George F. (George Frederick) Root.

Story of a musical life : an autobiography online

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FROM THE LIBRARY OF



REV. LOUIS FITZGERALD BENSON. D. D.



BEQUEATHED BY HIM TO



THE LIBRARY OF



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PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY




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3



A REVIVAL OF OLD WAR SONGS.



A PICTURESQUE OLD MINSTREL. '
From The Chicago Evening- Post.

Jules Lumbard is in the city. To those who wit-
nessed the exciting scenes in 1862-63 in Chicago and
survive to tell the tale this name conveys a touch
of magic. It inflamed the cowards* hearts with
heroism. Many mothers mourned the loss of their
sons because of "Old Jules' " instrumentality in
calling upon this country's patriots at a critical
juncture. To see the old minstrel again will
bring vividly to mind the picture of "Jules"
standing in the centre of a war-roused gather-
ing at the old City Hall Square when he
launched for the first time America's immortal
battle hymn. "The Battle Cry of Freedom." His
figure may be a trifle stouter and bent. But the
leonine head, framed by long, silvery locks, will
make his figure not a whit less impressive at the
coming memorial concert. His voice may not
possess the same volume and range that it did
when raised for freedom, but his friends claim
that the spirited pitch of yore has not yielded to
age.

To represent "Old Jules" Lumbard in hie true
light, it may be said that if the late Dr. George F.
Root is credited by American historians as the most
powerful composer of native war songs, Jules Lum-
bard's memory will be revered as their greatest ex-
ponent. Dr. Root produced and "Jules" rendered
them with masterly skill at a time when they re-
sounded from one end of the country to the other.
Omaha, where Jules Lumbard now resides, has ob-
scured his former fame, but old Ohicagoans, who
know his worth, promise to cheer his declining days
with many tokens of their attachment.

None can dwell more interestingly upon this
quaint figure than the reminiscent assistant of
Postmaster Hesing.

"I came to Chicago in September, 1863," says he.
"At the time 3,000 prisoners were under guard at
Camp Lincoln. Great crowds assembled every day
and evening at the City Hail Square. Old Bryan
Hall, which belonged to the "old man eloquent,"
was then the chief meeting place in Chicago. It
was situated on Clark-st., just opposite the court-
house, and was the auditorium of that period.
Jules and his brother, Frank Lumbard, were at that
time known as the foremost singers, and they had
no competitors throughout the West. Jules was not
only a mas'erly singer, but a good fellow. The
mere mention of these two names was sufficient to
bring crowds together. "Long John" Wentworth
was also a power in those days. Dr. George F.
Root was a member of the firm of Root & Cady,
who kept a music store in Bryan Hall Block. When
I first met the doctor I was a boy. He impressed
me as the gentlest man on this earth. I came to
know him intimately. Our tastes for music ran in
the same direction. Soon after I came to Chicago I
joined the choir of the Second Presbyterian Church.
Miss Fannie Root sang soprano in that choir, and
through her I naturally became well acquainted
with Dr. Root.

"It was Jules Lumbard who gave the first render-
ing of his great 'Battle Cry of Freedom.' The
Occasion was a memorable one. Recruiting tents
were pitched in the pubh'c square and a great
throng gathered to hear the song. I imagine I can
still see that scene as I look down the street. The
tune and the words were such that the people knew
them after they were repeated twice. Jules stood
on the courthouse steps, and his powerful voice
drowned every other sound. Then the crowd took
up the refrain and the chorus. The recruiting tents
did a thriving business a few minutes Inter. Regi-
ments were organized and the war feeling ran high.
Jules and his brother Frank were called upon
every time they were corralled in a crowd. Upon
several occasions Jules went to the front among
the soldiers and sang the hymns, which live on, al-
though the soldiers die and are forgotten. In these
hu-tfing times we do not stop to think of the many
fiootsore weary soldiers who imbibed new life from



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SgW OF PHiHSfy
V OCT 6 1931



OF



A MUSICAL LIFE



AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
BY

GEO. F. ROOT.






CINCINNATI :
Published by THE JOHN CHURCH C O. 74 W. 4 th St.



-Chicago-



-New York-



Root & Sons Music Co.
200 Wabash Ave.



