Enslaved as a Child, Became Virtuoso Violinist and Composer
Born in West Africa in c.1775 JOSEPH ANTONIO EMIDY was enslaved as a child by Portuguese traders, taken to Brazil and subsequently Portugal where he became a virtuoso violinist in the Lisbon Opera. Kidnapped by British sailors during the Napoleonic wars, he spent the next four years as a ship fiddler before finally being abandoned at Falmouth in 1799.
In Falmouth Joseph Emidy began by earning his living as a violinist and teacher. In 1802 he married JANE HUTCHENGS (or Hutchins), a local tradesman’s daughter and five of their eight children were baptised at the Church of King Charles the Martyr before the family moved to Truro around 1815.
Emidy remained in Cornwall to perform, teach and compose throughout the county organising concerts, pioneering harmonic societies and eventually becoming Leader of the Truro Philharmonic Orchestra. His own chamber works, concertos and symphonies made him the most celebrated and influential musical figure in early nineteenth century Cornwall.
Joseph Antonio Emidy died in Truro on 23rd April, 1835 and his tombstone is in Kenwyn churchyard.
Unfortunately, no copies of his compositions are known to have survived.