Sunday In The Parlor

Sacred Songs for the Home


We've spent over five years now presenting a multitude of Tin Pan Alley's wares for the home parlor piano. We've explored many different themes and styles and presented almost 1,000 secular songs for your enjoyment. This month, we want to look at the sacred side of parlor music and share with you a few of the many inspirational sacred songs from the turn of the 20th century that undoubtedly graced many a home. Though we have presented a few sacred songs in some of our other features (we'll include a list with links on page two of this feature), we really have not explored this aspect of parlor music from the Tin Pan Alley era.


As we pointed out in our essay about the earliest American music, most early American music was sacred or liturgical. The settlers brought their hymnals and song books from their homelands to America, and sang praises to their God in thanks for their good fortune. It was only later that America began to develop its own styles and kinds of music beyond the sacred. As such, sacred music and religion has always played an important part in American life. Home and family values were important and often the family would gather 'round the piano in the music parlor to sing praises to God. Sundays in the parlor were often reserved for singing the old favorites and some new ones too. Since this country was founded on the concept of freedom of religion, the market for sacred songs was brisk and many a composer made a good living by composing sacred songs. I've enjoyed producing this feature. Many of the songs are well known, some may be completely new to you. As our gift to you, all scorch versions this month can be printed so you can enjoy the music in your own home if you play the piano. After all, I've no doubt that the inspiration for these songs came straight from God and as such, must consider them God's gift to all of us and certainly deserving of free distribution. You'll also find that this feature is rather devoid of fancy covers. Except for two or three, most are rather plain proving that sometimes great treasures come in simple packages.


If any of you have songs you'd like to contribute to future issues we'd love to consider your submission for publication. 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!


Come with us now as we revisit the wonderful music of America's faith. Go back to a time when freedom of religion was unfettered by liberal exclusions and the pressure of groups who want the only freedom of religion to be none. As always, this issue is on two separate pages so don't miss page two of this issue.

Ave Maria


Music by: Herbert Johnson
Lyrics by: from the Catholic Liturgy
Cover artist: unsigned


Trying to decide which song to present first was difficult but this one seemed to be a good beginning. The traditional Catholic prayer to Mary, Mother Of Jesus, seemed an appropriate beginning. A popular text, the Ave Maria has been set to music in a number of ways by many of the world's greatest composers. We featured a version by Gounod in our Classics in the Parlor feature in December of 2001. Many songs by this title have been written, using differing texts but all are intended for one purpose; to sing the praises of the Mother of Christianity. This setting uses the majority of full Latin text of the "Hail Mary" and we've included the full Latin and English texts of the prayer in our lyrics box (see the link below) for you to compare to Johnson's setting. He managed to capture the majority of the text.


Johnson's setting for the song is perhaps one of the most familiar to many people and is a beautiful flowing piece that expresses the peace and passion of and for Mary. Using a continuing flow of triplet based arpeggios in the left hand and a beautiful melody in the right hand with simple harmonies, Johnson created one of the masterpieces of modern sacred music when he wrote this work. A middle section that brings feeling of mystery and awe beaks the flow and provides a prelude to a triumphant return to the original theme. On hearing it, one cannot deny the feeling of power and strength of faith that can be communicated through music.


Herbert Johnson (1857 - 1904) Ave Maria may have been one of the last songs written by Johnson for he died the year after its publication. We know that he wrote many other hymns and sacred songs, many of which are stunning such as Ave Maria and Face To Face (also in this feature) yet very little seems to have been retained about his entire output and life. There also appears to be some evidence of a few secular songs by Johnson although a catalog of his output seems to be lacking.

Hear this great sacred song Printable sheet music (scorch format only)

listen to MIDI version



King David's Harp


Music by: Louis Weber
Lyrics by: none, piano solo
Cover artist: unsigned

Of course, the old testament was a rich source of inspiration for music and here we see a work based on King David as well as a number of other biblical moments. In this case, rather than a hymn or song, we have an example of a common musical piece from the period called a meditation. Though no lyrics are included, Weber has annotated all of the main themes with commentary or biblical quotes to share with us his source for inspiration and interpretation of the music. It works quite well and I can imagine a family listening to this work and contemplating the commentary provided by Weber and the musical meanings as it relates to his references.


