African slave became famous violinist

This is a video from Britain on the play The Tin Violin.

By Susan Darlington in Britain:

The Tin Violin


Wednesday 25 July 2012

It would be easy to make the true story of a slave who overcame prejudice to become a famous violinist a didactic, worthy affair.

All credit to Bish Bash Bosh Productions then for making Alan M Kent’s The Tin Violin a gentle, warm play about our common cultural and creative identity.

Through a series of flashbacks it follows the life of Joseph Emidy, who was enslaved as a teenager by Portuguese traders in his native Guinea.

From there he was taken to Brazil and subsequently Portugal, where his career in the Lisbon Opera was curtailed when British sailors kidnapped him during the Napoleonic wars.

Finally abandoned as a freeman in Falmouth in 1799, he was given a tin violin made by a blind miner as a gift and started to build his reputation as a performer and pioneering composer.

The changing fates of Emidy are beautifully expressed by Oraine Johnson, whose expressive face communicates confusion and rapture in the power of music. His social and cultural transformation is told through his evolving wardrobe – from loincloth to trousers to tailored jackets.

A figure of gentle humility, Emidy is the one constant while around him there swirl mad sailors, the lewd Queen of Portugal and a chorus of “simple, mackerel-chewing” Cornish fishwives.

Performed by a core of four actors, these secondary characters add levity and areas of common humanity.

Molly Weaver brings a touch of Carry On via Blackadder to her role as Queen Maria, fake beauty spot quivering while she makes double entendres to an uptight British naval commander (Steve Jacobs) and,as fishwives who just want to sing and dance, Alex and Robin Kristoffy offer a reminder of the universality of music.

Given the integral role of the violin to the plot, it would have been a nice touch if some of the cast had been able to play an instrument on stage. Instead, recordings of fiddled sea shanties, coastal birdsong and chattering crowds support the action.

There’s a similar simplicity in the staging of the show under Dean Nolan’s direction. The passage of the Indefatigable naval vessel is illustrated by the movement of wood planks while the ship itself is outlined by a row of flags and knotted rope ladders.

These techniques help to focus attention on the basic human interest story, with the closing scenes adding pathos to a life that has only in recent years been rediscovered and celebrated through Black History Month.

Tours nationally until August 4. Details at

4 thoughts on “African slave became famous violinist

  1. Pingback: Fungi make violin sound like a Stradivarius | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Violinist Paganini, new film | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Caribbean countries demand reparations for slavery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Last American trans-Atlantic slave trade ship discovered | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.