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Who’s Buried in Audubon’s Tomb? The Artist, the Musician, and the Birds of America

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January 14, 2019

7:15 pm - 9:15 pm

Immanuel Lutheran Church

with Fred Baumgarten

John James Audubon (1785-1851), the self-described “American Woodsman,” became a legend in his lifetime, chiefly on the merits of his massive volume of illustrations, The Birds of America.  His legacy lives on in the many Audubon Societies dedicated to the protection of birds. Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781-1861), called “the Beethoven of America” by an early admirer, composed an impressive corpus of works, helped to found the New York Philharmonic—and died in almost total obscurity, his music known by only a few aficionados.

What did the two men have in common? Lots, as it turns out. For more than 20 years I have researched the connections between the famed artist, his family, and the little-known composer. What was their relationship in life? How did they end up together in the afterlife? And how does what they were both doing, often in striking parallel to one another, illuminate the birth of national and cultural identity in antebellum America?

Audubon and Heinrich were fascinating, eccentric characters—both immigrants—whose lives were full of false starts and humorous, sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes. Above all, they made themselves into American originals. This presentation is accompanied by Audubon images, rarely-heard music by Heinrich, and a trip to the Bourbon Capital of the World.

Fred Baumgarten is a recent immigrant to the Pioneer Valley. He spent 20 years on the staff of the National Audubon Society, where he helped establish the U.S. Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program. A lifelong birder and musician, Fred is currently director of foundation relations and sponsored research at Mount Holyoke College.


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