phoenix Club, the famous Virginia Jubilee Singers, etc.
Minstrel companies and their performances in South Africa
While it is often difficult to sort out which is which, for the specific names of troupes or companies kept changing, we provide the following tentative list of sub-entries on minstrel companies specifically mentioned by name in our sources. They are listed alphabetically:
In 1872: The company now reappeared with similar work (and billed as a "celebrated Troupe").
The Amateur Coloured Troupe was the name given to a private (i.e. non regimental) concert company, performing under in the Minstrelsy style popularized by the Christy Minstrels. They were active in Cape Town between 1869 and 1871. They seem to have emerged from the Y.M.I. Amateur Christy's, also performing in the Young Men's Institute and Club, and soon replacing it as the leading Christy's company. Their repertoire included typical Christy material, e.g. pantomimes, burlesques, also what were euphemistically called "Ethiopian burlesques" and more bluntly "nigger farces" at the time. These were usually part of a more conventional programme of songs, dances and virtually always included a dramatic entertainment of some kind. Their performances were often adopted to local conditions in the Cape.
Their busiest year seems to have been 1869, doing at least 14 performances during the period May to November, and also included participation in the Saturday Evening Entertainments put on by the Young Men's Institute and Club Dramatic Company. In 1870 the latter fell away and they tended towards theatrical performances of plays, often two on an evening, alongside their singing. They did at least six performances between May and September. In this year they also performed three shows in the New Lyceum Theatre (or Oddfellows Hall), and even did one performance in Wynberg at the Government School Building. Among other attendees, they were distinguished by the attendance of President Brand of the Orange Free State in July of 1869.
In 1858 they participated in a benefit for Mr Gough put on by J.E.H. English in his New Music Hall in Buitekant Street, Cape Town on 10 August. Besides their own minstrel performance, the entertainment included the plays The Hard Struggle (Marston) and The Bengal Tiger (Dance), as well as minstrel numbers (e.g. Paddy's Wedding, Jim Crow's Dance etc.)
According to F.C.L. Bosman (1980: p. 112) a company called The Christy Minstrels performed in Cape Town "For the first time" on 10 May in the Theatre Royal as part of an evening's entertainment by Sefton Parry's company. They apparently appeared in the "Great Burlesque of Uncle Snow's Music Lesson", as well as doing "Ten Gymnastic Acts", some negro songs, and dancing "the real Virginia Breakdown"
However, unless Bosman had his dates wrong, this may have been a similarly named (even local?) troupe of minstrels, possibly one formed by Mr Gough, rather than the famous company from the USA, for on page 140 of his book Bosman asserts that a company by this name, billing themselves as the "original" Christy Minstrels (founded in 1842), came to South Africa later in 1862, as part of a tour of the colonies (their next stop was to be Australia). This followed on a triumphant tour of the USA and five tours of England and Europe (where their patrons had apparently included Queen Victoria). They labeled the other Christy's active in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town at the time (e.g. the OIO Minstrels) as "bad imitators" of their own work.
The company consisted of seven performers, messrs Joe Brown, Wash Norton, Anthony Nish, J. Rainford, Carl Steele, J.H. Melvyn and Charles Stewart. During their seconds stint in November, the names of Mr Taylor and Mr Leslie are added, two members who - like the rest - claimed to be from the original 1842 Broadway company of E.B. Christy.
Their musical programme not only consisted of so-called "nigger songs", but also included English ballads, duets and choruses. The dramatic fare included various burlesques and short plays, in which messrs Brown and Norton were apparently "delineators of nigger characters". The repertoire thus included burlesques of works such as La Somnambula (Moncrieff, frequently done by the company), Il Trovatore (Verdi) and The Flying Dutchman (Fitzball), as well as a number of comic sketches and songs, such as The Crow Family, The Nerves, Good News from Home and even an act from a musical comedy billed as Cinderella Ball, or Lucy at the Ball.
