Chime Songs; in search of the keyboard carillon.

See the introductory page to this month's feature for an explanation of this month's theme.

Beautiful Star Of Heaven


Music by: Louis A Drumheller
Lyrics by: None, piano only
Cover artist: Starmer


The origins of chime songs and the chime fad are contained within the style of the "reverie" a genre of parlor music that was reflective in mood, one that was in effect, a musical daydream. Usually with a moderate to slow tempo and a quiet melody, reveries were quite popular during the golden age of the home piano. This work was published, like many we have seen, by different publishers and with differing covers. In this case we have two examples of the same basic art, published by two publishers in a different color. We have included both covers as a "rollover" (put your cursor over the cover image).


The reveries of this period began to feature a church bell-like effect which may have led to the later fad of the chime songs. The effects used in this work and many others (as we will see) is the arpeggiated chord which in a way emulates the sound of bells. The liberal use of the sustain pedal is also a common technique that adds to the "ringing" sound of the chords. Unfortunately, the incessant arpeggios could wear thin over time but apparently it was not a concern as there were many, many similar works published during the next ten years as the chime style developed.


Louis A. Drumheller composed and arranged many popular works during the early 20th century, among them are The Old Oaken Bucket, Nearer My God To Thee (MIDI) and In The Sweet Bye And Bye. We know from his Opus number on this work and others we have that he published well over 100 works and yet very little can be found about him in numerous reference works or the web.

Hear this great old reverie(scorch format)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (none)



Roper's Piano Chimes, No. 1


Music by: Alvin W. Roper
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: unknown

This work is the earliest pure "chime" piano arrangement in our collection. Though there may be earlier works, the year of this work seems to mark the beginning of the thankfully short lived piano chime fad. Boldly proclaiming itself to be "The Only Arrangement Known by which a perfect chime effect can be produced on the piano," Roper's chimes uses a single chord construction consisting of a minor chord construction that is used continuously throughout the work. The chords are notated entirely on the treble clef and consist only of four notes, two played by each hand. The left hand plays a pair of notes in 6ths and the right hand plays an interval of 4ths. The notes are all played an octave higher than noted and are pedaled to provide a "ringing" effect.


The opening of the work gives us a common carillon bell progression and the effect is somewhat impressive. After the opening we then hear renditions of Joy to the World, Sweet Hour Of Prayer, and Home Sweet Home followed by a recapitulation of the opening carillons. Once the first page is completed and the initial impression made, the work becomes repetitive and even ponderous as the pianist steadily plays the same chord progressions over and over. Clearly, as we will see with the rest of this issue, the idea caught on and in fact, was substantially improved on over the next two to three years. Yet, Roper's chimes were at the vanguard of the fad and provided a point of reference for us for all that follows. It gets better, I promise.


Alvin W. Roper, was a pianist with the E.O. Excell Company when he wrote Roper's Piano Chimes. Roper also was associated with William Biederwolf, an evangelist, theologian and author from around 1910 - 20. The Excell company was a publishing house and Excell (Edwin O.) was also a composer having composed or arranged several well known and popular works such as Amazing Grace and Count Your Blessings as well as many other Christian songs. Unfortunately, little else is known or can be found about Roper.

Enjoy this historic chime song(SCORCH format)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (none)

Trinity Chimes


Music by: Harry J. Lincoln
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: Unknown


Also in 1911, the reverie continued to be an important genre, but the two (Chimes and Reverie) had not yet become inextricably entwined. However, the chime title began to appear in more works and more contemporary composers began composing chime and reverie works. Harry J. Lincoln was better known as a composer of marches and rags yet he dove into the reverie fad and composed this rare and little known work. In fact, this work is so uncharacteristic of Lincoln's more well known works, it would likely be unrecognized as his work if not for his name appearing as the composer.


It is a very pleasant work, perhaps one of the finest examples of the reverie genre I have seen from the period. Avoiding overuse of arpeggiation or other "faddish" effects, Lincoln has simply created a delicate and beautiful work that is very musical. Beginning at bar 66 Lincoln effectively uses the pianistic equivalent of string bariolage to create a very pleasant passage where the melody is embedded in alternating octaves thus adding a color to the melody that is both exciting and interesting. Other passages in the work provide a bell-like quality however, never progress to the level of the Roper method. Though Lincoln has joined the developing fad by using the "chime" title, his music is far from what would come as the fad developed.


Harry J. Lincoln also published under the name of Abe Losch and also as a Vandersloot. Writer of a number of works we have featured over the years, his most famous work may arguably be The Midnight Fire Alarm (Scorch format), written by Lincoln in 1900 and republished by E.T. Paull in 1908.


