Overview

Opening Night of the New York Music Festival of 1881 - Handel's "Dettigen Te Deum." Wood engraving. From American Art Journal 35 (14 May 1881): cover. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

American Choral Music is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the Choral Directors Association (ACDA). In 2007, the ACDA and the Library of Congress began a collaborative effort to create this Web site devoted to choral music that would present music in the public domain, available for users to download. The site serves to highlight the collections of sheet music in the Library of Congress and to advance and promote the performance of choral music. The seventy-six works presented here are limited to a period beginning shortly after the Civil War and ending at 1922. The music selected reflects the diversity of choral music in the collections written during the later nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and includes accompanied music, a cappella, sacred and secular music, and works for mixed choirs, for women's and men's ensembles, and for children's choruses.

Twenty-three composers' works are represented, five of whom are women. Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (Mrs. H. H. A. Beach) was the first American woman to achieve widespread recognition as a composer. Mabel Wheeler Daniels composed The Desolate City, op. 21, among other significant works during her many stays as a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Margaret Ruthven Lang composed the song Ojalá, which brought her international attention at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. Gena Branscombe was a conductor and composer whose hymn Arms that have Sheltered Us was adopted by the Royal Canadian Navy in 1960. Patty Stair was a composer, organist and conductor.

Many of the composers represented here were from the Second New England School and were influential in music education as well as composition. George Whitefield Chadwick, often credited as the "dean of American Music," reorganized the New England Conservatory. Chadwick influenced Daniel Gregory Mason, a composer known for both orchestral works and song cycles is represented, as is Horatio William Parker. Parker became dean of the School of Music at Yale; many of his manuscripts reside in the Music Division. Another member of the New England School was John Knowles Paine, the first professor of music at Harvard, and a composer who established the first music department at an American university. Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, and Edward MacDowell were also members of the Second New England School. Also represented is Dudley Buck, an organist, conductor, and founding director of the Brooklyn Apollo Club's male chorus, and Harvey Bartlett Gaul, a student of Dudley Buck. William W. Gilchrist founded the Mendelssohn Club. Peter C. Lutkin was a composer instrumental in support of a cappella singing, and a founder of the American Guild of Organists. African-American music is represented with the compositions of R. Nathaniel Dett, Will Marion Cook, and Harry Burleigh. Other notable composers are Henry F. Gilbert, Arthur B. Whiting and Septimus Winner.

About Choral Music at the Library of Congress

The works in this presentation were selected from a variety of sheet music collections and publishers in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. The majority of the compositions chosen by the American Choral Directors Association are from the A. P. Schmidt Company Archives, one of the most valuable resources for the study of American choral music. This archive of music occupies a special place in the history of American music publishing. In 1958, the publisher Summy-Birchard bought out the Arthur P. Schmidt Company, and both principals agreed to donate the Schmidt papers to the Library of Congress. Included in the large deposit of business papers and financial records were numerous containers of music manuscripts, including many holographs, and printed sheet music. The A. P. Schmidt Company Archives contains over 300 boxes of manuscripts and published choral music, including the music of Arthur Foote, George Whitefield Chadwick, Horatio Parker, and John Knowles Paine. Because Schmidt championed the music of women, the collection is also rich in the holdings of holographs and sheet music of Amy Beach, Mabel Wheeler Daniels, Margaret Ruthven Lang, Florence Newell Barbour, Marion Bauer, Helen Hopekirk, Gena Branscomb, and Anna Pricella Rischer.

View a finding aid for the A. P. Schmidt collection

If you have specific questions, please Ask a Librarian