The first section is titled; "The King's song of praise" and is meant to convey an image of King David, playing his harp in praise of the Lord. Weber uses arpeggiated chords to convey the sound of a harp and a nice melody (reminiscent of Star of The East, scorch format) that manages to hold your attention in spite of the ennui that a long passage of arpeggiated chords can sometimes induce. The second section; "rejoice and be glad" moves the melody to the left hand accompanied by repeating triplet chords, a common musical contrivance in the early 1900's. A change of key also helps change the mood. A return to the home key and the next passage is "The Heavens Declare Thy Glory" and Weber weaves a melody with repeated chords that could symbolize the trumpets of Heaven announcing God's glory that leads to the darkest passage within this work but the one I consider most beautiful and passionate. "Though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I shall fear no evil" in an andante 6/8 time with a doleful bass clef melody accompanied by arpeggios conveys a fearful yet triumphant passage to the next delightful tune "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord," a lighthearted tune complete with chirping birds brings us to the end of Weber's piece. Hopefully, you are using the Scorch player to view our scorch versions of these songs, otherwise, you're missing the ability to see the commentary and musical craftsmanship that these composers have passed on to us.


Sadly, I'm unable to find any information about the talented composer of this work, Louis Weber or the Weber Brothers Publishing House in Kansas City. Perhaps a kind reader from that area can provide us with some information. If so, we'll be happy to add it to this article.


Enjoy this Biblically inspired meditation Printable sheet music (scorch format)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (Sorry, no lyrics with this work)


The Holy City



Music by: Stephen Adams
Lyrics by: F.E. Weatherly
Cover artist: unknown

This work has become a staple in many a modern church and is one that simply screams out its message in the chorus. One aspect of every song in this month's feature is their compositional nature. Almost all songs we see in the popular song style are in what is called the strophic form. That is, repeated verses and the chorus are sung to repeats of the original melody. All of these sacred songs have been written down in a through composed form, that is, there are no repeats, the music and lyrics continue straight through from beginning to end. And though the composers have in almost all cases, provided what appears to be a verse-chorus construct, through composition allows for subtleties in variation of the original theme. Try to notice that as we progress through this month's songs. This can be very effective in conveying differing moods for each "verse" as you may see in the beautiful In The Garden on the second page.


Adams has provided us with a beautiful flow for this song and the through composed nature makes it appear a lot longer on paper than if it were strophic n design. Regardless, the song is one of the greatest hymns of inspiration ever written and is a favorite of choirs in many different Christian denominations.


Frederic Edward Weatherly (1848-1929), was a songwriter and in his later years, a radio entertainer. Born in Portishead, Somersetshire in England he studied law at Braesnose College and was a barrister of the Inner Temple in 1887. Weatherly also wrote a number of books including children's books and several quite serious titles including Questions in Logic, Progressive and General; The Rudiments of Logic, Inductive and Deductive and Musical and Dramatic Copyright. He also was a prolific poet, which was the source of his song lyric talent as well.


Weatherly wrote hundreds of songs among them few if any that have survived the decades since like Danny Boy has. Among his "lost works" are; In Sweet September, The Deathless Army, The Midshipmate and Polly. He also wrote other works that have survived the ages and are still well known including London Bridge, and When We Were Old and Gray. Little noticed today, Weatherly ranks at the top of the list of 19th and early twentieth century songwriters in terms of output having produced thousands of songs.