Listen to and see this Lincoln rarity(scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (none)



Merry Wedding Bells


Music by: Jean Schwartz
Lyrics by: Edward Madden
Cover artist: E.H. Pfeiffer


During the period that the piano reverie was developing, composers added the bells of chime effect to vocal works to add emphasis or interest. Merry Wedding Bells appeared in 1912 and included a short transitional vamp and another between verses that used the arpeggiated bell effect. Of course such a bell effect is a natural for a song about a wedding and use of the effect was a natural. Similarly, other songs over the next decade or so often included chime or bell sounds. Among them, perhaps the most well known is the 1922 song, Three O'clock In The Morning (MIDI format).


Sporting a beautiful art deco cover by E.H. Pfeiffer featuring a bride in traditional formal wedding garb, the cover seems to promise a lovely and tender song about the joys of marriage. Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. The music is delightful and the song begins with a tender melody followed by the wedding chimes then an absolutely beautiful and emotional melody that oozes love and happiness. As we move into the chorus, which still is very expressive, the lyrics take on a more cynical tone and soon we see that this is clearly a well disguised novelty song, with humorous lyrics that takes a slap at the institution of marriage. Either the composer or lyricist had a recent bad experience or they simply had a very dry sense of humor. In some regards, it's a shame they wasted such a beautiful melody on a novelty song. With different lyrics, this song could have been a lasting favorite.


Jean Schwartz (b. 1878, Budapest, Hungary, d. 1956, Los Angeles, CA.) The Schwartz family emigrated from Hungary to New York City in 1891. Starting his American musical career as a songplugger at Shapiro and Bernstein, Schwartz went on to become one of America's greatest songwriters. His collaborations with the likes of Jerome Kern, William Jerome and Milton Ager resulted in some of our greatest songs and musical stage works. Schwartz was involved in music early in life and received his first musical training with his sister, who had received her training with the great composer and piano virtuoso, Franz Liszt. After his family emigrated to New York City, for several years they lived on the city's lower east side, in abject poverty. Jean worked at a number of odd jobs to help support his family. Although he did work as a cashier in a Turkish Bath house, mostly he was able to find musical work. One of his jobs was as a sheet music demonstrator in New York's Siegel-Cooper Department Store. This was the first sheet music department to appear in a major department store. During this time, he also found some musical employment and performed with an ensemble at Coney Island. Finally, he became a staff pianist and song plugger in Shapiro-Bernstein Inc., a Tin Pan Alley music publisher. In 1899, at age 21, Schwart'z first published work appeared, a cakewalk titled Dusky Dudes.


William Jerome, a well known lyricist, and Schwartz met in 1901. It was the start of a fruitful song writing partnership. Over the next few years, they wrote some very successful songs for different Broadway shows, among them were: Don't Put Me Off at Buffalo Anymore, Rip van Winkle Was a Lucky Man, Hamlet Was a Melancholy Dane and what was one of their most popular works from the 1903 show The Jersey Lily; Bedelia sung by Blanche Ring. All of this success made the team of Schwartz and Jerome a popular act for the vaudeville circuits, where they were headliners for many years. Schwartz also was employed as the pianist for the Dolly Sisters' vaudeville act, and in time, he married one of the sisters, Rozika.


In 1913 Schwartz teamed up with lyricist Harold Atteridge to write songs for a number of popular shows including The Passing Show of 1913, and The Honeymoon Express that same year. In 1914 Schwartz, with Grant Clarke as lyricist wrote, I Love The Ladies and Back To The Carolina You Love . One of Scwartz's greatest collaborations was with Sam. M. Lewis. In 1917 they teamed up to write songs for the great Al Jolsen and came up with Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody; Hello Central, Give Me No Man's Land (Scorch format) and Why Do They All Take The Night Boat To Albany?


Schwartz continued to team up with talented lyricists and produced song after song for numerous shows as well as individual popular songs that did well. From 1931 until 1937, Schwartz and Milton Ager collaborated on several hits, including: Trouble In Paradise; Little You Know and Trust In Me, a 1937 hit. Schwartz wrote few songs after 1940 and lived in relative seclusion till his death in Los Angeles, CA, age 76 years.


Edward Madden (b. 1878, New York City, d. 1952, Hollywood, CA.) was a charter member of ASCAP and a respected lyricist best remembered for a pair of moon songs"; By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, a 1909 collaboration with Gus Edwards, and Moonlight Bay (Scorch format) a 1912 collaboration with renowned composer Percy Wenrich Madden collaborated with a veritable who's who of American popular song composers including Theodore F. Morse, Harry Von Tilzer, Louis A. Hirsch and Jerome Kern. Madden was educated at Fordham University and was a writer for the great Fanny Brice and other singers as well. He founded his own publishing firm and enjoyed great success as a key member of the Tin Pan Alley inner circle.

