John J. Braham
(Born England c.1848, died Brooklyn, N.Y. 28 Oct 1919)
John Joseph Braham came to America from England in 1859, and in 1862 appeared as a violinist at the Canal Street Theatre in New York. After touring as a virtuoso, he accepted the post of musical director of Pike's Opera House in Manhattan, and later conducted the orchestra at the Howard Athenaeum in Boston. He was in charge of music at several New York and New England theaters, and in 1878 conducted the first American production of H.M.S. Pinafore at the Boston Museum. He was closely associated with the Gilbert & Sullivan operas throughout his life, working primarily with the D’Oyly Opera Company. Braham also enjoyed some success as a composer, especially for vaudeville as well as popular and comic song. He collaborated with Edward Rice on the music for a Hiawatha play or pageant, and then wrote the score for the 1913 film, Hiawatha: the Indian Passion Play. Edward Curtis commissioned him to produce the score for In the Land of the Head Hunters in 1914. When Braham died in 1919, he was eulogized by Rice, who declared that the Gilbert & Sullivan operas would never have attained their huge popularity in America were it not for the judicious changes made by Braham before their presentation.
- This site, on the history of the D’Oyly Opera Company, includes a more detailed biography of Braham: http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/whowaswho/B/BrahamJohn.htm
- The following site has information on the historical significance of Boston’s Howard Athenaeum (AKA the “Old Howard”): Old Howard
- This Library of Congress site, “Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music,” contains scans of some Braham compositions and arrangements: Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1870 to 1885