According to Michael R. Turner and Antony Miall in The Edwardian Song-Book: Drawing-Room Ballads 1900-1914, Methuen, London, 1982

The most prolific poet of the Edwardian—and for that matter Victorian and Georgian—ballad, the genial and indefatigable Fred E. (Frederick Edward) Weatherly (1848-1929) was virtually a one-man song factory. Seven of his lyrics appear in this book, but he wrote thousands, of which at least fifteen hundred were published, with music by dozens of composers who vied to get their hands on his verses. …The law was as much a love as poetry, and he studied and was called to the Bar at the age of thirty-nine, thereafter enjoying a comfortable career on the Western Circuit, often appearing in criminal cases, almost invariably for the defence. According to his own account, in court he was remarkably keen-witted and effective. Songs poured from him, he translated opera (including Cav. and Pag.) and he published quantities of verse and children's books. He revelled in his considerable celebrity. A little man physically, he had, as a friend put it, 'a blithe and tender soul'. He may have been self-satisfied but he was much loved and was certainly no fool, cheerfully dismissing his facility as a lyricist as no safe ticket to Parnassus. His most commercially successful ballad was 'Roses of Picardy' which became one of the great popular songs of the Great War, and it made its writer a small fortune.

According to his Brasenose biography, Weatherly came to Brasenose College in Oxford, England from Hereford Cathedral School in 1867, and was awarded a B.A. in Classics in 1871. In 1868 he achieved a certain fame on, or in, the river. The Brasenose IV had practised for Henley Regatta without a cox; on being informed that they must carry one they decided to do so, but for him to jump overboard immediately after the beginning of the race. Weatherly volunteered to take the dive and the crew went on to win the race; although subsequently disqualified, they had established a precedent from which the Coxswainless Fours were to develop.

Weatherly earned his living first as a coach in Oxford and subsequently at the Bar, but he is best known as a songwriter.(Information about Weatherly's Brasenose association courtesy Brasenose College )


One of the difficulties in finding biographical information on composers or songwriters is the common use of pseudonyms. I was about to give up on Adams when I discovered an entry that indicated Stephen Adams was actually:


Michael Maybrick, (1844 - 1913) born in Liverpool, England in 1844. He completed his music studies there and moved to Leipzig and Milan to study further. He became a well known baritone singer. His first appearance was in the New Philharmonic Concerts in London in 1870. His songs were popular in both England and America. ( Above from the Our Lady Of Fatima Parish Website where you can hear a beautiful recording of the hymn) There is a rather bizarre theory abroad that Maybrick's brother, James may have been the elusive "Jack The Ripper." Very few of Maybrick's songs ever reached the lasting level of popularity of The Holy City but a few do survive. Among them are To The Front, The Star Of Bethlehem, The Midship Mite and Mona.



Listen to and see this beautiful song Printable score (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version


I Heard The Holy City


Music by: Ernie Erdman
Words by: Roger Lewis
Cover artist: M. Baer


I debated whether to include this song in this month's feature as it is right on the fence between secular and sacred. Tied directly to The Holy City (above) the song even nearly copies the chorus melody but seems to cleverly avoid an outright copyright infringement. In a sincere form of complement, the composer has drafted a song based upon the love for the melody of The Holy City and it works well. The cover is one of only two reasonably interesting covers this month and has a definite religious theme to it.


Erdman and Lewis even manage to start the song off with the same line as The Holy City; "last night as I lay dreaming" but then moves to what appears to be a song about a sweetheart as he speaks to "The song you oft-times sang." Then we are transported back to focus on the hymn with the words, "It was 'The Ho-ly Cit-y' It thrilled me through and through.". Then, with the chorus, we hear an almost exact phrase from the original song; ""Je-ru-sa-lem, Je-ru-sa-lem," Rang so soft and low" then we drift back to the sweetheart with "My heart was glad For you were near, The same as long a-go." Erdman and Lewis pull us back and forth like that for the entire song and so we end up with a song that is a creative hybrid of a sacred and secular song. The true secular nature comes through somewhat in that this song is not through composed like all the rest. It is strophic with multiple verses and repeats of the chorus. Still, I find it to be a pleasant song and one that could easily fit into a musical Sunday in the parlor.

Ernie Erdman wrote a large number of popular hits in the early 20th century, many of them with lyricists Roger Lewis and Gus Kahn. Among his greatest hits are The Hours I spent With Thee, (1915) with Roger Lewis , Tee Pee Blues, (MIDI) 1922, That Peculiar Rag, (1910) lyrics F.M. Fagan, , Toot-Toot-Tootsie (Goo'bye) (Scorch format) (1922) with Gus Kahn and Nobody's Sweetheart in 1923, also with Gus Kahn.

