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Frederick Delius. Koanga.

[n.p.] 1985-1897. Manuscript score.

Jacksonville University. Carl S. Swisher Library. Jacksonville, Florida.

Jacksonville University is a private, independent, coeducational, institution, offering a wide range of baccalaureate degrees and selected master's degrees with approximately 2,000 students. The University traces its history to William J. Porter University which opened its doors in 1934 as a two-year community college in downtown Jacksonville. Within a year, the institution was renamed Jacksonville Junior College to identify more accurately with the city. In 1944, the college moved into the Kay Mansion in the fashionable Riverside area of Jacksonville. By 1950, the college relocated to its present site on the St. Johns River on a beautifully landscaped 260-acre campus. In 1956, Jacksonville Junior College became Jacksonville University and shortly thereafter merged with The Jacksonville College of Music.

The library was built in the early 1950s with two later additions and named for the head of Swisher International of Jacksonville, maker of King Edward and Swisher cigars. The library contains approximately 500,000 cataloged items in various formats.

On campus is the restored home of Frederick Delius, which once stood on the banks of the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville at Solano Grove. The university has participated for thirty-four years with the Delius Association of Florida and other organizations in an annual festival of Delius' music, along with a composition competition for young composers. The Swisher Library maintains a separate collection of Delius materials related to the composer and the annual festivals.

Frederick Delius Collection. From March 1884 until September 1885, Frederick Delius lived at Solano Grove, located on the St. Johns River south of Jacksonville. Delius' intended purpose at Solano Grove was to operate an orange grove but in reality he came to Florida to escape his father's pressure to join the family wool business. Solano Grove, so close to Jacksonville, was not the place to do this however. Jacksonville was the cultural center of Florida and during the winter thousands of northern tourists flocked to the city. Delius quickly became involved with the local music community, taking lessons from Thomas Ward, an organist from Jacksonville. He performed and taught music, and even had his first work published. Delius was exposed to a new, tropical world in Florida. For the first time he heard black American spirituals, hymns and folk songs and was greatly influenced by them. Delius left Florida after his second summer and moved for a short time to Danville, Virginia, where he taught and performed. He returned to Europe to further his musical education and to compose.

From 1895 to 1897 Delius worked on his opera Koanga. The libretto, written by Charles Francis Keary, is based on the tale of Bras-Coupé in the novel The Grandissimes by George Washington Cable. The plot is a simple one. Set on a southern plantation, Koanga, a slave of noble origins, falls in love with Palmyra, a mulatto and half-sister to Clothilda, wife of the plantation owner, Don José Martinez. At first betrothed, Koanga and Palmyra are separated by Simon Perez, the jealous overseer also in love with Palmyra, and by Clothilda, ashamed of a marriage of her half-sister to a slave. Koanga kills Don José, puts a curse on the plantation and flees. He returns, though, when he hears that Palmyra is ill. He is killed by Don José's men but not before he kills Perez. Palmyra then kills herself in grief. Most of the music is evocative of Delius' stay in America and the prologue and epilogue are set on an orange grove plantation.

Parts of the opera were first performed in 1899 and the whole opera was first staged in Germany in 1904. The manuscript was lost for several years after World War I but was then found and performed in England in 1935. The opera score was a gift to Jacksonville University by the Delius Trust and Eric Fenby, Delius' secretary, in 1961.

Frederick Delius. Koanga. [n.p.] 1895-1897. Manuscript in black and red ink with blue pencil annotations. The musical notations and English text are written in black ink in Delius' hand. The text in red ink is a German translation of the text written by Delius' wife Jelka Delius. The blue pencil annotations are by the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham.

George Washington Cable. The Grandissimes. A Story of Creole Life, by George W. Cable. Author of "Old Creole Days." New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1880.

The Grandissimes, George Washington Cable's first full length book, was issued in parts in Scribner's Monthly beginning in November, 1879. Cable, from New Orleans, wanted to follow up on the popular success of his collected short stories, Old Creole Days. In The Grandissimes, he tells the story of a society torn by conflicting cultures, undergoing a revolution in government, language, and attitudes. The story is set in New Orleans in the year 1803, following the take over of the city by the United States from France after the Louisiana Purchase.

Delius based Koanga on the character Bras-Coupé, a Jaloff prince brought to slavery in America. Only two chapters are devoted to the story of Bras-Coupé, his love for Palmyra, and his revenge, but his name serves as a leitmotif throughout The Grandissimes.