On November 20th in 1918, Grunewald’s Music Store, known at the time as “everything in music,” sold the final round of tickets for a concert in the now burned French Opera House. The music store was originally designed by a German immigrant, Hillger, who was also famous for designing several different churches for German congregations in New Orleans in the 1870s, including the Trinity Episcopal Church and Canal Street Presbyterian Church. The Times-Picayune stated that, “To speak of the musical history of New Orleans is to speak of Louis Grunewald.” Louis Grunewald came to New Orleans in the late 1800’s, a young German immigrant, following the strong German influence in the city at the time. He was taught by a German musician, Wolfert. Funnily enough, he played the organ at St. Alphonsus and St. Mary’s Catholic church, two churches that were on opposite sides of the street from one another. Louis was known to the community as a great pianist with amazing intonation, but he would only play with Johnny DeDroitâs band. He was a well developed man with a large family, very often taking his family for trips yearly to Germany.
New Orleans was the first city in the United States to get their own Opera House. In the past, music would be played in people’s homes, event halls, or even event tents. The building itself was stated to have Italian design, fitting in the renaissance, and the front took up “160 feet on Bourbon Street” and a side took up “187 feet on Toulouse Street.”
The music was directed by the great French Composer André Messager, played by the World Famous Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Messager was interested in music from a young age, taking up piano and later on studying composing with well-known composers Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré. He recalled, “You would not find any musicians among my ancestors. When very young I learned the piano; but later on my intentions to become a composer met with such opposition from my father.”
He was a major figure back home in France, and then later on in London. He was viewed as controversial at the time for playing the music of Wagner, a German composer, during the World War, but explained that his music represented that not all of Germany was bad and that it had its own culture to appreciate. The final performance of this Orchestra by Messager was supposed to be in October 1918 in New York, but they were given an ovation, resulting in the performances in New Orleans in November.
The proceeds of the orchestra were to go to the war relief. The man responsible for the orchestra coming into New Orleans was Robert Hayne Tarrant, a man later on known for being a charming, devilish man who didn’t properly handle his proceeds for his events, so it is possible that Mr. Tarrant did not properly use these proceeds, although there hadn’t been any lawsuits against
him for the possible misuse of funds for this specific event.
From the idea that the funds collected from the Orchestra not going to war efforts, to the story of André Messager’s life leading up to his performance in the great city of New Orleans, and the Grunewald’s Music Store, the World’s Greatest Orchestra came to the city with a whole heart in the idea of renewing the hopes of the people who lost those dearest to them, their families, neighbors, or even strangers across the world, to a massacre that enveloped the whole world.
Lade, Andrew, and Shelby Farmer. “Grunewald’s Music.” Media NOLA. Tulane University, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2018.
“André Messager.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Oct. 2018. Web. 12 Nov. 2018.
“The French Opera House Fire (1919) – New Orleans Architecture Tours.” New Orleans Architecture Tours. N.p., 13 Oct. 2017. Web. 12 Nov. 2018
“Library Lagniappe.” Library Lagniappe RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2018.
Messager, André, Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris, American Columbia, 1918
“Hear the World’s Greatest Orchestra.” Times-Picayune, 20 Nov. 1918, p. 9