Monday, September 24, 2012

The Old Rugged Cross - 100th Anniversary

It was 100 years ago this year that the Reverend George Bennard wrote what many consider to be the most beloved hymn of all time, "The Old Rugged Cross." "I seemed to have a vision . . . I saw the Christ and the cross inseparable," he wrote in his memoirs. He wrote the song over a month in 1912 as he traveled to revival meetings. The melody came easily, but he labored over the words in the four verses and refrain. The hymn, published in 1913, was immediately successful. Bennard (pronounced Benn-ARD), who was born in Youngstown, Ohio, was the son of George and Margaret Russell Bennard, of Scottish descent. The couple, who had five other children, moved their family to Albia, Iowa, where the senior Bennard ran a tavern. When the tavern burned, the father turned to mining coal. An accident led to his death at 49, forcing young George, at 16, to support his mother and sisters as a miner. In 1895, at age 24, Bennard became a minister when he enlisted in the Salvation Army at Rock Island, Illinois. By 1898, he was conducting revival meetings throughout the Midwest, later transferring to New York, where he resigned in 1910 to go out on his own as a Methodist evangelist. It was at that time that he began composing hymns. Bennard settled at Albion, Michigan and opened his own hymn publishing company. It was there that he likely began writing The Old Rugged Cross. The hymn was first sung formally at a revival meeting at Pokagon, Michigan. Evangelist Billy Sunday popularized the hymn on his nationally broadcast radio show. By 1939, more than 15 million copies had been sold and numerous recordings made. In all, Bennard composed about 350 hymns but none was as successful as "The Old Rugged Cross." He died of asthma in Reed City, Michigan on October 10, 1958.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A New Star Spangled Banner!

Sing 'Star Spangled Banner' your own way, says Geoffrey O'Hara, Noted Composer Has Revised National Anthem. "Discovered: The True Way to Sing The Star Spangled Banner.'"

When this headline appeared in a New York paper it may have carried a bit of a jolt to the worthy few who for years had risen with the first strains of the national anthem to sing unfalteringly to the last note. By this same virtue undoubtedly many who had hummed, rejoiced and secretly resolved to learn the words. But what New Yorkers thought may never be known, for as the story unfolded it developed that the true way to sing The Star Spangled Banner was "everybody's way or, the people's way," according to Geoffrey O'Hara, the famous composer and Irish tenor, who ultimately brought the revision we sing today to the American public. O'Hara had long resented the fact that an American audience must sing its own national anthem in someone elses way. He believed that the American public had a very definite idea and a certain unanimity of self expression when allowed to sing the song unguided, and he decided to let the people settle the question.

Phonograph records were made of various audiences singing without direction. Three of these audiences in New York had twenty-five hundred or more in the house. When later these records were compared, O'Hara was able to prove that the people did not sing "The Star Spangled Banner" in the original Francis Scott Key key or in the way of the United States Army and Navy ,or in the version of the American Board of Education, yet universally they sang it exactly the same way, the way of the people. 

It was about this time that O'Hara was asked to prepare an arrangement of the anthem to be sung by the Mendelssohn Choir of Toronto in New York. So, guided by his phonograph records and his experience as  song leader in the army, where he found the men sang their national anthem in the same unauthorized way, regardless of their native state, he proceeded to produce a new "Star Spangled Banner."

"The Star Spangled Banner", was ordered played at military and naval occasions by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but was not designated the national anthem by an Act of Congress until 1931. In September 1814, during the War of 1812, the British arrested Dr. William Beanes, an American accused of sending three British soldiers to jail. He was held aboard a British ship stationed off the Baltimore coast. Francis Scott Key, a well-known lawyer and poet, was asked to secure the doctor’s release. Departing from Baltimore, Key and Colonel Skinner, a U.S. agent in charge of American prisoner exchange, set sail on a small boat in search of the British ship. Flying a flag of truce, they sailed for several days before they spotted and, soon after, boarded it. Initially, British commanders refused to be swayed by Key’s arguments to free Dr. Beanes. When Key presented letters from wounded British soldiers who had been treated fairly by Dr. Beanes, they relented. Unfortunately, Key, Skinner, and Dr. Beanes had heard about preparations for an upcoming attack while on board. They were not permitted to return to Baltimore and were escorted under guard to their boat.
Early in the morning of September 13, 1814, Key, Skinner, and Dr. Beanes watched from their boat as the British attacked Fort McHenry. Rockets streaked across the sky and cannons boomed. Some time before dawn, the dark skies fell silent. Unknown to the three men, the British had decided to abandon the assault.
As dawn drew nearer and nearer, Key searched for a sign through the clearing smoke. Had Fort McHenry fallen? When daylight finally arrived, the American flag waved gallantly in the breeze. The sight so moved Key that he began writing a poem on the back of a letter retrieved from his pocket. He completed the poem later in his Baltimore hotel room.

