Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • Margaret R. Lang (1867-1972)

    Biography. Lang was self critical of her works and frequently destroyed them. None of her orchestral works are extant. After her father's death in 1909, she became caretaker of her elderly mother. She stopped composing in 1919. A zealous Episcopalian, she published a series of devotional pamphlets titled "Messages from God" between 1927 and 1939. At her own expense, she printed and distributed 6,000 ...

  • "Inconstancy" by George Whitefield Chadwick

    Article. Article. In this chorus he sets Shakespeare's text "Sigh no more ladies" from Much Ado about Nothing. The opening line receives a plaintive homophonic setting before the piece launches into a buoyant free counterpoint. Chadwick's rhythms are tied closely to the agogic stress of the text. He makes use of a folk-like pentatonic melody on "Then sigh not so, but let them go," ...

  • " Spelling Bee" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Though not originally considered one of Winner's more popular songs, Spelling Bee achieved immense popularity as Swinging the Alphabet, a novelty song sung by the Three Stooges in their 1938 film, Violent Is the Word for Curly. It was the only full-length song performed by the Three Stooges in their short films, and it marked the only time they mimed to their own ...

  • " I Bring You Heartsease" by Gena Branscombe

    Article. Also published as a solo song, Branscombe's choral setting (SSA) was issued by Arthur P. Schmidt Co., Boston, in 1915. The text, written by the composer, refers to a variety of flowers shared by lovers in springtime. Heartsease, the progenitor of the cultivated pansy, was most likely the flower that yielded a powerful love potion in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Branscombe's musical ...

  • " Christ is Risen" by Victor Herbert

    Article. Herbert gained fame primarily through his forty-three operettas. His output, however, also included numerous works for orchestra, band, various instruments, and some twelve choral pieces. He wrote a large-scale cantata, The Captive, op. 25, for the 1891 Worcester (Massachusetts) Festival. His extended anthem for soloists and chorus, Christ is Risen, was premiered at St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo, New York, in 1908. A year ...

  • Horatio W. Parker (1863-1919)

    Biography. Parker's most impressive accomplishments within the choral genre are his large-scale sacred works. His first oratorio, Hora novissima, is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Composed in 1893 for the Church Choral Society of New York, the oratorio is an eleven-movement setting of medieval Latin poetry by Bernard de Morlaix. The holograph is in the holdings of the Music Division, Library of ...

  • Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953)

    Biography. In 1913, Mason studied in Paris with Vincent d'Indy, who became his primary compositional influence. A fervent classicist, Mason's instrumental works include three symphonies, more than a dozen chamber pieces, several keyboard compositions, and other orchestral works and transcriptions. He is best known as a composer for his festival overture Chanticleer (1928) and his three symphonies, especially the Lincoln Symphony (1936). His vocal ...

  • " Song for a May Morning" by Patty Stair

    Article. Patty Stair wrote Song for a May Morning in 1914 to address the needs of the burgeoning women's musical clubs that gained popularity during the first part of the twentieth century. The piece begins with a lively duet between the upper two voices. The alto parts join the texture in close imitation of the top voices. A homophonic section follows featuring more adventurous ...

  • "The Friends We Love" by Septimus Winner

    Article. Winner wrote many such ballads during the civil war years. They were perhaps even more popular than those of his contemporary, Stephen Foster. According to Charles Claghorn, author of The Mocking Bird: The Life and Diary of Its Author, Septimus Winner, President Abraham Lincoln's favorite song was Winner's Listen to the Mockingbird, another simple ballad. The appeal of these popular songs was not ...

  • "Bethlehem, op. 24" by Amy Beach

    Article. Article. The piece sets a text by George C. Hugg, a compiler of late-nineteenth-century hymnals. Beach's hymn enjoyed great popularity, receiving performances at the First Baptist Church, Boston, in 1893 and, a few years later, in Detroit and Minneapolis. Arthur P. Schmidt published and disseminated Beach's works, serving as an early champion of women composers. Beach also was an energetic promoter of her ...

  • "The Wind and the Day (A Sunset on Yarrow)" by Arthur Foote

    Article. This part-song, one of fifty-two composed by Foote, was dedicated to Horatio Parker (1863–1919), a fellow member of the Second New England School of composers. It sets a pastoral poem by Scottish writer Andrew Lang, who edited the poems and songs of Robert Burns in 1896. The text and music paint a picture of a sunset over the heather. Foote injects chromatic harmonies ...

  • "Elfin Song (1910)" by George Whitefield Chadwick

    Article. After a wild fairy dance round the witch hazel tree, the appearance of a beetle causes a key change and a buzzing, 16th-note figure in the accompaniment. Next, the leaf harp sings accompanied by rapid arpeggios. The opening music returns and the fairy figures "skip and gambol merrily" to a pp conclusion.