Their first performance took place on 18 January, 1858, as part of an evening which included performances of How to Die for Love! (Kotzebue), Mammon & Gammon (Morton) and a performance of a highland fling by Mr Gough.
"The performance of May 27, 1861, was repeated on the June 3, with Private W. Dansie of the Ethiopian Serenaders, singing "Villikins and his Dinah" which was loudly encored. The recitation of "Virginia," also, was a great improvement upon that of the previous week. (To listen to "Villikins and his Dinah" click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHjeDyv6Tzo )
Also referred to as the Harvey-Leslie Minstrels by Bosman (1980: p. 253), this was a very accomplished professional company, active in Cape Town for two years, circa 1872-4.
They usually appeared in the Mutual Hall, Cape Town playing a first season from 1 November to 12 December 1872. Their repertoire included the usual Christy style material (songs, dances, sketches, anecdotes, etc.) plus acts operatic and dramatic burlesques, such as The Italian Uproar, the "Ethiopian farce" of The Ghost in the Pawnbroker's! and the farce Going to the Races.
They returned for a second season (1873-4) and a third in October 1874.
F.C.L. Bosman (1980: p. 191) refers to the OIO Christy's Minstrels as a self-organized group of five negro singers (perhaps he means blackface?) from Port Elizabeth, who performed at the Theatre Royal in Cape Town in September 1865 under this troupe-name, in collaboration with Alfred Ray, who had taken the theatre. They performed "comic scenes and burlesque sensations" and their repertoire included such standard Christy pieces as The Nerves and the burlesque of the The Bal Masqué (or Sloppy Sam the Confidential Ticket Collector), with Ray in the role of "Sloppy Sam". Apparently they were not really well received in Cape Town, their work being seen as a little too vulgar. However, Ray went on to take the theatre for a more conventional season hereafter, the company now billed as the Ray and Cooper Company, though their programmes continued to contain minstrels style vaudeville acts, such as Villikins and his Dinah, The Bal Masqué and on 25 November 1865 a "Grand Combination Performance: Christy's Farewell and the Dramatic Co." with inter alia a Grand Burlesque, Trial of Skill or Challenge Dance. Hereafter the fare appears to have been more conventional.
The Phoenix Club
The S.A. Minstrels or the Corps of S.A. Minstrels
See the Virginia Jubilee Singers
This is an informal name used to refer to the formally named Young Men's Institute and Club Dramatic Company, performing in the Young Men's Institute and Club (or sometimes called the Y.M.I. Institute and Club), when they presented minstrel performances. Also on occasion referred to as the Y.M.I. Amateur Christy's, the Amateur Christy's, or the Christy Minstrels by various sources.
During the heyday of the minstrelsy period in South Africa (circa 1860-1870), the YMI club hosted a very active amateur dramatic society which was informally known as the Amateur Christy's or Young Men’s Institute Amateur Christy’s. It was one of three Christy's companies active in the city at the time. They initially performed in the Mutual Hall, but when the Cape Town Institute and Club Limited opened their own new building in Burg Street on 15 July, 1868, they shifted their activities and used that as their normal venue.
David B. Coplan 2008. In Township Tonight! :South Africa's Black City Music and Theatre. 2nd ed. Chicago, IL : University of Chicago Press.
Tracy C. Davis (Ed). 2012. "Christy's Minstrels 1857-1861", in The Broadview Anthology of Nineteenth-Century British Performance pp. 265-279
The Fugard Theatre Newsletter (email@example.com), Thursday 9 October 2014.
S. Frederick Starr. 2000. Louis Moreau Gottschalk. University of Illinois Press: p. 197
Charles White and George W.H. Griffin. 1874-1900 (8 volumes) Darkey plays: a collection of Ethiopian dramas, farces, interludes, burlesque operas, ecentricities, extravaganzas, comicalities, whimsicalities, etc., etc., as played by the principal "burnt cork" performers all over the union. New York: The Happy Hour Company
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