Hear this old wonderful song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version




Cathedral Chimes


Music by: Arnold and Brown
Lyrics by: None, piano only
Cover artist: E. S. Fisher

In 1913, the team of Arnold and Brown published this work and thus began the chime song fad in earnest. Somewhat similar to the Roper chimes, Arnold and Brown combined the pure chime chord effect with other aspects of the reveries seen here, the arpeggiated chords and melodic interludes to create a series of pieces that at least eluded the sheer ennui of the Roper approach but still, over time, burned out the fad in relatively short order.


Similar to the Roper approach, Arnold and Brown used well known favorites ( Abide With Me) as a basis for some of the chime effect passages and included the "Angelus" bells (more on the Angelus on page two) as an introduction. In presenting this piece and those that would follow, the composers were careful to explain the techniques necessary to produce a good chime effect. In this case, they instructed;

"Notice particularly that both hands are in the treble clef. Play each chord staccato with an even touch, having (the) loud pedal on all the time."

The chord construction used by Arnold and Brown was different from that of Roper. Though tastes may vary, the Arnold and Brown chime chord seems to have more depth and is more robust. Their chords use major 7th chords versus minor chords for Roper and the result is a fuller and brighter sound, in my opinion. And, also in my opinion, a much more realistic chime sound, despite Roper's earlier claim of having created the most perfect chime sound.


From this rather inauspicious beginning, Arnold and Brown went on to compose numerous works based on the same formula and later, after the chime fad dies out, resurrected some of their works as vocal selections with a substantially reduced emphasis on the chime effects. In fact, you can see their reissue of this work as the song Twilight Time, on page two of this issue.


Arnold and Brown, Despite numerous works in the chime effect mode and several as songs, I'm unable to find any information of this dynamic duo of chime songs. If any of our readers have information, please share it with us.


Enjoy this seminal fad song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (none)


Bells of Trinity


Music by: Arnold and Brown
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: E.S. Fisher


Given their success with Cathedral Chimes, Arnold and Brown immediately followed up with another work that same year, Bells of Trinity. This time, they expanded the work and added more of the old favorite melodies done as chimes and added some rather interesting interludes as a part of the reverie and to break the monotony of the work. The old favorites included Adeste Fidelus, My Old Kentucky Home and Way Down Upon The Swanee River, quite an eclectic selection indeed.


Though they managed to beef up the overall format and have added some truly delightful interludes between the chime selections, the chime use still tends to get a little wearying. The first interlude, using grace notes is a real delight and adds the true feeling of a reverie but the transition back to chimes is abrupt and almost rude. We also can observe the lyrical and expressive limits of the chime effect method by noticing how stilted and rhythmically cumbersome the chime method is in listening to the chime passages. It is not hard to imagine the end of this fad coming soon.


Listen to this chime piece (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (none)


Chapel Chimes


Music by: M. Greenwald
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: Rose symbol


As with most things, the amazing and somewhat puzzling success of the Arnold and Brown works resulted in a flood of imitators and similar works. In some cases, Arnold and Brown were bested by the imitators, in other cases, we simply have a case of the bandwagon also rans. In any case, we see a period now of about a year where similar, if not indistinguishable works are published by a variety of composers and publishing houses, including the top names. The formula established by Arnold and Brown became the pattern followed by almost every similar work. After a chime effect introduction (usually the Angelus), a familiar tune is treated to a chime effect then a reverie passage is introduced followed by another chime tune, etc. Some of the works, like this one could be quite long and most were perhaps too long.


This work is musically one of the best in terms of the interludes between chimes. Starting with a chime rendition of Adeste Fidelus, Greenwald then moves to a carillon chime progression and then into a very nice reverie with arpeggiated chords that has a nice bass line to it. Then, back to chimes and The Doxology ( another often used theme in chime songs). The next passage is a variation of the first interlude theme that really rocks using repeated chords at an Andante moderato tempo. Later we see what Greenwald calls a "grand organ effect in a repeat of the O Come All Ye Faithful theme. Greenwald adds a couple of twists to the formula by having the right hand chime chords played two octaves higher than written rather than one and with his repeat of a theme previously played as chimes using his organ effect. Overall, the composer has managed to add elements of variety and interest that make this work unique.


M. Greenwald is attributed with having written at least one other reverie, Chapel By The Sea, however, we have been unable to find any information about him or her.


Listen to this offshoot chime piece (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (none)


See our resources page for a complete bibliography of all resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

WAIT! There are more Chime Songs to see and hear. The second part of this issue features more rare and different works.

More hit music and covers in this month's issue, go to part B.

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