The following morning, Key showed the poem to his brother-in-law, Judge J. H. Nicholson. Nicholson liked the poem so much, he had it printed under the title, “Defense of Fort McHenry,” and distributed it throughout Baltimore. Nicholson also suggested the words be put to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a song which was popular in America at the time and happened to be a British drinking song.

In October 1814, a Baltimore actor sang the song at Captain McCauley’s tavern, though he called it the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was an immediate success.

Over the years, the Star-Spangled Banner grew in popularity. In 1889, the Secretary of the Navy made it the official song for all flag raisings. Later, in 1916, Woodrow Wilson, our twenty-eighth president, boosted its status further. He proclaimed it the national anthem of all the armed forces. But it was not until the 1918 World Series that the song took hold of America during a game that almost didn’t happen. America had been involved in World War I for a year. Out of respect for the soldiers, baseball officials wanted to cancel the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. When it became known, however, that American soldiers fighting in France were eager to know the Series’ results, the games commenced. To honor these brave men, the officials had the band play the Star-Spangled Banner during the seventh-inning stretch of the first game. And, the rest is history. Soon it became tradition to play the Star-Spangled Banner at all baseball games and, eventually, nearly all sporting events.

Geoffrey O'Hara

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


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Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Victor Collection: Geoffrey O'Hara

Geoffrey O'Hara was a Canadian American composer, singer and music professor. Born February 2, 1882 in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, he initially planned a military career, but abandoned that idea when his father died. He moved to the USA in 1904, the same year he began performing in Vaudeville. He began recording for Edison Records in 1905. In 1913 O'Hara undertook the recording of traditional Indian songs on behalf of the American government. In 1914, he was recorded on phonograph cylinder lecturing about the complexity of the music as well as singing and playing several types of Navajo traditional songs. During World War I he was a singing instructor of patriotic songs for American troops. In 1919 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States and began lecturing on music and songwriting, a task he continued for the remainder of his life. He held positions at Teachers' College of Columbia University, Huron College and the University of South Dakota, where in 1947 he received and honorary Doctor of Music degree. In 1920 O'Hara helped organize The Composers' and Lyric Writers' Protective League. He also was a board member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), was the president of the Composers-Authors Guild. O'Hara composed over 500 popular and patriotic songs and hymns. He had some moderate popular music hits in the 1910s with songs such as Your Eyes Have Told Me What I Did Not Know (1913), Tennessee, I Hear You Calling Me (1914), The Old Songs and one huge hit with K-K-K-Katy (1918), one of the most popular tunes of the World War I era. He was commissioned by the Wilson administration to compose the modern day version of the Star Spangled Banner. O'Hara died on January 31, 1967.

The Edison Files: My Diamond Disc Collection

50002-R Dreams Of Galilee - Elizabeth Spencer/Frederick J. Wheeler, 1913
50002-L Nearer My God To Thee - Thomas Chalmers 1912

50065-R Wedding Of The Winds Waltzes - American Symphony Orchestra, 1912
50065-L On The High Alps - Venetian Instrumental Quartet, 1914

50212-R Medley Of American War Songs - Band, 1914
50212-L Medley Of American Patriotic Airs, 1914

50292-R Valse In E Flat - Andre Benoist, 1915
50292-L Old Black Joe w/variations - Andre Benoist, 1915

50348-R On The Hoko Moko Isle - Collins and Harlan, 1916
50348-L Yaka Hula Hickey Dula - Walter Van Brunt, 1916

50351-R Massa's In De Cold, Cold Ground - Fred J. Bacon, 1915
50351-L Old Black Joe - Fred J. Bacon, 1916

50357-R Are You From Dixie - Billy Murray, 1916
50357-L Don't Bite The Hand That Feeds You - Walter Van Brunt, 1916

50428-R Poor Butterfly - Jaudas Society Orchestra, 1917
50428-L The Missouri Waltz - Jaudus Society Orchestra, 1916

50452-R U.S. Army Bugle Calls Part 1 - S.W. Smith, U.S.N. & Bugle Squad, 1917
50452-L U.S. Army Bugle Calls Part 2 - S.W. Smith, U.S.N. & Bugle Squad, 1917

