Arthur Farwell (1872-1952)
Biography. Although Arthur Farwell did not intend to pursue a professional career in music, he became one of America's most influential composers, with over 100 compositions to his name. He is best known for his works based on Native American themes; however, he also used cowboy tunes, African-American spirituals, and Spanish-Californian melodies as the basis of his compositions. Initially, his musical style reflected a...
H. T. Burleigh (1866-1949)
Biography. Although his name is relatively unknown, Harry Thacker Burleigh (named Henry after his father) played a significant role in the development of American art song, having composed over two hundred works in the genre. He was the first African-American composer acclaimed for his concert songs as well as for his adaptations of African-American spirituals. In addition, Burleigh was an accomplished baritone, a meticulous...
Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)
Biography. Biography. Biography. One of the most important figures in pre-jazz African-American music, Will Marion Cook is also one of its better known personalities. As a composer, conductor, performer, teacher, and producer, he had his hand in nearly every aspect of the black music of his time and worked with nearly every other important musician in his fields. Uncompromising and difficult to work with,...
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)
Biography. Robert Nathaniel Dett was born in Drummondsville, Ontario, Canada, on October 11, 1882. His ancestors were among the slaves who escaped to the North and settled in that slave-founded town. In 1901, Dett began studying piano with Oliver Willis Halstead in nearby Lockport. Three years later he was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory, where he majored in piano and composition. In 1908, Dett...
Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Biography. Biography. Amy Marcy Cheney was born on September 5, 1867 in Henniker, New Hampshire, to a prominent New England family. Her mother, Clara Imogene (Marcy) Cheney, was a talented amateur singer and pianist. Young Amy was a true prodigy who memorized forty songs at the age of one and taught herself to read at age three. She played four-part hymns and composed simple...
Dudley Buck (1839-1909)
Biography. Biography. Biography. Dudley Buck was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 19, 1839. His father discouraged Buck's early interest in music, preferring that his son enter the family's successful shipping business. At age sixteen, Buck took his first piano lessons, and his rapid progress convinced his father to allow the boy to pursue a musical career. In 1858, Dudley moved to Leipzig to...
George W. Chadwick (1854-1931)
Biography. Biography. Biography. George Whitefield Chadwick was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on November 13, 1854. His mother died shortly after his birth. His father remarried and George quickly learned to become self-reliant. As a youngster, he received brief musical instruction from his brother. Both his father and brother participated in the great 1869 Peace Jubilee in Boston, as members of the 10,000-member chorus. That...
Mabel Daniels (1878-1971)
Biography. Mabel Wheeler Daniels was born on November 27, 1878, into a musical family in Swampscott, Massachusetts, near Boston. Both her grandfathers were church musicians. Her parents sang in Boston's Handel and Haydn Society and her father also served that prominent musical institution as president. Mabel studied piano from an early age and began writing short pieces by age ten. Her musical interests continued...
William W. Gilchrist (1846-1916)
Biography. Biography. Biography. William Wallace Gilchrist was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1846. His family moved to Philadelphia in 1857, and Gilchrist's musical career centered on that city for the remainder of his life. His father's merchant business was ruined at the outbreak of the Civil War, and the young Gilchrist had to rely on his own resources from an early age.
Margaret R. Lang (1867-1972)
Biography. Margaret Ruthven Lang was born in Boston, Massachusetts on November 27, 1867. Her mother, Frances Morse Burrage Lang, was an amateur singer. Her father, Benjamin Johnson Lang, was a prominent musician who conducted the Apollo Club and the Cecilia Society and served as organist for the Handel and Haydn Society. He was a friend of Richard Wagner, and the Lang home entertained prominent...
Horatio W. Parker (1863-1919)
Biography. Horatio William Parker was born in Auburndale, Massachusetts, on September 15, 1863. He received his earliest musical training from his mother, Isabella Jennings Parker, who instructed him in piano, organ, and music theory. He went on to study with pianist John Orth, theorist Stephen Emery, and composer George Chadwick, with whom Parker maintained a lifelong friendship. Although he began composing small pieces during...
"Bethlehem, op. 24" by Amy Beach
Article. Article. Amy Beach's "Christmas Hymn," Bethlehem, op. 24, was heard on December 24, 1893, at Boston's First Church Unitarian. Arthur Foote was the organist. He was also one of the composers included in a group called the Boston Six whose other members were Amy Beach, George Chadwick, Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, and Horatio Parker.
"Peace on Earth, op. 38, (1897)" by Amy Beach
Article. Peace on Earth, op. 38, (1897), Beach subtitled "Christmas Anthem." It is an ambitious piece that sets to music verses one, four, and five of the E. H. Sears text, "It Came upon the Midnight Clear." For the fifth verse, Beach uses a variant published by Edward Bickersteth in his 1879 Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer. The anthem exemplifies her...
"Festival Hymn" by Dudley Buck
Article. Buck composed his Festival Hymn, according to the octavo published by Oliver Ditson, for the "World's Musical Jubilee" of 1872. The formal title of this "monster" event staged in Boston by Patrick Gilmore was "The World Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival." Gilmore had staged a very successful, large-scale Jubilee three years earlier in the same city. For the 1872 event, however, he...
"O How Amiable" by Dudley Buck
Article. O How Amiable sets the verses of Psalm 84 that Johannes Brahms had used in the fourth movement of his Ein deutsches Requiem, "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen." The first two verses use full chorus, while the beginning of verse three is set for SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, bass] solo quartet, a favorite device of Buck and other Victorian-period composers. The full chorus...
"Elfin Song (1910)" by George Whitefield Chadwick
Article. Chadwick dedicated Elfin Song (1910) to S. L. Herrman and the Treble Clef Club. The text choice reflects Chadwick's light, humorous side. He sets an excerpt from Joseph Rodman Drake's The Culprit Fay (1836), with references to "ouphe and goblin, imp and sprite." The work's piano reductionof the original orchestral scoring contains some rapid figuration at an Allegretto vivace tempo.
"O Holy Child of Bethlehem (1896)" by George Whitefield Chadwick
Article. O Holy Child of Bethlehem (1896) sets the final verse of Phillip Brooks' Christmas poem, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Brooks (1835-93) was a noted Episcopal clergyman and author who served during the early 1890s as bishop of Massachusetts. Three years after visiting Bethlehem in 1865, Brooks wrotethe now famous poem for his congregation.
"While Shepherds Watched (1889)" by George Whitefield Chadwick
Article. Adoration of the Shepherds. Marinus, pseudonym of Marin Robin van der Goes, engraver, ca. 1599-1639, after a painting by Jacob Jordaens, history and portrait painter, draughtsman, watercolorist, and engraver, 1593-1678. 17th-century engraving. Dayton C. Miller Collection, no. 474/Y. Music Division, Library of Congress
" Enchantment, op. 17, no. 1, (1908)" by Mabel Wheeler Daniels
Article. Daniels's Enchantment, op. 17, no. 1, (1908) uses a text in praise of summer by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay (1875-1928). Daniels scores the piece for SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, bass]. She sets the mood in the opening tempo marking--"Allegro brilliant, with spirit." In a triple meter, one in a bar, the voices begin with a hemiola figure that returns as a motto several times,...
"Don't Be Weary, Traveler" by R. Nathaniel Dett
Article. R. Nathaniel Dett dedicated Don't Be Weary, Traveler to philanthropist and arts patron George Foster Peabody. It was published by the John Church Company, "The House Devoted to the Progress of American Music." The publisher included it in a series titled "Negro Spirituals. Folk Songs of the South, Adaptations of Original Melodies by R. Nathaniel Dett." The publication was issued in 1921, just...