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Master Willie Pape, the American Pianist

The Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1209, p. 681.

June 20, 1863


Willie Barnesmore Pape was born at Mobile, Alabama, on the 27th of February, 1850. His talent for music was noticed when only four years old. In 1854 his father commenced giving him instruction, and such was his progress that he played at an exhibition of the new organ of St. John's Cathedral, in Mobile, one of Bach's voluntaries, before an audience of over 2000 persons. In 1858 he was admitted a member of the Alabama Philharmonic Society, and up to January, 1861, he had the honour to be a soloist at every concert given by that society.

At this time his father was advised to place him under some distinguished master in Europe, and for this purpose he left Mobile in January, 1858, and was about taking passage for England when the intelligence arrived of the secession of Alabama from the Union. This determined his father to remain for a time in New York, until the result of this disunion sentiment should be known. In the meantime the boy was placed under the tuition of Sebastian Bach Mills, a graduate of Leipsic, with whom he went through a course of classical study.

Master Pape appeared publicly in New York for the first time in May, 1861, in a course of soirées at the Stuveyscent [sic] Institute, with Mdme. Anna Bishop, and astonished the public by his extraordinary execution and wonderful memory.

In July he made his first appearance at the Academy of Music, New York, playing pieces by Beethoven, Thalberg, and Liszt. In February, 1862, he accepted an engagement in Havannah, where he secured the patronage of the Captain-General, Count Serrano. Alter spending a few weeks in Havannah he returned to the United States, and was invited by the Philharmonic Society of Brooklyn to be their soloist at their concert of the 8th of May, at which he met with the most marked success, both from the audience and the press. After a short engagement in New York with Mdlle. Patti and other distinguished artists, he took a tour through Canada, making the acquaintance of the Governor-General, Lord Munck, and other noblemen and gentlemen, who took a kindly interest in the young pianist and gave him introductory letters to many influential personages in England. Master Pape made his first public appearance in England at Mdme. Puzzi's matinée at the Hanover-square Rooms on April 27, where he made a most successful début, and was highly spoken of by all the leading journals. He has since played again at the Hanover-square Rooms and at St. James's Hall with great applause, and he has altogether, during the short time he has been in England, achieved a most legitimate and marked success.

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