18 August 2011

Constantia von Holst Tourrier (plus a little on her husband)

I have recently received in the post a copy of the catalogue of the Theodor von Holst exhibition, held at the Holst Birthplace Museum, Cheltenham England, in 2010. It includes an illustrated essay on the Holst family, written by the curator of the exhibition, Laura Kinnear. It contains biographical information on many of the members of the family. This includes a little information on Constantia von Holst, who was born 11 Nov 1804, at St Marylebone, married a Frenchman Jean Furcy Tourrier on 20 Jun 1833, at St Pancras, and died in 1877, aged 73 at St Pancras.

The essay on the family background of Theodor von Holst states that "There are no indications that Constantia embarked upon singing or acting...". I've actually found evidence to the contrary so I thought I would present it.

We already know from this post that Constantia had an Academy for Singing. She advertised it many times over 1836-1838. Considering she had children from 1835 onwards (Alfred Holst Tourrier 1835-1892, Constantia Sophia Tourrier 1837-1842, Ida Sarah Tourrier 1841-?, Juliette Alicia Sarah Tourrier 1843-1853, Eleanora Georgiana A Tourrier 1844-1923, John Theodore Tourrier 1846-1829 and Gustave Leon Furcy Tourrier 1849-1922) they could either afford a nanny or she was very good at juggling students and her own children! I find it quite surprising that she worked at all - it seems like a very modern thing to do, but at least it was a genteel-type thing to be occupied with - teaching (presumably) well-to-do ladies to sing.

In June 1836 "Madame Tourrier" also performed in a concert - Signor Curioni’s Grand Morning Concert in the Concert Room of the King’s Theatre, no less. There are no reviews of the concert to gauge the audience's opinion of her performance. She was one of many performers, one of an "extraordinary combination of talent", according to the concert advertisement. I can only find one other reference to Constantia performing in a concert - Don Ciebra's Concert, held 10 June 1840, which according to the review, was well attended. "The performances were principally instrumental; there was, however, some very good vocal music... Miss Yarnold and Madame Tourrier were also amongst the performers..." One could surmise from this that although she was enough of a talent to get the occasional gig singing in a concert amongst a large stable of other musical performers, she didn't really have what it took to set the world on fire.

By 1853, when her youngest child was about 4, Constantia did some teaching at Cavendish College, in Wimpole St, Paddington, which was for the instruction of ladies in appropriate branches of learning. This included Constantia assisting F. Praeger, Esq. in teaching the piano (Mr. Handel Gear, Esq. got the job teaching singing), and her husband teaching French, Elocution, Geography and History. There is a rather long article in The Morning Post of June 24, 1853, about a lecture that Monsieur Tourrier gave at the college on The French Language. It sounds, from the account given, mind-numbingly boring, however I'm not a linguist so perhaps the "select audience, consisting almost entirely of ladies" enjoyed it rather more than I would have.

And that seems to be the extent of the surviving information on Constantia von Holst Tourrier's musical career.


  1. Dear Prue
    I was gobsmacked when I read your post this afternoon. Constantia is my great-great grandmother! I would love to exchange any information about our families.
    John Tourrier
    9/23 Anniversary Street

  2. Hi John, I tried emailing but it bounced back, even though I copied and pasted the email address - is it correct here? Prue

  3. VERY late to the party, I know, but have just found this page in looking for Gustave Leon. In listing her children you missed the baby Victor Jean (1839-1840).