Hear this old song Printable score (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




Tell Me, Thou Life and Delight of My Soul


Music by: Felix Mendelssohn
Lyrics by: Thomas Hastings
Cover artist: unknown

Some of the world's greatest composers have written sacred music and of course many, like Bach and Handel, built their entire life around serving the Lord through music. Felix Mendelssohn, one of classical music's greatest composers wrote many songs and piano works specifically for sacred purposes. The music for this song was arranged by E.S. Hosmer from Mendelssohns, Op 53, No. 4, one of his many Lieder ohne Wort, songs without words. Mendelssohn wrote eight books of songs without words between 1825 and 1845 and:

showed that the spirit of song could exist without words to show the meaning. In fact, the pieces are a kind of personal diary for the composer, expressing feelings he thought were impossible to put into words in any case. (


Hosmer took Mendelssohn's song four from Op. 53 and added words by Thomas Hastings (1605 - 1685), an early American settler, church Deacon, poet and hymn writer in Watertown Mass. Among Hastings' number of lasting hymns including Rock of Ages. Mendelssohn's (or should I say, Hosmer's arrangement of ) work is somewhat bleak, with a persistent bass line that carries the melody through the piece. Hosmer's arrangement is quite accurate to the original. I've a 1982 recording of the piece played by Edmund Batterby. In that recording Battersby seems to play a little faster than an Adagio tempo as the piece is marked and it really sounded much better than my original, rather slow rendition so I've upped the tempo some and it goes quite well. The original piece was titled, Evening Song so that explains the rather dark character of the piece. Not necessarily a favorite of mine from this month's feature, this hymn is clearly a classical piece that has been modified for home or church use. The work is expressive and melodic and perhaps would have been best left as Mendelssohn intended; without words.


Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (born Hamburg, 3 February 1809; died Leipzig, 4 November 1847). Born into a prominent family in Berlin, he grew up in a privileged environment (the family converted from Judaism to Christianity in 1816, taking the additional name 'Bartholdy'). He studied the piano with Ludwig Berger and theory and composition with Zelter, producing his first piece in 1820; thereafter, a profusion of sonatas, concertos, string symphonies, and piano quartets revealed his increasing mastery of counterpoint and form.


A period of travel and concert-giving introduced Mendelssohn to England, Scotland (1829) and Italy (1830-31); after return visits to Paris (1831) and London (1832, 1833) he took up a conducting post at Düsseldorf (1833-5), concentrating on Handel's oratorios. During this period he composed a number of excellent works that reflected the influence of his travels.


With its emphasis on clarity and adherence to classical ideals, Mendelssohn's music shows alike the influences of Bach (fugal technique), Handel (rhythms, harmonic progressions), Mozart (dramatic characterization, forms, textures) and Beethoven (instrumental technique), though from 1825 he developed a characteristic style of his own.


Mendelssohn found inspiration in art, nature and history for his orchestral music. The energy, clarity and tunefulness of the Italian have made it his most popular symphony. In his best overtures, essentially one-movement symphonic poems, the sea appears as a recurring image, from Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and The Hebrides to The Lovely Melusine. Less dependent on programmatic elements and at the same time formally innovatory, the concertos, notably that for violin, and the chamber music, especially some of the string quartets, the Octet and the two late piano trios, beautifully reconcile classical principles with personal feeling; these are among his most striking compositions. Of the solo instrumental works, the partly lyric, partly virtuoso Lieder ohne Worte for piano are elegantly written and often touching.


Enjoy this great Mendelssohn classic Printable sheet music (scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version



The Sands Of Time Are Sinking

ca. 1900

Music by: Charles Gounod
Lyrics by: Mrs Cousins
Cover artist: unsigned


Initially my least favorite song of this month's selections, I'm afraid this one is becoming an acquired taste and may soon be a favorite. My first impression was that this work did not seem to measure up to my own level of expectation for a work by Gounod. It seemed rather simple and even superficial. As I've listened to it I've grown to appreciate that often, less is more and Gounod has provided an interesting tune that would play well in the home or church. Unfortunately, the sheet music I have has no publication date but appears to have been published either around the time of Gounod's death, or not long afterward.


