Von La Hache is reputed to have migrated to New Orleans in 1842.
He was one of the many Germans who, besides the Irish, emigrated to New Orleans
around 1840, in search of a better future.
The first four years he looked for vacancies, possibly as an organist, but
simultaneously he must have been investing much of his time in building his
reputation as a music teacher, as indicated by a newspaper article in The Daily
Picayune in 1854:
"…that already for eight years [1846 - 1854] Von La Hache has firmly established
himself as a very successful teacher of music…"
On 19 February 1846 Von La Hache married Maria Emilia Johnston at St. Patrick's
Cathedral in New Orleans.
In February 1867 he contracted lead poisoning, a crippling disease that gradually
paralyzed his hands and eventually prevented him from doing any manual work. He
started up a business importing pianos, together with his business partner George W. Doll.
Von La Hache's announcement in July 1866 of his trip to New York, in order to
personally select new pianos for his store, was apparently great news in New Orleans,
given the fact that the New Orleans Times devoted three newspaper articles to this event.
The "Piano Ware Room" flourished beyond expectation: already in November 1866
the store had to be moved to a bigger location at 17 Baronne Street, situated just
six doors from the original premises in Canal Street. Von La Hache's youngest son
Emile then joined the business.
Commercial activities were further expanded by publishing scores. In the first
quarter of 1867 Von La Hache published a collection called "Morning Service," a
compilation of his compositions of liturgical hymns that were used in daily masses.
After the departure of business partner Doll on 1 April 1867, Von La Hache had to
take care of his own bookkeeping, which didn't come easy to him.
A major highlight in Von La Hache's life must have been the performance of the
"12th Mass" of W.A. Mozart on 27 May 1868, at which occasion he conducted the
combined church choirs. As the New Orleans Times wrote on 28 May 1868:
"Performance a Triumph!"
In October 1868 Von La Hache's store was relocated once more, this time to 20
However, silence fell around the celebrated musician. On the 13th of March 1869
he still managed to attend a concert on behalf of the Church of Vincentius a Paolo,
the final one in his long series of charity concerts.
Soon after this, a benefit concert was given on behalf of himself. By then he was
doing very poorly. The morning after this concert, the New Orleans Times referred
to Von La Hache as: "… one of our most valued and talented musicians, currently
suffering from illness and poverty…"
His health deteriorated further during the summer of 1869. The fact that his name
was not even mentioned at the introduction of the "Fall Concerts", was significant.
On Saturday the 21st of November 1869 he died at 6 am.
His son, Theodore Jr., informed the authorities, stating heart failure as the cause
Extensive eulogies were written in the Tägliche Deutsche Zeitung, the New Orleans
Times and the Daily Picayune, such as:
"The death of the late Theodore Von La Hache takes away from us a man who, as a
citizen, a husband and a father, set a most admirable example to all who had intercourse
To the public in general, however, Mr. La Hache was known chiefly as a most accomplished
musician, who, whether as composer, conductor or instructor, was in all respects eminent.
He was a most prolific composer, not only of fugitive pieces, which nevertheless
remain favorites with the piano-player and parlor vocalist, but of such as are destined
to live so long as God is worshipped in earthly temples. His last years of partial
disability from the active duties of his profession were spent in arranging, from
classical sources, the music of the whole Roman year, including that for each special
holyday according to the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church; a gigantic work, for
wich he had received the encouraging of the prelateso of his church.
Mr. La Hache had, for many years, suffered from paralysis, accidentally incurred,
which incapacitated him from performing on any instrument; but, assisted by his eldest
son, he still remained nominally organist of St. Therese Church, and the actual
conductor of his music, until finally stricken down, some months since, and streched
[sic] where after long suffering; he has finally been put to rest.
For twenty-seven years a resident here, he has raised a numerous family among us,
in whose afflictions we heartly sympathize."
After his death, publishing houses continued to publish his works - originals
as well as arrangements - for many years, up to the 20st century.
Most published works can these days be found at libraries in New York City, Boston,
New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Besides these well-known publications, a few minor
unpublished religious works have been preserved from the inheritance of Mr. Henri
Fourrier and can be found at the Department of Archives at the Library of the
Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. This collection contains hand written
copies of four short hymns, a Benediction and two anthems.
Because of his frequent contributions to monthly musical magazines, Von La
Hache’s was already fairly popular in the world of music, even before the article
about him was written in the Crescent City in 1850. He was a regular contributor
to periodicals from New York in particular, such as Saroni’s Musical Times, The
Musical World and Times and The Message Bird.
