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Music For Little Fingers

 

Songs For Children & Piano Pedagogy, page 1

 

By 1900, the piano was an American musical fixture in nearly every home of even modest means. No radios, TVs or other elaborate electronic fixtures graced the home for entertainment. The recording industry was still in its infancy and the piano ruled the world of home entertainment. The sheet music industry was burgeoning as no other entertainment form had before and learning to play the piano was a major industry.

 

Popular songs were too complex for neophytes so another genre of home music came into play with the writing and publishing of songs for children. Written more as a teaching vehicle than a song to entertain children, these songs each had valid teaching objectives while still trying to provide some level of interest for the student. Some of the songs became classics in their own right, others have faded into disuse or obscurity. Each had merit and like the mainstream popular songs we feature monthly, these deserve preservation and the opportunity to once again be heard and appreciated.

 

This month (June 2003) we present to you a sampling of some of the many fine pieces for children that were published in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of our readers may fondly (or not) remember these works and may even still be able to play them. In several cases, the works are virtually unknown today. We've made nearly all of the works this month available in the printable format (using the Scorch plug-in) in the hopes that they bring joy and discovery to those who used to play them and your children today who are learning to play. Next month, as a follow on of sort to this months theme, we will present songs about children (rather than for).

 

As before, we welcome and solicit contributions and ideas from our visitors. If any of you have songs you'd like presented, we'd be happy to publish a "listeners" feature on songs and music from America's golden age of music. The "rules" for submissions can be found here, we'd love to have submissions by any of our readers, anytime and would enjoy having a "reader submission" or "favorites" feature from time to time. Heck, get involved, help us out and write a feature for us! Or, if you just have an idea for a feature or suggestions and feedback, write to us at admin@parlorsongs.net.

 

As always, this issue is on two separate pages so don't miss page two of this issue.





The Fairy Band Mazourka

1874


Music by: Pierre LaTour
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: unknown


In 1874, American music was in what we have called the "Dead Zone" and much of the music in America induced ennui and/or was more European in nature than American. Exemplar of this is this work, a teaching piece which is part of a series of 20, from a French composer. LaTour's series presented the student with all of the more popular European dance forms in simple, easy to learn form. His series presented the Polka, Schottische, March, Waltz, Galop, Redowa, Barcarolle and Mazurka. This piece, a Mazurka, presented the student with a pleasant dotted rhythm melody. The simple left hand accompaniment in ¾ time allows the student to focus on learning the dotted rhythm. LaTour also provides the student with an opportunity to learn 8va notation and repeat the melody an octave higher. As with many early grade learning pieces, complication was limited and focus was precise. In spite of its simplicity, the work is pleasant and tuneful as are most well composed teaching pieces.

 

We are dedicating this piece to Miss Marie Sonise Ryerson, probably from Memphis Tennessee (the music carries a stamp from a music store in Memphis), who wrote her name upon this copy of the music. The Witzmann Company was also a publisher, having a number of works published and currently residing in the Memphis Library. Marie, wherever you are, we hope you learned this piece well and went on to be an accomplished pianist. So many of our copies of music are signed by the owners and this month, we'll be dedicating each piece to the person who once owned this music. If any relatives recognize someone, please write to us.

 

Pierre LaTour wrote a number of other popular instrumental works in the 19th century in addition to these teaching pieces including Angels of Dawn Waltz
For Piano, and Flute or Violin in 1879. Despite numerous mentions of Pierre Latour wineries and Pierre Latour, the French smuggler, we've been unable to find out much more about the composer.

 


Enjoy this excellent children's work Printable using Scorch plug-in

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics to this piece)

 


 

Two Little Birds Are We

1881


Music by: Charles A. White
Lyrics by: George Russell Jackson
Cover artist: unknown

 

By 1881, America was still firmly in the dead zone but was on the cusp of musical change. Children's learning pieces were still characterized as simple and European in style but may have begun emerging from the zone just as popular song was. This work is a delightful and clever, higher grade work that introduces the student to duet form and coordinating playing with others. Perhaps more a salon piece for fun than a teaching piece, it nonetheless gives the young player the opportunity to learn new skills. This piece was owned by Orra Abbott, Orra, we hope you had fun with this piece and did well with it. The work is a real joy with a cute introduction imitating bird calls to a duet part and then to a section where one player whistles while the other plays a melody. My bet is this was a very popular work with the teachers and the little ones back in 1881 and beyond.

