They Came to Georgetown: Immigrant Musicians

Georgetown Magazine: May, 1977
by George M. Barringer

In October, 1873, the Georgetown College Journal reprinted the following notice from the Philadelphia Catholic Standard:

-Georgetown College-The authorities of this time-honored institution have engaged as organist and professor of music at the College, Herr Anton Gloetzner, recently arrived from Munich, Bavaria. He is a pupil of the Maestro, Von Bulow, and a performer of brilliant power…

Of Anton Gloetzner's life we know almost nothing; only the name of his associate at the college, Dr. Henri Perabeau, remains in the university's records.

Gloetzner and Perabeau were the culmination of a long line of immigrant musicians who brought to Georgetown most of its musical life in its first century. What little we know of these men must be gathered from the college ledgers, records of payments to "hired men," and a few scraps of music that remain in the Archives.

Henry DeMonti arrived at Georgetown in November, 1797. So far as we know, he was the first professor of music employed at the college. In March, 1798, the college paid a freight invoice for "2 piannos" ( furnished by the music master, as would be most instruments used by students until after the Civil War). De Monti remained at Georgetown until 1800, but the ledgers do not reveal exactly when he left or who (if anyone) replaced him. About 20 boys studied with him each term, and John Carroll advanced $ 400 to the college towards the purchase of DeMonti's library upon his departure.

Francesco Masi began teaching at the college around 1820-21, taking a room on the campus and yielding 10 per cent of his pay for the room and for the college's services in collecting the bills owed by his students. Masi sold flutes to a large number of his charges, and he and they provided the musical accompaniment to the Commencement of 1822.

By 1825 Masi was listed on the college's prospectus as one of three " Professors of Fine Arts". He was the composer of a Te Deum ( place and date of publication unknown) and an Ode on the Occasion of the Celebration of the Anniversary of St. John the Baptist (Alexandria, 1820 ), copies of which are still in the Archives, and of The Battles of Lake Champlain and Plattsburg: A Grand Sonata for the Piano Forte (Boston, 1815), the only known copy of which resides in the Boston Public Library.

Masi left the college in 1826 and returned in 1837. He still sold flutes, but added to his stock in trade clarinets and "fiddles". He brought in a little more money by renting practice time on the piano. By undertaking to collect his own bills, he thriftily saved the college's 10 per cent collection fee, but underwent the troubles of pursuing the young gentlemen for their money, and not always successfully. He departed the college for good in 1839.

Joseph Roura, who took up the music master's position in 1843, was a teacher of greater range. He built up his student enrollment by teaching not only the woodwinds, violin, piano and voice, but by offering as well instruction on guitar, bugle, cornopean and orphocloyd. The college paid Roura $25 in March, 1845, for its very own "orphocloyd," the first instrument that we know the college purchased. (The orphocloyd, correctly spelled ophicleide, is a now-extinct keyed version of a musical instrument called the serpent. It fell into disuse soon after its invention because it made a sound that did not harmonize well with other orchestral instruments (to put it delicately); the cornopean was an early antecedent of the modern cornet.)

Francis Esputa taught at the college from 1847 to 1849. Sixteen years later John Esputa, also a member of Washington's small Portuguese community and probably a relative of Francis, was the first music teacher of one John Philip Sousa, a Washingtonian of Portuguese-Bavarian parentage.

From Oct. 1, 1850, to May 14, 1855, the music master at Georgetown was Pedro A. Daunas. He was associated with Joseph Roura as early as 1845, and, like Roura, he carried out his duties with eclat. In January, 1851, he introduced the double bass to the college's instrumental inventory, selling the instrument to the college in 1852. On Sept. 15, 1851, he took up his duties as the college's first organist, at $75 a year above his other wages.

The students had often been called upon to furnish music for festive occasions, at least since Masi and his pupils in 1822. By 1853 Daunas had organized a college band (the "Philharmonic Society") worthy to be called such, although in all probability it drew its members, as did the college choir, from those who came to Georgetown already equipped with musical skills. From then on the band was a constant adjunct to the commencements, programs of readings and debates that made up the bulk of the students' great occasions.

To his other occupations the redoubtable Daunas added that of composer. Besides religious music, of which a few manuscripts survive in the Archives, he wrote La Hermandad, a Sett of favorite Spanish Waltzes dedicated to the young ladies of Visitation and, for the members of that society, The Philodemic Grand March.

The tenure of Gloetzner and the shadowy Perabeau in the 1870's marks the full development of a music program at the college. To the college band and choir were added an "orchestral band"; Gloetzner organized formal classes in voice instruction, the first at the college. The pages of the College Journal are filled with accounts of contemporary performances by the master and his pupils at every sort of occasion, including a memorable band outing to Great Falls, Md.

Gloetzner, too, was a composer. His Ave Regina, for soprano or tenor solo, was "dedicated to the Georgetown University in memory of the Centennial Celebration"; a Mass (Op. 12) for vocal quartet with organ accompaniment appeared in 1909. Like the music of Masi and Daunas, these pieces are rarely played now.

Finally, it is thanks to the generosity of the Bavarian pianist and organist that Georgetown has two of its most important musical manuscripts: an 1825 copyist's version of the first two movements of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (published in 1826) and a manuscript of the Romantic organist Josef Rheinberger's Fantasie-Sonatefur die Orgel, given to Gloetzner by Fanny Rheinberger shortly before his departure from Bavaria in 1872.

One wonders whatever happened to the fine old college "orphocloyd."

by George M. Barringer Special Collections Librarian