However, Von La Hache’s biggest influence on the public of New Orleans was not
as organist, music teacher, composer, choir master or contributor to musical
periodicals, but mainly as organizer of musical events.
Although he used publishers from the North-East of the United States (New York,
Boston) for his works, he always had them distributed to many music stores in the
South. This made him well-known among the local music lovers of New Orleans and
This reputation enabled him to found the “New Orleans Philharmonic Society” in
1852, with Gregorio Curto as co-founder. In the Daily Picayune the following
“We are pleased to learn that a number of the amateurs of our city in musical
matters are about to form a philharmonic society on a wide and permanent basis.
New Orleans certainly possesses plentiful material for the successful organization
of such a society, and we have often wondered that one has not long ere this been
formed. The two successful sacred concerts recently given under the direction of
Messes. Curto and La Hache afforded sufficient proof that we possess ample amateur
musical talent of good quality, and that our citizens know how to appreciate it.
The two gentlemen we have named will be at the head of the society. Their
professional talent and experience in such matters are a guarantee that the
objects of the association will be thoroughly carried out. The election for
officers of the society will take place on Monday evening next, at Mr. Hewitt’s
music store, No.39 Camp Street, where all gentlemen wishing to become members
The foundation of the Philharmonic Society resulted in Von La Hache receiving
general public recognition for his merits in the artistic world. For one thing,
he had organized a creditable musical framework within the city, for another it
lent him the reputation of a great benefactor, since he used the foundation to
organize benefit concerts.
To encourage people to be generous with their gifts, he always took care the
concerts’ programmes would contain at least one very emotionally charged song,
meant to stir feelings of compassion in the audience for those less fortunate,
such as widows and orphans.
A popular song of this kind was: “The Orphan’s Appeal and Relief” from the
“Grand Dedication Cantata”. (For that matter, the complete “Cantata” had been
written especially for the opening ceremony of the “Old Fellows Hall”
on 22 November 1852).
An example of how well-loved Von La Hache had become can be seen in a letter
written by a journalist of The Musical World and Musical Times from New York to
his editor, on 13 March 1853:
“I find in your old contributor, La Hache, a most capital fellow and a thorough
musician full of enthusiasm for his art. He has a great facility in composition
and arrangement, and fine taste; he is exceeding industrious, devoid of conceit,
cares little for emoluments of his profession, and is a perfect devotee of music.
He is much liked here; having a large circle of pupils and a still larger circle
This doesn’t mean that Von La Hache was always in harmony with his cultural
environment. In his letter of August 1853 to the editor of the Musical World he
complains about the lack of musical activity in New Orleans those summer months
which, according to him, have been dull and listless. He describes extensively
the horrifying consequences of the yellow fever epidemic in the city, and the
devastation it has caused. Because New York had also organized benefit concerts
to aid the victims in New Orleans, he concludes his letter with the following words:
“You may well be proud of your city, which has contributed so largely to aid our
benevolent associations in relieving the suffering poor. I can assure you we needed it.
I remain your friend and correspondent,
Theodore V. La Hache “
The proud “New Orleans Philharmonic Society” collapsed after the yellow fever
and the subsequent Civil War wreaked havoc among the members of the Men’s Choir.
But soon after, Von La Hache founded a new musical association: The “Harmonic
Association of New Orleans” came to life on 1 January 1866.
Von La Hache was appointed musical director and his son Theodore Jr. held the
office of Secretary of the Harmonic Association, i.e. he kept the records of meetings and other activities.
Henry Blackmar, the music publisher, was Corresponding Secretary, with the responsibility
of writing and receiving letters in behalf of the organization. It is therefore
no coincidence that the office of the “Harmonic Association” was situated on the
top floor of no. 129, Canal Street: the address of Blackmar Publishing Company.
Rehearsals took place at the ground floor of no. 129, in Grunewald’s Music Store.
Despite the lead poisoning he suffered from by then, Von La Hache remained very
active as organizer and promoter of the “Harmonic Society”. He supervised the
Soirée of 8 February 1866 and participated himself in the Soirees of 12 April
1866 and 19 July 1866.
After the summer of 1866, La Hache started concentrating on the trading business,
by means of the import and export of pianos. As the New Orleans Crescent reported:
"The large assortment of the best pianos manufactured on the American Continent
[that] Professor La Hache has just received, and has for sale at his depot".