The "Mrs. Cousin" listed as the writer of the words was Ann Ross Cousin (1824-1906 ) born Ann Ross Cundell in Yorkshire England, "a gifted nineteenth-century writer of many hymns and poems of great beauty. Her most popular work has been this hymn, which first appeared in 1857 in the Christian Treasury." (Quotefrom "Hymn Stories, No. 93) Interestingly, this text has been used in a number of different musical setting. The original 1857 music was written by Chretien D'Urhan, (1790-1845) so it seems that this hymn never really had a marriage of words and music that were actually designed specifically for the words. Rather, over time, music by different composers was used to complement Mrs.. Cousin's poem. Cousin write several other hymns including, King Eternal, King Immortal, O Christ, What Burdens Bowed Thy Head, To Thee and to Thy Christ, O God, To Thy Father and Thy Mother, and When We Reach Our Peaceful Dwelling.


From all this, we can conclude that Gounod's music was written for some other purpose and later arranged for this text by an uncredited arranger in this version. I'm not sure what the original setting for this music was. Perhaps an alert student of Gounod's music can identify the tune and its origin and let us know.


Charles François Gounod ( b. Paris, 1818 - d. Paris, 1893) was the son of a talented painter who had won some acclaim but died when Gounod was four. Gounod's mother was a pianist who gave young Charles his early musical education. He learned classical studies at the Lycée St. Louis and studied music under Anton Reicha when in 1836 he entered the prestigious Paris Conservatoire. There he received instruction from some of the greatest musicians of the times. Gounod won the coveted Prix de Rome three years later. In 1839, he traveled to Rome where he was deeply impressed by the polyphonic music he heard sung in the Sistine Chapel.. He then began a serious study of 16th century sacred music. It was in the area of liturgical music that Gounod excelled throughout his life. Arguably, his greatest work is the Messe solennelle de Saint Cècile, first performed in 1855. Considered a masterpiece, it established his successful style of ornate and elaborate work that was in contrast to his earlier, more austere work.


In 1842 he traveled to Vienna and then on to Berlin where he was exposed to the music of the area and also received a commission to compose two masses. His experience there made him unique among French composers in that he had a deep knowledge of music, past and present that went beyond the current French traditions and operatic style. Gounod returned to Paris in 1843 to accept his first position as organist at the Missions Etrangères and soon was at odds with a congregation who disliked his steady diet of Bach and 16th century music. Gounod seemed to understand that opera was a key to success for a French composer. As such, he turned to composing opera and his first, Sapho premièred in 1851. Unfortunately, in spite of compliments from renowned composers such as Berlioz, it was a failure. He followed Sapho with several other works that fared no better.


Thereafter followed a period of opera production where Gounod met with much better success than he had earlier. Gounod produced Le Medecin malgré lui in 1858 and then Philémon in 1860. These successes, combined with Faust in 1859, earned Gounod a place as perhaps the most acclaimed composer in France. Like Mascagni (see Ave Maria on page one of this feature) Gounod was to spend the rest of his life in pursuit of an opera as well received as Faust . Though he produced many more, none enjoyed the popularity of Faust .


In the last years of his life, Gounod returned to religious music. He became very successful in England and as such, he had a strong influence on choral music there. It was Gounod's belief that France was a country of

"precision, neatness and taste, that is to say, the opposite of excess, pretentiousness, disproportion and longwindedness"

It is in this sense, a master of a refined and precisely restricted style, that he is now regarded.


Listen to this great old sacred song Printable sheet music (scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version



WAIT! There are many more Sacred Parlor Songs, including the incredibly beautiful, In The Garden and the gorgeous Virgin's Prayer to see and hear. The second part of this issue features many more rare and different works.

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


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

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