The John Church Co.

13 East 1 6th St.



Copyright, 1S91, by The John Church Co.



PREFACE.



OCTOBER i, 1888, was the fiftieth anniversary of my
leaving home to commence my musical life. On
that occasion we had a family gathering, at which were
commenced the series of narrations which have grown
into this book.

They were mostly written in 1889, and that will ac-
count for the mention of the names of some people who
have died since that time.

Special prominence could have been given in this work
to the orderly arrangement of such musical statistics and
items of musical history as come within its scope, but
such a plan would have interfered with my story, as such,
so those matters have been allowed to come in as wanted,
without reference to their chronological order.

I do not like the appearance of self-praise that I have
to assume while recording in this book certain sayings
and events which refer to myself and my career. I hope
the reader will see that my story would not be complete
without them, and on that ground excuse the apparent
egotism. G. F. R.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.

1820-1838 — Birth — Leaving Home— Harmony Hall — First Piano
Lessons— Early Musical Conditions — Two Tunes for Prayer
Meeting — The Odeou, 3

CHAPTER II.

1838-1839, Boston— My First Pupil— A New Bargain— The Flute
Club — First Voice Lessons — Some of the Prominent Teach-
ers, Authors, and Concert Performers of Early Days — David
and Goliath — Some Remarks about Simple Music — My First
Singing Class — Mr. Woodbury — My Venerable Pupil from
Maine— The " Old Corner Bookstore," 13

CHAPTER III.
1S40-1844, Boston — Partnership — First Efforts as Organist and
Choir Leader — The First Teaching of Music in Public
Schools — The Teachers' Class of the Boston Academy of
Music and my First Efforts at Vocal Training in Classes —
The Old Marlboro' and my Unintentional Critic — Bowdoin
St. Choir and my Intentional Critic — Boston's First Boat
Club— Call to New York, 24

CHAPTER IV.
1844-1847, New York — Abbott's School for Young Ladies — Rut-
gers Female Institute — Miss Haines' School — The Union
Theological Seminary — The New York Institution for the
Blind and the Mercer St. Presbyterian Church — My Mar-
riage — My Quartet and Performance at the Philharmonic —
Summer Convention Work with Messrs. Mason and Webb —
Mr. Jacob Abbott's Advice about the Way to Keep a Diary, . 37



vi TABLE OF CONTENTS.

CHAPTER V.

184S-1S49, New York — Spingler Institute— Adding Difficulties to
the Musical Work of my Classes — Reference to Dr. Mason's
First " Singing School " — My First Efforts at Composition
and Book-making — Different Musical Grades— Jenny Lind, 49

CHAPTER VI.

1850-185T, New York and Paris — Getting Ready for a Trip
Abroad —The Voyage— Arrival in Paris — A Few Words on
the Stud}- of a Foreign Language — The Singing at the
Madeleine — Lessons from Alary and Potharst — A Musical
Compatriot — Gottschalk — Memorable Concerts, . .58

CHAPTER VII.

1 85 1, Paris and London — Fourth of July — The Conversational
Mode of Learning French, and the Romance that Followed
— Two Concerts at Exeter Hall, London — The Loyalty of the
English to Old Favorites— The First World's Exposition —
American Friends— The McCormick Reaper — The Sewing
Machine — The Day & Newell Lock— The Yacht America —
The Narrow Escape on the Home Voyage, . . . -69

CHAPTER VIII.

1851-1853, New York — "The Flower Queen" and the First
" Rose "— " Wurzel " and " The Hazel Dell "—My Best Piano
Pupil— The First Normal Musical Institute — " Daniel " and
Early Books— The New House at Willow Farm, and the
Singing in the Village Church— My First Musical Conven-
tion—The Value of a Specialty— The Old Violin— Early Or-
chestras, ...... .... 81

CHAPTER IX.

1853-1855, New York — A Frank Statement — Geniuses in Music—
" The Shining Shore "—Early Books — The First American-
made Doctor of Music— Early Conventions at Richmond, Va.,
and in the West — Preparing to Leave New York — How the
" Normal " went to North Reading, 95



TABLE OF CONTENTS. Vll



CHAPTER X.



