|Short Name:||Benjamin Carr|
|Full Name:||Carr, Benjamin, 1768-1831|
Benjamin Carr, composer, organist, and music publisher, was born in London on September 12, 1768. Carr's father, Joseph, published and sold music from an establishment at Middle Row, Holborn in London starting in 1770. Benjamin gained his early experience in the music business and as an engraver working for his father. He studied music in London with three notable church musicians, Dr. Samuel Arnold, and Charles and Samuel Wesley. Carr emigrated to the United States in 1793 at the age of twenty-four. His father and brother Thomas followed in the next year.
The Carr family put their experience in the music business to use in America. Joseph and Thomas started a music store and a music publishing firm in Baltimore upon their arrival there in 1794. Joseph continued publishing until his death in 1819 when Thoma s took over the operation of the business. He closed the Baltimore business in 1822 and moved to Philadelphia where he ran another music publishing firm between 1824 and 1827.
Benjamin Carr began his own music-selling and music publishing firm in Philadelphia, with a branch office in New York. He became the most important and prolific music publisher in the United States in the 1790s. In 1797 he sold the New York operation to James Hewitt. From 1803 to 1811 Carr was partners with George Schetky, a local violoncellist and composer. The firm of Carr & Schetky issued the final volumes of The Musical Journal for the Piano Forte. The first two volumes, issued weekly for twenty-four weeks during the winter and spring, were published by Joseph Carr in Baltimore in 1800 to 1801 with Benjamin acting as musical editor. It was the most ambitious musical publication issued in America during the period and the first major American music publication offered in magazine form. Benjamin Carr left the publishing business for several years until resuming operation in 1822 or 1823 in order to complete another of his father's serial publications, Carr's Musical Miscellany in Occasional Numbers, which Joseph had begun in 1812. Benjamin Carr continued to publish music sporadically until 1831.
Carr was also very active as a performer and composer in Philadelphia. He was the organist at St. Augustine's Catholic Church from 1801 to 1831 and also at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. In 1794 to 1795 Carr performed as actor and singer with the Old American Company in New York. Carr's compositional output includes 275 secular works and 85 sacred works, including hymns, psalms, anthems, masses, and chants. He was also interested in music pedagogy and produced three instructional works, The Analytic al Instructor (1826), Lessons and Exercises in Vocal (1811), and Short Methods of Modulating from One Key to Another (n.d.).
In 1794 Carr composed his "Federal Overture." The work was first performed in Philadelphia on September 22, 1794. It is interesting for its potpourri-like inclusion of famous tunes, including "Yankee Doodle," "Marseilles," "The President's March," and "Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?." The publication of the work in 1795 represents the first printing of "Yankee Doodle" in America. Carr's interest in the theater is evident in his composition of the musical drama, The Archers, or The Mountaineers of Switzerland. The libretto for this work was written by William Dunlap and was based on the legend of William Tell. It received its first performance at the John Street Theater in New York on April 18, 1796. It is considered to be the first musical drama written by Americans to be professionally performed in the United States. Only two excerpts survive from the score: "Why, Huntress, Why?" and the Rondo from the overture.
Benjamin Carr was one of the founders of the Musical Fund Society in 1820. When he died in 1831 the members of the society had a monument erected in his honor in the churchyard of St. Peter's Episcopal Church.