  • "The Old Man with a Beard (1907)" by Margaret Ruthven Lang

    Article. In Lang's setting of Lear's The Old Man with a Beard (1907), the piano part is filled with twittering figures to represent the two owls, one hen, four larks, and a wren who built their nests in the man's beard. He relates the problem, according to Lang's musical direction, "with anguish."

  • " Southern Lullaby" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The unaccompanied work opens with the chorus providing a homophonic, hummed accompaniment to the solo soprano melody, "De night am long an' de col' win' roar, Yo' Pappy he doan come hom no mo', sleep li'l' chile, go sleep." Burleigh uses seventh chords and a greater degree of chromaticism than that found in his spiritual settings, e.g., at "An' do he hear yo' ...

  • "The Voice of My Beloved" by Mabel Wheeler Daniels

    Article. Daniels wrote her best-known work, Exultate Deo (1929), to celebrate Radcliffe's fiftieth anniversary and A Psalm of Praise (1954) for the college's seventy-fifth anniversary. Her Song of Jael, premiered at the 1940 Worcester Festival, marked her first venture into a modern musical idiom, using daring dissonances and highly original choral effects.

  • Henry F. Gilbert (1868-1928)

    Biography. In 1905 he wrote Americanesque, which was a suite for orchestra based on minstrel show tunes. His first major success was Comedy Overture on Negro Themes (1910) for orchestra. He completed a work based on Creole music in 1908, but it was refused a public performance in Boston because of its hybrid style. Gilbert rewrote the work as a ballet, and The Dance ...

  • " Weepin' Mary" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. Burleigh's setting is austere in its unvaried, quarter-note/half-note rhythm. His harmonic inventiveness is, therefore, all the more telling against such a simple backdrop. After setting the first phrase in diatonic triads in F minor, he repeats that phrase with subtle chromaticisms and one bold progression on "Call upon your Jesus, an' He'll draw near." On the word "Jesus," Burleigh moves from an F-minor ...

  • "While Shepherds Watched (1889)" by George Whitefield Chadwick

    Article. Chadwick railed against the unschooled output of popular songwriters flooding the market to the exclusion of what he called "true music." In his 1876 paper on popular music reform, he complained about lack of originality in the popular music of the day. "Those who furnish the popular music have not paid, either in money or in mental discipline, the price of true and ...

  • " Cradle Song" by Edward MacDowell

    Article. The text is by MacDowell after a German poem by Peter Cornelius (1824-1874). A lullaby, this brief work is representative of a quintessential American male glee club song: a cappella, homophonic, closely voiced, regular phrases, heartfelt, and tender. Chromatic motion often occurs against pedal tones. Interest is found more in the overall harmonic effect than in the melody. MacDowell dedicated the work to ...

  • " Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The SATB version of Burleigh's solo setting was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956). The piano accompaniment uses a repetitive, falling-chord figure throughout to create the "swing low" aural imagery. Page departs from the usual homophonic, chordal texture to introduce a brief imitation between the soprano and tenor on the second phrase of the spiritual. At the end of the opening refrain, Burleigh ...

  • "The Old Person of Cassel (1905)" by Margaret Ruthven Lang

    Article. In her SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, bass] setting with piano accompaniment of Lear's The Old Person of Cassel (1905), she humorously interjects numerous "ha, ha," responses to each line of text. The nose of the old person of Cassel was "finished off in a tassel," which Lang paints with a stuttering musical figurethat sounds like a stifled sneeze.

  • Peter C. Lutkin (1858-1931)

    Biography. In addition to his position as Dean and Director of Choirs at Northwestern University, he also served as Professor of Theory, Piano, Organ, and Composition in the School of Music, 1895-1931; Director of the School's Department of Church and Choral Music, 1926-28; and Lecturer in Church Music at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Syracuse University. He ...

  • John Knowles Paine (1839-1906)

    Biography. Although widely popular during his lifetime, Paine's works dwindled into obscurity as twentieth-century modernism took hold. Recent editions, writings, recordings and performances have brought Paine's music and his importance in American music history to the attention of present-day audiences and scholars.

  • "I Love Thee, Lord" by William W. Gilchrist

    Article. The choral writing features a dialogue between the upper three voices and the bass. Gilchrist was fond of using contrapuntal devices to enliven his choral writing. At the end of the second verse, "Our source, our centre, and our dwelling place," triplets suddenly emerge in the accompaniment. The voices remain in common time, however, creating a rhythmic tension as the sopranos climb to ...

  • " O Little Town of Bethlehem" by Peter C. Lutkin

    Article. Lutkin set Brooks's text for alto solo, mixed choir, and organ. The piece is harmonically uncomplicated with smoothly voiced progressions through secondary dominants. The setting is rhythmically interesting as the meter shifts several times between quadruple and triple meter to suit the changes in the text. The accompaniment alternates between a broken-chord texture beneath the melodically lyric segments and a chordal texture to ...