Later on, Von La Hache, together with his son, extended his business by publishing
musical scores. However, his health deteriorated rapidly and finally, in 1869,
he died in poverty.
Von La Hache had many (mostly female) students who came to him for piano lessons.
So it was hardly out of the ordinary that he dedicated a
composition of his to one of his most accomplished female pupils (below you will find a copy of this composition:
"Improvisation For Piano on the Theme: My Southern Sunny Home", Opus 613, dedicated
to Miss Lizzie Henderson, published by Blackmar & Co.)
The original song "My Southern Sunny Home", composed and written by William
Shakespeare Hays, had initially also been published by Blackmar & Co. in 1864.
Apparently it was a very popular song at the time, considering the fact that Von
La Hache thought it worth while to compose this improvisation.
the Swedish Nightingale
The song relates the story of a son returning to his elderly home, where he meets
again with his mother after a long absence and notices, to his disappointment,
that "everything" has changed.
The choir sings the following chorus: My home! My sunny home! My home! My sunny home!
My Southern sunny, sunny home!
Dear mother, I've come home to die,
In my Southern sunny, sunny home.
In the years around 1850, Von La Hache's compositions for piano were compiled
and published as 'Collections' by several publishing houses.
Firth, Pound & Co published "Musical Album for 1855", Oliver Ditson from Boston
published "Album for 1857", and Von La Hache himself published the composition
"Grand Etude de Salon pour Piano" in 1858.
In 1850 Von La Hache was appointed chief organist of the Church of St. Theresia
of Avila, situated on the corner of Camp Street and Erato Street in New Orleans.
This church, designed in Gothic Revival Style by architect T.E. Giraud, was
constructed in the years 1848 and 1849.
The land it was built on, used to be part of the "Saulet" plantation and was donated
to the church by Mrs. Therese Saulet.
Apart from being organist of the Church of St. Theresia of Avila, Von La Hache
was also employed as Musical Director of St. Patrick's Cathedral, in which capacity
he remained until 1855. Afterwards Gregorio Curto was appointed as his successor.
A salient fact about Von La Hache’s compositions before 1850 is that he rarely
composed lyrical songs, mainly focusing on waltzes, marches or arrangements for
piano. The most popular musical phenomenon of those times, and therefore potentially
interesting to compose for, the black minstrel, didn’t appeal to Von La Hache.
The only effort he made in this respect was the composition of a number of songs
that were performed in the so called “Ethiopian Concerts” circa 1850.
He rather occupied himself writing marches, polkas and waltzes intended to entertain
at private parties or to honour persons or institutions he admired. Thus he
composed marches in honour of the New Orleans Fire Brigade and also as a tribute
to army heroes of the Mexican War, such as Samuel Ringgold, Zachary Taylor, William
Jenkins Worth and Winfield Scott.
He also devoted a polka to pioneer James Robb, who developed the railroad line
between New Orleans and Memphis and was greatly admired by Von La Hache.
Some of his waltzes were dedicated to contemporary musical celebrities, such as
Jenny Lind and the Austrian pianist Leopold Von Meyer.
And to commemorate the Centenary of the renowned German poet Schiller, Von La Hache
composed a “(Schiller) Festival Cantata, Grand Chorus for Male Voices”.
As for lyrical songs, like many of his fellow composers Von La Hache was not afraid
to use melodrama. An appropriate example is the song “Alone”, Opus 31. In four stanzas
this song tells the story of a desperate man’s misery caused by the loss of his wife
and the worrisome problem of having to take care of his children on his own.
The first catalogue containing Von La Hache’s works was published by Tylor - Music
Store & Music Publisher & Printer - in New Orleans (1850).
By then Von La Hache had just 50 works to his name; however, in April 1861 when
the Civil War broke out, he had surpassed Opus no. 500!
The beginning of the Civil War made Von La Hache decide to join the contemporary
fashion of composing war-related songs and piano music with titles such as:
“Freedoms Tear Reverie”, “Grand Parade March of the 5th Company, Washington Artillery”
(1861) and “The Volunteers Farewell, or Farewell My Dearest Katie”(1862).
Because of this Von La Hache is regarded to be one of the most significant composers
of Confederate Songs during the Civil War.
Undoubtedly his most popular song was the extremely emotional song based on Abram
J. Ryan’s poem “The Conquered Banner”, also known in American literature as
“Requiem for a Lost Cause”.
This song, marked Opus 643, was published by A.C. Blackmar in New Orleans as
“Grand Solo for Mezzo Soprano or Baritone with Piano Accompaniment”.
