Eubie Blake's Pianos Donated to Maryland Historical Society

Eubie Blake's Pianos
Donated to Maryland Historical Society

Also On Display: Original Sheet Music From 'Shuffle Along'

 Plus: A Jazz Cocktail Party Featuring 
Lafayette Gilchrist on May 19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
Contact: Laura Rodini lrodini@mdhs.org 410-685-3750 Ext. 322 

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Eubie Blake, Unidentified photographer, Eubie Blake Collection, Special Collections Department, MdHS, Z24.1349
BALTIMORE, May 13, 2016 - Two pianos belonging to James Hubert ("Eubie") Blake have been donated to the Maryland Historical Society. The pianos were in the care of Blake's longtime entertainment lawyer, Elliott Hoffman, and were given to the Maryland Historical Society in early May. Eubie Blake was one of the most popular performers of the ragtime era and one of the first African American composers of a Broadway musical.
"Eubie Blake is a legend from the jazz era. These pianos allow us to interpret a pivotal time in the history of music and to celebrate a Baltimore icon," says Maryland Historical Society President and CEO Mark B. Letzer.
In celebration of the piano's arrival, the Maryland Historical Society is hosting a Jazz Cocktail Party on Thursday, May 19 from 6:30pm-9pm in the museum's outdoor Monument Street Garden. Baltimore jazz pianist Lafayette Gilchrist will perform, and there will be a costume contest for guests who arrive in 1950s era clothing. One of the Blake pianos will be on view at that time, as well as sheet music belonging to Blake from his musical, Shuffle Along. Details and ticket information can be found at this link.
The two Blake pianos will become the centerpiece of the Maryland Historical Society's newest exhibition, What and the Why? Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society, which will open on June 29, 2016. The exhibit spans four centuries of items donated to the Maryland Historical Society and includes period clothing, portraits, silver, a wool tapestry of George Washington, the sign from Club Hippo and a video installation of images from the Preserve the Baltimore Uprising project.
"This exhibition explores not only what MdHS has been collecting for the past five years, but the stories behind why donors share their possessions with us," says Chief Curator Alexandra Deutsch. "The range of what we collect is very broad - from 18th century portraits to objects from the Baltimore Uprising of 2015 - because we strive to represent the fullest possible picture of Maryland's history from first settlement to the present. Donors are motivated by many reasons when they give an object or objects to the museum and each donor has a special story to tell."
Eubie Blake's Baltimore Legacy
The son of former slaves, James Hubert ("Eubie") Blake was born in Baltimore on February 7, 1887 and died in Brooklyn, New York on February 12, 1983, a few days before his ninety-sixth birthday. Composer, lyricist, and pianist, he was a major figure in the revival of ragtime and early jazz, returning them to prominence as true American musical genres.
Blake was playing piano professionally and composing by the age of 16. His career began to take shape when he met fellow musician Noble Sissle in 1915. Together, the two of them wrote hundreds of songs, many of which became major hits. Blake and Sissle also collaborated on writing the musical play Shuffle Along, which featured classic songs such as "I'm Just Wild About Harry." Shuffle Along was one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by an African American composer.
The Eubie Blake Manuscript and Ephemera Collection at the Maryland Historical Society consists of 72 boxes and 2 oversize folders of materials from the estate of Eubie Blake. These materials include a large amount of Eubie's personal correspondence, legal correspondence, financial records, programs from performances, public press, lyrics and scripts for Eubie's musicals including In Bamville and Shuffle Along, miscellaneous music related and travel ephemera and more. This collection, as well as a photograph collection, has recently been reinventoried and more detailed finding aids have been created. Check out the Eubie Blake Manuscript and Ephemera Collection, and the Photograph Collection here.
The Shuffle Along Revival
In April 2016, a revival of Shuffle Along, called "Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed," opened on Broadway. It stars Audra McDonald and features choreography by Savion Glover. Songs from the original 1921 production are featured as well as new material that pays homage to the movement and sentiments of Blake's era.
About The Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." Visit www.mdhs.org.
For more details, contact Marketing Director Laura Rodini at lrodini@mdhs.org or by phone: 410-685-3750 ext. 322.
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