 

Charles Albert White was born in Boston in 1830 and died there in 1892. Clearly one of America's earliest popular music composers, White also was an important publisher, forming the White-Smith Publishing Company with W. Frank Smith and John F. Perry in Boston around 1867. Besides his wonderful children's duet, Two Little Birds Are We in 1881, White wrote The Widow in the Cottage by the Seashore (1868), Come Birdie (1870), I'se Gwine Back To Dixie (18??), The President Cleveland March (1883) and Marguerite also in 1883. (Claghorn, page 470) His partner in this song, George Russell Jackson is temporarily lost to us.

 


Hear this great children's duet (Scorch format)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 


 


 

Bloom & Blossom

1887

 


Music by: Eduard Holst
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: unsigned

 

One of the easiest styles of music to learn is the Waltz. The easy to count and play ¾ time is as close to intuitive as any music can be. The one-two-three beat is relatively easy to play and allows the student to combine a simple left hand accompaniment of chords with a relatively flowing and maybe more complex melody. Of course Waltzes can and do get quite complicated but the ones written for child's or beginner's play minimize complexity and can give the student a very satisfying melodic experience. Many of the works featured this month are waltzes and many are quite beautiful in spite of their simplicity. This work is no exception, using just a few simple two note chords in the accompaniment and a simple melody, Holst has given us an excellent early grade work that should be fulfilling for any student. He does include a few learning points such as an occasional staccato note and a later modulation in key that returns to the home key for the reprise of the main melody at the end.

 

Unlike most sheet music owners of the times, the original owner of this music failed to sign it so we'll never know who she or he was. We'll dedicate this very nice but simple waltz to all the beginners, past and present who have learned to play their first waltz.

 

Eduard Holst may be the Denmark born (b. 1843 Copenhagen.- d. 1899 New York, NY) playwright who also managed to find time to compose. According to accounts of the time, he was a very versatile man who was an actor, dancer, dance master, playwright and composer. His compositions include songs and piano solo works though a catalog has proven elusive. We have three of his works in our collection, Bloom & Blossom, a Waltz (1887) and Autumn Leaf, a Polka for Children also from 1887 and a part of a six work series for children titled Shower of Melodies published by White Smith Music in Boston. His other work we have is a far cry from a child's work and is in fact a complex and fantastic work titled Dance of The Demon (1888). Among his other works are Marine Band March and Battle of Manila (1898). Holst also composed a comic opera, Our Flats and a comedy, Hot Water. (Hubbard, Biographies Vol. 1, p. 386) Though we can only find a few of his works listed in various sources, he was quite prolific and a 1907 biography states he produced over two thousand works.

 


Listen to and see this 1887 work Printable! using the Scorch plug-in

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (No lyrics with this work)

 


Dear Little Dorothy Dimple

1901



Music by: L. Leo. La Zelle
Words by: LaZelle
Cover artist: unsigned

 

By 1901 the great revolution in American popular music was in full swing and we were well out of the doldrums of the dead zone. Even though teaching pieces were grounded in the classical mode and still are, songs for children emerged that were a bit less formal and provided a more contemporary feel. McKinley Music and Leo La Zelle provided the turn of the century beginner with a delightful and good humored song, based on the ubiquitous waltz that should have been quite engaging. The song tells a really cute story of a broken doll and a little girls rationalization, blame placing and ultimate confession related to the damage. If you do not view the Scorch version, be sure to read the lyrics found in the link at the end of this section.

 

This piece is another in the collection of music that Orra Abbott has passed down to us. Thanks Orra! Clearly Orra had done well with her studies as this work is more complex and is very much in the style of many popular songs of the times. With denser harmonies, a more complex melody line and substantial expression and technique markings, the work requires substantially more control, confidence and skill than many of the works seen this month. It is more an intermediate to advanced piece than the other works seen so far. Orra has progressed a long ways from the 1881 work Two Little Birds Are We.

