Saturday, March 6, 2010

Old Sheet Music

One of the things my Aunt Minnie left me was a treasure trove of old music. Minnie, along with her second husband George, both played piano and taught lessons at various times. I not only have their piano, but a wealth of music from former days in America. I recently looked through the sheet music, and found it to be a snapshot of American culture. The oldest single piece is from 1876 and the 'newest' is 1941. Most of it falls between 1900-1920. The covers are wonderful, and I have tried to photograph some of them. I found in looking through it what Americans were busy writing about in those years. They wrote music for political reasons, patriotic reasons, military reasons, songs of the sea and far-away shores, celebrating the diverse cultures here i.e. Black culture or Irish, religious reasons, songs for children and for entertainment as in dances, popular or parlor songs. I will feature a few of these in the coming week, but start with the military songs for the sake of my grandsons that I know will be interested. Eleven years after the Civil War ended many songs were still being written to commemorate the Great Battles and lives given in the cause. The piece I have is on the left above, and is entitled 'Sherman's March to the Sea'. Next to that is the great Stars and Stripes by John Philip Sousa.
A number of songs were written and made popular during WW I. 'Over There' by George Cohan is probably the best known and loved of these. In the photo at right is a lesser known song, one of probably hundreds. Note that after 1900 color was added to the covers.

Another lesser known song of WW I, but definitely not a lesser known composer! On the cover you can see the ladies waiting at home while the soldiers in the background march off to war.

There is a marvelous collection of military songs, bound together with a cloth binding from the 1800's in my collection. It features some terrific lithographs of military figures and scenes. This first one was a popular song from 1840, and is a 'Quick-Step March' featuring Leut. James Hewitt, New York Light Guard.

This one is again from 1840 and is entitled 'National Lancers on Parade'. The National Lancers have a long and distinguished history as a volunteer troop of the Militia Cavalry.
"There's a sound of hoofs in the city street;
The musical click of the steel-shod feet;
Of bugles shrill with silvery blare
and floating free on the summer air;
From each bright lance is a pennon red,
Held high aloft o'er each plumed head;
As the National Lancers Ride."

Whereas the two-step is a march, the quick-step is a ballroom type dance. This piece was originally written for a brass band, but most of these pieces of music were re-written for the newly popular 'piano-forte' or 'cabinet organ'. Isn't the lithograph wonderful here? so descriptive, and made to sell copies I'm sure.
Truly a snapshot in time, of an era long gone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How nice is that. I love old sheet music.