"Blind Tom Wiggins" visits Europe on concert tour
In 1866 Tom began his European tour.
At one concert, Tom listened to two pianos hammered nosily and simultaneously while a run of 20 notes was played on a third piano. Tom's ability to distinguish and reproduce those 20 notes flawlessly appeared to prove his absolute pitch capacity. There were always challenge portions of his concerts (just as with Leslie) where audience members would play pieces Tom had never heard before to see if he could reproduce them accurately, and of course he always did. One such challenge at a Macon Opera House concert is described by a piano teacher who played a "novel selection for the left hand with her right hand behind me." She assumed Tom, being blind, would "imitate me with both hands according to the piece." Tom instead "paralyzed us by playing it with his right hand behind him. To this day I am wondering why Blind Tom put his right hand behind him." At his concerts another favorite feat of his was carrying three different tunes at the same time-playing 'Yankee Doodle' in B flat with his right hand, 'Fisher's Hornpipe' in C with his left all the while singing 'Early in the Morning'.
In 1866, at age 16, Tom was taken on a European concert tour by General Bethune, who collected testimonials about Tom's natural talents from composer-pianist Ignaz Moscheles and pianist-conductor Charles Hallé. These were printed in a booklet, “The Marvelous Musical Prodigy Blind Tom," and used to bolster Tom's international reputation.
Though Tom was only sixteen at the time of the trial, his repertory included many of the most technically and musically demanding works of Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Thalberg, and other European masters. (See p. 43). Like other pianists of that time, he demonstrated his improvisational and theoretical skills by performing variations and fantasies on operatic airs and popular ballads of the day. Other astonishing feats included hisalleged ability to perform difficult selections almost flawlessly after one hearing, sing and recite poetry and prose in several languages, duplicate phonetically lengthy
orations by noted statesmen, and reproduce sounds of nature, machines, and musical instruments on the piano. Being possessed of a rich baritone voice, Tom also included original and sentimental songs by such English songwriters as Henry Russell and Henry Bishop in his concerts.