 

L. Leo La Zelle is unfortunately, another casualty of the ravages of time and I'm unable to find any other works by him or any information about his life.


Hear this cute "dolly" song Printable score (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 




The Little Hostess

1902



Music by: H. Engelmann
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: unknown


When Jeffie Rodgers picked up this piece in 1902, he may have moaned in agony to think that he had to learn a piece titled The Little Hostess. After all, boys wouldn't want to be seen playing a "girls" song, would they? Part of a series of "seven pleasing little pieces" with an overall theme of a party, The Little Hostess is the opening waltz of the seven. Each other piece introduces another dance style as many of the series we have seen have similarly done. This one goes on to introduce the Redowa (The Reception), Polka (The First Dance), Schottische (The Fancy Dance), March (To The Dinner), Galop (The Chatter) and Tarantella (The Surprise). In a clever and appealing package, the composer has managed to present the standard package of various styles of dances for the child to learn.

 

 An early grade learning piece, it is much like the first waltz we looked at, a simple melody with an easy two note chordal accompaniment, however this work introduces the student to some different ideas and more complexity later in the work. First, Engelmann give us a simple melody (almost reminiscent of the melody to After The Ball) and then moves to a scherzando that repeats. Then the student is introduced to the ides of the Trio in a related key (C) and a little more complexity in harmony in the melody line. Finally, we return to the home key for a reprise of the original melody. Overall, a very nice piece. Hopefully, Jeffie got past the "girlie" music and enjoyed learning this piece. Thanks Jeffie for taking such good care of this music that we could rediscover it again, a century later.

 

Hans Engelmann wrote a number of works that were for children and several other works, one of which has remained in the popular repertoire for a century, his Melody of Love (MIDI) from 1903 which we featured way back in '98. In addition, we have several other works by him; Day Dreams (1901) , Rosebud Schottische (1898), Dolly Varden, a Sunday newspaper supplement from 1903, an arrangement of Gounod's Flower Song from 1902 and Rose of Normandy (1906). In addition, we are aware of at least one march he wrote that is in the current marching band repertoire; Philadelphia Record (1902). In spite of what is clearly a large catalog of works (The Little Hostess is marked as Op. 556), I can find little to no other information about him which really is quite puzzling.


Enjoy this classic teaching piece Printable score! (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (No lyrics for this piece)

 



Sack Waltz

1911 (ca.)



Music by: John A. Metcalf
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: unsigned

 

The Deluxe Music Company was a major publisher of piano works during the early 20th century. In general, most of their works were classical in nature and were "deluxe" editions of classical favorites such as works by Mendelssohn, Gounod, and the like. Many of their works published were from Opera and other classical vocal works. I was a bit interested to acquire this De Luxe edition of a really simple children's piece as it surprised me that they would also have published deluxe editions of such seemingly mundane music. The work must have been, and may be yet today, a very popular and widely published work for Deluxe to pick it up and publish as a "De Luxe" edition. I have the work in at least one other edition from the period so it clearly was popular enough to be published a number of times. I suspect many of our readers who learned the piano are familiar with the piece.

 

Simple, like many early childhood pieces but with a bit of added complexity that indicates that this piece was probably a higher grade work, perhaps grade three or four. Using a denser harmony in both the right and left hand parts, this work would require a little more skill than a beginner might be able to muster. The melody is very nice and this would have no doubt made a wonderful little recital piece for many a child. Though the score is marked with some fingering help and passage identifiers (A, B, etc.) the original owner did not leave us with her or his signature.

 

John A. Metcalf Though there is a contemporary Welsh composer by this name (without the "A"), the John Metcalf who wrote this well used teaching piece has faded into obscurity and I've been unable to locate any information about him and his works.

 

Listen to this great old piece Printable! (scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (No lyrics)

 



A number of sources are used each month to research our features. In most cases websites used and other sources not in our library will be noted and linked to. In text citations refer to resources within our library, see our resources page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

 


WAIT! There are many more Children's songs, including My Fair Lady, Three Jolly Sailors and a special work by Carrie Jacobs-Bond about practicing the piano to see and hear. The second part of this issue features many more rare and different works.

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



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