|Joseph Emidy (also spelt Emedy or Emedee) had been second violin
in the orchestra of the Lisbon opera house before being impressed
into the Royal Navy in 1795. Once discharged in 1799, he resumed his
career as a professional musician both in Falmouth and Truro, to where
he later moved with his family. Emidy also privately taught a variety
of instruments, including the violin.
Over the years, he became a highly regarded and popular performer
both at local balls and parties and among the local ‘harmonic
societies’ (or amateur orchestras) and concert groups. For some
time, he was leader of the Harmonic Society of Falmouth. This untitled
anonymous drawing almost certainly shows Emidy performing with a harmonic
society in Truro, in 1808.
Emidy wrote a number of musical compositions, many of which were performed
at local concerts and benefits with great success. Fears, however,
that his colour would render him ‘unacceptable’ to London
musical circles meant that none of his compositions gained a wider
audience and, unfortunately, no copies of his work appear to have
survived. After his death, one of his former pupils, the anti-slavery
politician James Silk Buckingham, described Emidy’s work as
an ‘achievement of extraordinary perfection’.
The Royal Cornwall Museum (8 Nov 1808)