50455-R Ellis March - Ford Hawaiians, 1916
50455-L One, Two, Three, Four Medly - Waikiki Hawaiian Orchestra, 1917

50534-R I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles - Helen Clark and George Wilton Ballard, 1919
50534-L In The Old Sweet Way - Helen Clark and George Wilton Ballard, 1919

50857-R Wonderland of Dreams - Rae Eleanor Ball and Jessie L. Deppen, 1921
50857-L Havana Moon - Rae Eleanor Ball and Jessie L. Deppen, 1921

51026-R Red Moon Waltz - Ernest L. Stevens Trio, 1922
51026-L If I Had My Way Pretty Baby - Ernest L. Stevens Trio, 1922

51145-R Darkey's Dream and Darkey's Awakening - Fred Van Eps, 1922
51145-L Medley of Southern Melodies - Fred Van Eps, 1923

80010-R Ever Of Thee I'm Fondly Dreaming - Elizabeth Spencer and Vernon Archibald
80010-L Darling Nellie Gray - Metropolitan Quartet, 1914

80098-R Annie Laurie/Lady Metropolitan Quartet, 1913
80098-L Call Me Your Darling Again - Elizabeth Spencer, 1916

80160-R I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen - Walter Van Brunt, 1914
80160-L On The Banks Of The Brandywine - Walter Van Brunt, 1914

80172-R America - Mixed Quartet w/orchestra, 1914
80172-L The Star Spangled Banner - Baritone and Chorus w/orchestra, 1914

80204-R Let The Lower Lights Be Burning - Mixed Quartet, 1914
80204-L He Lifted Me - Mixed Quartet w/orchestra, 1914

80276-R When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder - John Young and Frederick J. Wheeler
80276-L Abide With Me - Elizabeth Spencer and Thomas Chalmers, 1915

80300-R I Love To Tell The Story - Metropolitan Quartet
80300-L I Will Sing OF My Redeemer - Metropolitan Quartet

80321-R My Old Kentucky Home - Thomas Chalmers, 1914
80321-L Come Where The Lillies Bloom - Metropolitan Quartet, 1915

80395-R Dixieland Memories No. 1 - Orpheus Male Chorus
80395-L Dixieland Memories No. 2 - Orpheus Male Chorus

80453-R Sundown in Birdland - Sibyl Sanderson and Frederick W. Hager, 1918
80453-L L'Ardita-Magnetic Waltz - Sibyl Sanderson, 1918

80484-R I'll Remember You Love In My Prayers - Betsy Lane Shepherd, 1917
80484-L The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane - Metropolitan Quartet, 1918

80529-R Is My Name Written There - Charles Hart and Elliott Shaw
80529-L Shall You? Shall I? - Charles Hart, Elliott Shaw and the Calvary Choir

80549-R Only A Step To Jesus - Fred East and Lewis James, 1920
0549-L Beulah Land - Thomas Chalmers w/chorus, 1920

80613-R Recollections of 1861-65 - Edna White, 1920
80613-L Love's Old Sweet Song - Chester Gaylord, 1920

82055-R O Holy Night - Thomas Chalmers, 1914
82055-L The Palms - Thomas Chalmers, 1914

82133-R Battle Hymn Of The Republic - Thomas Chalmers, 1917
82133-L Recessional - Thomas Chalmers, 1916

82159-R I'se Gwine Back To Dixie - Maggie Teyte and the Lyric Male Quartet
82159-L Ma Curly-Headed Babby - Maggie Teyte

82236-R (a) Songs My Mother Taught Me (b) Poem - Vasa Prihoda
82236-L On Wings Of Song - Vasa Prihoda, 1921

83059-R Annie Laurie - Anna Case, 1916
83059-L Old Folks At Home - Anna Case, 1916

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Victor Collection: Esther Walker

Esther Walker (October 18, 1894 - July 26, 1943) was an American musical comedy performer. She was born Esther Thomas in Pewee Valley, Kentucky. Adopting the stage name of Esther Walker, she appeared on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre in a 1919 production of Monte Cristo, Jr., and later that year performed at the 44th Street Theatre in Hello, Alexander. Walker recorded over 32 songs for Victor and Brunswick record labels, during the years 1919-1920 and 1925–1927, including "How Sorry You'll Be." Walker wed Texas businessman Karl Hoblitzelle, a successful manager of movie and vaudeville theatres. The two founded the Hoblitzelle Foundation in 1942, which still exists today. She died of cancer in Dallas, Texas on July 26, 1943 at the age of 48.

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...