September 18, 1920
Page 15
“The David Bispham Song Book” a Valuable Popular Collection for Mixed Voices

Eminent Baritone Sponsors Volume of Well-known Music Designed to Familiarize Numbers Everyone Should Know—Elliott Schenck Assists Largely in Making Four-part Arrangements—Work Also Contains Interesting Biographical Data Concerning Composers Represented

SEVERAL collections of songs for solo voice and piano edited by famous singers have come to hand in the last half-dozen years. And some of them have been really interesting. But we cannot recall a collection of songs for chorus of mixed voices, compiled and edited by a singer of international repute. This is what has come to us, however, in “The David Bispham Song Book,” which has just been issued. Mr. Bispham needs no introduction to the readers of this or any other journal. His fame is world-wide, and he deserves every bit of the honor in which he is held. Few singers can point to a career so varied and so distinguished as his, a career in which a David Bispham performance as Telramund, as Alberich, as Falstaff, a Bispham presentation of the role of the prophet Elijah in Mendelssohn’s oratorio, or a David Bispham song recital at Carnegie Hall were all events of outstanding artistic worth, events truly memorable in the musical calendar.
Mr. Bispham selected the choruses that make up this book for use in the schools, for community singing and also for use by choral societies. In his preface he says: “The present book has been compiled with the purpose of placing before them (the young people of America) some of the songs that will live as long as human voices are uplifted together.” The volume is divided into sections, the first dealing with operatic selections, the second with miscellaneous songs, such as Gounod’s “Ring Out, Wilds Bells,” Barnby’s “Sweet and Low,” etc. There are popular and folksongs in Part III, patriotic songs (American and Allied) in Part IV, rounds, catches and a canon in Part V, sacred songs in Part VI, while Part VII, the final division, is devoted to hymns. There will always be those who will object to an arrangement of the Sextet from “Lucia,” called “The Tribute of the Birds,” with a text that reads “When the sun in heaven rising,” whether it is written by Una Fairweather as in this case or by anyone else. Dalilah’s voluptuous outpourings in the Saint-Saëns opera are by the same token presented here as “When Shepherds Piped Their Lay,” a text rather removed from the original “Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta Voix.” But we imagine that this will always be done in books of this kind: we only fear that the young persons will receive some shocks, when in later life they come upon the real texts of these famous operatic pieces! For the sake of record let us add that the operatic composers represented are Gounod, Berlioz, Donizetti, Handel, Saint-Saëns, Verdi, Messager, Bellini, Godard, Bizet, Weber, Mozart, Offenbach, Rossini and Flotow.
“Miscellaneous Songs” includes many a popular favorite; the makeup of this part also proves that Mr. Bispham is as ardent a believer in the American composer as ever. For in this section he has included Arthur Foote’s “The Flag Goes By,” Laura Sedgwick Collins’s “Sing Ho! “The Merry Autumn Time,” J. Rosamond Johnson’s “Yestereve,” Elliott Schenck’s “When all the World is Young, Lad,” William J. McCoy’s “May,” Rossetter G. Cole’s “The Bird of Hope,” Fay Foster’s “The Nightingales of Flanders,” Arthur Nevin’s “Lorna Doone’s Song,” Giuseppe Aldo Randegger’s “Nenia,” Franklin Riker’s “A Gentle Hint” and a clever arrangement by Arthur Nevin of “Home, Sweet Home” and Rubinstein’s famous Melody in F, set in counterpoint, the women’s voices singing “Mid Pleasures and Palaces,” while the tenors and basses sing Rubinstein’s sweet old tune on the word “Ah!” the first time and hum it the second time. Alexander Russell is represented in the hymn part of the collection by a carol with two texts, one designed for Christmas use and one fox Easter. We call this a first-rate representation for native music and thank you, Mr. Bispham!
In the patriotic section there is a Polish song “Poland Still Lives,” arranged by no less a celebrity than Josef Hofmann. And throughout the book the arrangements are worthy of praise. Elliott Schenck has done the greater part of them and in them has again shown himself a finely trained musician. The arrangement of Sullivan’s “Lost Chord” is Mr. Bispham’s own and an excellent one, and there are also arrangements by Kathleen Narelle, E. J. Biedermann, Walter Damrosch, a modest person “N. T.” and George B. Nevin. As to the texts Una Fairweather has contributed many and Mr. Bispham himself is to be complimented on some of the fine versions he has made, simply marked “English version by D. B.” in the book. We have found but three errors and they are slight: On Page 42 the melody “Banish Thy Sorrow” we know as from Handel’s “Rinaldo” not “Semele” as here stated. (It may be possible that old George Frederick used the tune twice!) And on Page 158 the statement occurs: “Erik Meyer-Helmund is best known in this country by his song-cycle ‘Eliland.’ “Eliland” is the work of Alexander von Fielitz, who once lived and taught in Chicago. J. Rosamond Johnson is called “F. Rosamond Johnson.”
Mr. Bispham has given us a very valuable book and it is to be hoped that it will be appreciated. A great deal of work has gone into it, we are certain, for in compiling such a volume an artist of Mr. Bispham’s importance must be careful not to accept for it anything that falls below a standard. This he has maintained and held high. We had almost forgotten to express our approval of the brief notes in fine type under the titles of many of the songs by contemporary composers, telling about the composer, where he was born, etc., and often a word about the song. Such miniature program notes are always worthwhile. There is a fine portrait of Mr. Bispham, which serves as frontispiece to the book, with a facsimile of his signature. —A. W. K.


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