Abran J. Ryan was a catholic priest and fought on the side of the Confederates in
the Civil War.
He wrote “The Conquered Banner” upon the surrender of war hero General
Lee and his troops to the (Northern) United States of America.
On the sheet on the right is printed: Word by NOIMA.
Noima was a penname for Abram J. Ryan.
It was not until 1850 that Von La Hache started composing religious music, masses
and other forms of church music. It is mostly this type of music that turned Von
La Hache into one of the best known composers of New Orleans.
In 1851 he completed his first religious work: “Grand Jubilee Mass”, a composition
dedicated to the “Boston Händel & Haydn Society”.
In "The Daily Crescent” edition of 21 June 1851, Von La Hache was given a glowing review:
“We hail with pleasure and pride every new production of art creditable to our city,
and therefore we feel happy to have on record a new musical work, of M. T. La Hache,
which deserves the highest praise. This composer is already known to the public by
various publications, such as Polkas, Variations and Fantasies; he is, besides, one
of the most popular contributors to the leading musical periodicals of this country.
Now he has brought out a Grand Jubliee Mass for four voices, dedicated to the Boston
Händel and Haydn Society. By placing his work under the patronage of a society bearing
such a name, the author indicates on the very title page what are his musical
predilections- in what taste and upon what principles he composed his Mass.
He has remained true to the German school- he adheres strictly to it, and lays
aside all the spurious embellishments which do not belong to that elevated style.
It is, perhaps, for this that M. La Hache deserves most credit: he has produced an
excellent composition without going beyond the limits of his subject; it is real sacred
music, from the beginning to end, without any foreign admixture; and thus to compose
requires genius, talent and study…
We cannot but wish further success to the composer. Now that he has tried his wings
in the sacred regions, he ought to soar a little higher still, and give us next an Oratorio.
We would like, also, to hear his Mass performed in this city by an efficient choir, and
we have no doubt it is the wish also of a great many who have not heard it yet, and
only admired it from the score.”
Apart from that, little religious music was composed by Von La Hache until 1855. But
from then on, it looked as if Von La Hache was almost exclusively composing masses:
at least six masses were then published by Philipp. P. Werlein.
Also in 1855, Von La Hache published a set of three Masses – one might call it a
trilogy - , dedicated to St. Peter, St. Anthony and St. Theresia respectively.
Of those three, only the Mass of St. Peter has been preserved in the original published
form. Marked as Opus 141, it is a piece for three parts, intended for the “Ordinarium Missae”,
accompanied by organ and with several passages for solo voices.
Other masses were only published after his death, even as late as 1880, when B.
Schott’s Sohne published no less than nine masses, of which two hadn’t been released before.
And yet it is almost certain that these compositions were all written around 1855!
In November 1858 followed the “Union Mass”, and at last, in 1864, his final mass:
“Mass for Peace”.
This Missa Pro Pache was Von La Hache’s response to the horrors of the Civil War
in 1863, when nearly all of Louisiana was the scene of death and destruction.
The Mass for Peace is the only religious work known to have been composed by an
American during the American Civil War. It was published in 1867 by Henry Tolman &
Company from Boston, marked as Opus 644 of Von La Hache.
This work was reprinted in 1869 by S.T. Gordon from New York, and once more in 1895,
when it was published by Hamilton S. Gordon, also from New York.
One should realize that this mass consists of ten parts, which makes it the longest
piece ever composed by Von La Hache.
The first performance took place on Palm Sunday 9 April 1865 at 10 a.m. in the Church
of St. Theresia at Camp Street. Due to its length, the mass was continued on Tuesday
night 11 April at 7 p.m. Offertory proceeds went to the Girls’ Orphanage in Camp Street.
After Von La Hache’s death in 1869, B. Schott’s Sohne was the only publishing house
to release Von La Hache’s Church Music in its original form. Very soon new arrangements
of his masses were published, such as the well-known arrangements of B. Hamma.
Hamma’s arrangement of the “Missa in Hon. St. Therese”, marked Opus 421, was published in 1891
by Fisher & Brothers. In the same year, this was followed by publication of Hamma’s
arrangements of the “Mass in Honor of the Blessed Sacrament” and the “Mass in Honor of St. Louis”.
In the following years more arrangements were published by Fisher: the “Union Mass
in G”(in 1896); the “Corpus Christi Mass”(in 1897) and the “Unison Mass in F” (in 1903).
Finally, in 1925, an arrangement of the “Mass in F” was published by James A. Reilly.