New Orleans is a city of sounds. Throbbing beats and scintillating jazz share the air with grand opera and heartfelt gospel. From the calliope on the riverboat to the pianos in jazz clubs, music marks the rhythm of the city. The Musee Conti Wax Museum celebrated many of those who influenced the sounds of New Orleans. The museum closes January 31, 2016.
A duke gives a king a song
The official song of Rex, King of Mardi Gras, came courtesy of a Russian nobleman, according to legend. Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff followed a singer, Miss Lydia Thompson after he became enamored of her performance of “If Ever I Cease to Love” in a musical show. He caught up with her in New Orleans at Mardi Gras in 1872, the year of the first Rex parade. The cheery nonsense song became forever linked with the royal krewe.
The French Opera House
Considered by many to be the first opera house in the United States, the French Opera House became a cultural mecca. Performers in all disciplines graced its stage through the years. Between its opening in 1859 and destruction by fire in 1919, the building hosted the legendary stars of the times. In this tableaux, the Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind sits in a box at the opera house while Sarah Bernhardt, Enrico Caruso and John Wilkes Booth take to the boards.
Jelly Roll Morton burns up the keys
Jelly Roll Morton added his embellishments to ragtime music and helped it on its way to becoming jazz. Seen here circa 1910 in Tom Anderson’s Storyville saloon, Morton shared his sound with a city ready to embrace the next new musical style.
Satchmo on the way to stardom
Louis Armstrong’s formal musical training began when an arrest for discharging a firearm landed him in the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys. There was no stopping his talent and the world of music welcomed his trumpet. The museum depicted him as a slender young man starting his journey, rather than the heavier adult remembered by so many music lovers.
No story of the sounds of New Orleans would be complete without acknowledgment of the traditional call of Mardi Gras, “Throw me something, mister!” although often slurred to “t’row me sumpin, mistah.” The phrase would have filled the ears of King Zulu when he paraded in this finery. The regalia celebrates the 74th king of the krewe which began in 1910.
Legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain overcame childhood illness to capture the hearts of the world with his music. No story of New Orleans jazz would be complete without mention of Pete Fountain and his Half Fast Marching Club.