Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  • 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 ...

  • " Deep River" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The SSA version of Deep River was arranged by Nathaniel Clifford Page (1866-1956), a composer who frequently created choral arrangements of Burleigh's works for publisher G. Ricordi. The arrangement retains Burleigh's original melody and piano accompaniment. As the tune is shared by the lower two voices, it is embellished with occasional sixteenth notes, imitating an improvised style. Harmonies are simple diatonic triads with ...

  • Alton A. Adams

    Biography. Biography. Alton Augustus Adams, born in the Virgin Islands in 1889, remains an iconic figure there. When the United States took over the islands in 1917, the new governor appointed Adams chief musician. The band that Adams assembled entered the U.S. Navy as a unit, making Adams the first black bandmaster to serve in the U.S. Navy. He composed a great deal of ...

  • Maceo Pinkard, 1897-1962

    Biography. Biography. Composer Maceo Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1897. After his "Oh, You Darktown Regimental Band" was published in 1920 by the first black-owned music publishing company, Pace and Handy, Pinkard went on to write music for the shows Bon Bon Buddy, Jr. (1922), Liza (1922), and Broadway Rastus (1925 edition). He also composed several blues songs as well as ...

  • " Come, O Thou Traveler" by Harvey Bartlett Gaul

    Article. At the second stanza, "Yield to me now, for I am weak," Gaul changes the key to C major and the texture to solo quartet. The full chorus reenters at "'Tis Love! Thou die'st for me." The work climaxes on a C-major chord in second inversion with the sopranos on a high G, "Pure universal Love, Thou art to me, Thou art to ...

  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, 1875-1912

    Biography. Biography. In England, Coleridge-Taylor continued an active life in music. He composed, taught at Trinity College of Music, conducted numerous choral societies, and even conducted in the famed Handel Society from 1904 until his death. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died on September 1, 1912, of pneumonia contracted due to overwork.

  • "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 ...

  • James Reese Europe, 1881-1919

    Biography. Biography. The impact of James Reese Europe on American music cannot be overestimated. Perhaps even more than Will Marion Cook, he shaped not only the music of his own time, but of future generations as well. His organizational accomplishments, far exceeding Cook's, prefigured the black-owned, black-run musical organizations that have existed since his time and to this day.

  • 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 ...

  • Chris Smith, 1879-1949

    Biography. Biography. Chris Smith "wrote songs that pointed to black folk styles," according to music historian Eileen Southern. One of his biggest hits, "Good Morning, Carrie," was recorded as early as 1901. Both black and white musicals of the first decade of the 20th century used many of his songs as "interpolations,"or extra songs not especially connected to the plot. Some interpolations were "He's ...

  • " My Lady Nicotine" by Will Marion Cook

    Article. A lyrical ode to the joys of smoking, My Lady, Nicotine notably features the use of syncopated, ragtime rhythm (mm. 9 and 17) and high tessitura. The melody reaches a high A at the verse climax, "She's the mad little, bad little queen of smoke." The duple meter of the verse changes to triple in m. 23, introducing an enthusiastic waltz refrain for ...

  • "The Jumblies, Op. 68, No. 4" by Arthur Foote

    Article. Foote sets this humorous limerick by Edward Lear (1812-88) "Allegro giocoso." He chooses only the first and fourth stanzas of Lear's five-stanza poem. The music is scored in C minor, with a parenthesized note under the first measure, "preferably in C-sharp." Foote provides a dynamic scheme and articulations to capture the text's humor. "And when the sieve turned round and round, and ev'ry ...

  • " Dig My Grave," one of "Two Negro Spirituals" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The text and melody of Dig My Grave were taken from Bahama Songs and Stories by Charles L. Edwards. The opening is appropriately somber, marked Grave, and set for four-part men's voices: "Dig my grave long and narrow! Make my coffin long and strong!" At the tempo change to Andante cantabile, the women sing in parallel sixths while the men sustain an open-fifth ...

