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Notes on "Shepherd"

This album of hymns is full of beautiful melodies and inspiring music. It's composers cross oceans and time through several centuries. Louis Spohr, (1784 - 1859) who wrote "Potter" was a German composer, violinist and conductor who was friends with Ludwig van Beethoven. A concert in Leipzig in December 1804 brought the influential music critic Friedrich Rochlitz "to his knees", not only because of Spohr's playing but also because of his compositions. This concert brought the young man overnight fame in the whole German-speaking world. He too wrote nine symphonies (a tenth was left unfinished) and was opera director at Frankfurt where he was able to stage his own operas - the first of which was Faust.

Louis M. Gottschalk ("Manna") was born in New Orleans in 1829. From early in his childhood, he was exposed to the French and African-tinged Caribbean folk music that characterized the music of the Creoles. It was this bombastic music that left the deepest impression on Gottschalk, later permeating his works and eventually spurring him on to international fame. At the age of 13, Louis left to study piano and composition in Paris. His virtuosic playing and Creole-inspired compositions gained him immediate fame throughout Europe.

"His Kingdon Is Forever" was composed by Martin Luther. Luther began to compose hymns in 1523. The number of hymns written by Luther is still disputed, but he did write at least 36 hymns. Martin Luther was a very influential individual in leading the Reformation of the church in the sixteenth century, but he also set precedence musically that has carried over to present day. Luther's 95 Theses outlined what would become a new era of practicing religion. His rebellion against the Catholic Church led to a new relationship between the common worshipper and music. Martin Luther's theses outlined the basis for allowing common people the ability to participate in the worship service musically, laid the foundation for mass in the vernacular, and wrote hymns that reflected personal feelings and experiences with God.

From obscure circumstances, Lyman Foster Brackett (both "Shepherd" and "Harpstrings") was propelled in the mid-1880s to a position of prominence in the musical circles of the Church of Christ, Scientist. His service to this church was most conspicuous in the compiling of the first official Christian Science Hymnal, to which task he was appointed by Mary Baker Eddy, Pastor of the church and Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. As chairman of the hymnal committee and music editor for the project, Brackett wrote 99 original tunes for choir and congregational use, and selected all the other music in the hymnal. (For more on this see: "Lyman Brackett: Memorable Musician" by Peter J. Hodgson, PhD)

William Vincent Wallace ("Christmas Morn") was born in Waterford, Ireland in 1814. Under the tuition of his father he early wrote pieces for the bands and orchestras of his native place. A world traveler, when eighteen years of age, for the purpose of recovering his health by a voyage, he sailed for Sydney. Australia, there remaining several years and leading a life of adventure. From Australia he went to New Zealand, made a whaling-voyage in the South Seas, and finally landed in the East Indies. He visited most of the interior provinces of Hindostan and spent some time tiger-hunting. From Hindostan, Wallace sailed for Chili, and in turn visited Peru and Buenos Ayres, giving concerts in the large cities of those countries. This musical progress was gradually extended to Mexico and the West, Indies. His earliest appearance in the United States as a virtuoso was in New Orleans. Thence he travelled through the Union for several years, giving entertainments in the large cities.

Later Wallace went to England, turning his attention to the composition of operas. As a performer on the violin and piano-forte Wallace was more than respectable. As an opera-composer he was deficient in the science of instrumentation, but he well understood how to write for the voice, and many of his melodies combine fluency and grace with the charms of originality.

"Ton-y-Botel" translated from Welsh means "tune in a bottle." The legend tells that the tune washed up on the shores of Wales in a bottle. Like many good Welsh folksongs, it later became the hymn "Ebenezer". It actually was composed by Thomas John Williams in 1890, organist at Llanelli. Whether he actually composed it or simple was the first to write it down is debatable. Some say it is an ancient melody and it can be found in several different cultures throughout Europe and the Middle East.

"Oh Dreamer" or "Londonderry Aire" or "Oh Danny Boy" has long been one of the world's most cherished melodies. History has it that Jane Ross (1810-1879) stated that she had taken down the tune in Limavady in 1851 when she heard it played by an itinerant fiddler. One of Ireland's most distinguished folk song collectors, Sam Henry, states in "Songs of the People" a regular weekly feature in the Northern Constitution (1923- 1939), that blind Jimmy McCurry (1830-1910) was the fiddler referred to by Jane Ross. One day Jane Ross heard Jimmy playing a beautiful melody which she had never heard before. She came over to Jimmy and asked him to play the tune over and over again until she had taken down every note. Jane thanked him and gave him a coin for his moving rendition of the tune. When she departed Jimmy rubbed it against his lips, as was his method of determining the denomination of coins, and discovered it was a florin instead of the customary penny. He set off in pursuit of Jane and when he caught up with her he told her that she had made a mistake. Jane refused to take it back and asked him to keep it as a token of her appreciation of his music.

WALTER E. YOUNG - [Information yet to come]

 

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