  • "Done Paid My Vow to the Lord" by R. Nathaniel Dett

    Article. Dett arranged Done Paid My Vow to the Lord for baritone or contralto solo, women voices, and piano in 1919. It was published that year by the John Church Company. The tune did not appear in his collection Religious Folk-Song of the Negro as Sung at the Hampton Institute (1927). Rather, the spiritual came from the collection of George Lake Imes, secretary of ...

  • Classic Rag

    John Stark was particularly proud of the rags that his firm published. One of his advertisements read: "Why are the Stark Music Co's Rags called Classic? This is the reason: They are intellectual musical thought grounded in the emotional principle of humanity. They are the musical soul-thought of the human race."

  • " Balm in Gilead" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. The text of this spiritual was inspired by the biblical passage: "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (Jeremiah 8:22). Burleigh's setting alternates three nearly identical repetitions of the refrain with two verses. The refrain features a B-flat pedal tone in the piano accompaniment underlying a ...

  • Billy Johnson, 1858-1916

    Biography. Biography. After a period in Chicago, where Johnson got married, dabbled in politics, wrote some songs, and appeared in the last Pekin Stock Company production, he returned to the New York stage around 1911. The last show he performed in was Twenty Miles from Home in 1914. Billy Johnson died in 1916 after a fall.

  • Clarence Cameron White, 1880-1960

    Biography. Biography. White remained active in music throughout his life. Among his positions were conductor of the Victorian Chamber Orchestra in Boston from 1916-20 and the Hampton Institute Choir upon Dett's retirement in 1933. White was director of music at West Virginia State College from 1924-31. He died in 1960, shortly after the completion and performance of his cantata, "Heritage."

  • Treemonisha

    Joplin was never able to raise the funds to produce Treemonisha, a factor that contributed to ill health at the end of his life. It was not staged until 1972, when it was presented under the auspices of Morehouse College in Atlanta, directed by Katherine Dunham and conducted by Robert Shaw. Although the work was produced shortly thereafter at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, ...

  • "De Gospel Train ('Git on bo'd lit'l children')" by Harry Thacker Burleigh

    Article. Burleigh's setting is an upbeat, highly rhythmic work with several harmonic surprises. His TTBB arrangement is punctuated by inspired moments of train imagery, most notably in the "chu chuck-a, chu chuck-a" sound effects of the second verse and the tenors' falsetto "toot, toot." The tenors sing a perfect fourth, F-sharp–B, against a tonic B-flat-major chord.

  • Victor Herbert (1859-1924)

    Biography. Herbert championed composers' rights and was instrumental in advocating for the passage of the American copyright law of 1909. He co-founded, along with John Philip Sousa and Irving Berlin, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 1914. He served that landmark organization as a vice-president and director until his death in 1924. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts ...

  • J. Rosamond Johnson (John Rosamond), 1873-1954

    Biography. Biography. When World War I broke out, Johnson received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th Regiment. After the war, he toured with his own groups, and even sang and played the part of a lawyer in the original production of Porgy and Bess in 1935. J. Rosamond Johnson died in New York City on November 11, 1954.

  • " Pirate Song" by Henry F. Gilbert

    Article. The present edition was issued by the H. W. Gray Co. in 1921. Gilbert adapted words from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island with added stanzas by Alice C. Hyde. The opening baritone solo, "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest," elicits the first of many pirate responses, "Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum." The men's chorus sings in unison throughout except ...

  • Ernest Bloch and the Library of Congress

    Courtesy of Musical America

  • " Hosanna" by Arthur Farwell

    Article. Farwell orchestrated Hosanna for an extraordinary performance in Carnegie Hall by the students of the Third Street Music School Settlement in March 1918. The concert, led by the composer, featured a chorus of eight hundred and an orchestra of two hundred. The highly successful event (for which the stage had to be nearly doubled in size) not only raised a significant amount of ...