1856-1859, North Reading, Mass. — A Great School in a Small
Town — A Visit from Henry Ward Beecher and Mrs. Stowe —
Nathan Richardson and " Rosalie, The Prairie Flower " —
Writing at Willow Farm—" The Haymakers "—The Begin-
ning of Bar Training in Classes, for Harmony — " Except Ye
Become as Little Children " — Distinguished Visitors — Rela-
tive Profits of Cantata Maker and Cantata Giver — Composi-
tions as Property, 107

CHAPTER XI.

1859-1861, North Reading and Chicago — Prominent Members of
the Normal Institute — Writing at Willow Farm — Our Simple
Music in England -Root and Cady — The Currency — The
Greater the Refinement, the Smaller the Coin — Chicago in
1858 — The " Cameraderie " in a New Country — Conventions
on the Prairie— Land Sharks — First Organ Book — The First
Gun of the War, 120

CHAPTER XII.

1861-1870, Chicago — Writing the War Songs— Some Incidents
Concerning Them— Henry C. Work— P. P. Bliss— " The Song
Messenger of the Northwest " — The Origin of " Tramp "—
Growth of Business— James R. Murray and " Daisy Deane "
— B. R. Hanby— Caryl Florio— Dr. Mason's Last Normal—
The Normal at South Bend, Ind.— The Origin of " National
Normal" — Carlo Bassini, 132

CHAPTER XIII.

1871-1873, Chicago— The Health Lift and the Astonished Piano
Movers — The Gigantic Lottery Scheme— Our Successful
Publications, including Dr. Palmer's and Mr. Bliss's Early
Works— Heav>^ Stock— The Great Fire— My Green Box-
Mr. Curwen's Gift — New Business Arrangements — The Nor-
mal of '72— The Sad Telegram, 148



Vlll TABLE OF CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XIV.

1S73-18S6, Chicago — Business Re-adjustments — Various Normal
Institutes and Conventions — The Memorable Centennial
Year — Park Church at Elmira— Grasshoppers — A Further
List of Books — English Editions — Passage Taken to Cross
the Water Again, . 160

CHAPTER XV.

On Board the Steamer Ethiopia — Glasgow— First Sunday in
London — St. Martin's-in-the-Fields— Interludes — The Lon-
don Sunday-School Union — The Curwens — Voluntary Roy-
alties— Heme House — Mr. Evans and the London Public
Schools, 170

CHAPTER XVI.

The Work of the Tonic-sol-fa College— Mr. Behnke's Light to
the Throat — England and Dickens — The Boys of the Med-
way Union — Don— The Staffordshire Potteries and the Burs-
lem Singers — Epping Forest and the Lawn Party at Forest
Gate — Rev. John Curwen's Grave — The Choir of the Chapel
Royal— Mr. J. A. Birch and " The Haymakers," . . .177

CHAPTER XVII.

The Parish Church— Traditional Chanting— The " Swanley Boys "
— The Hall of Parliament — A Reception on Mr. Curwen's
Lawn— Forty Conductors — The British Museum — A Musical
Catalogue— One of the London " Choirs"— The South Lon-
don Choral Institute — Dr. Allon's Church at Islington — My
Sixty-sixth Birthday — The Crystal Palace and "Autumn
Winds " — The Concert on the City of Rome, .... 188

CHAPTER XVIII.

Home Again— The "Pillar of Fire" and Other Cantatas— The
Idea of "Cantatas for the People"— Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Cur-
wen's Visit to America — " War Song " Concerts — The Loyal
Legion — The Usual History of Musical Societies — How
" The Haymakers " Helped Out— Family Matters, " Roots
and Branches"— The Hyde Park Yacht Club and the Sum-
mer Congregation on the Lake, 200



TABLE OF CONTENTS. ix

CHAPTER XIX.

The John Church Co. — The Principals of the House— Their
Homes— Ancestral Descent — The Memorable Celebration at
the Hyde Park High-School— Mr. John Church's Death-
Preparations for the World's Columbian Exposition — My
Piano Trade— My Seventieth Birthday— Vale f . . .208

APPENDIX.

Books, 223

Sheet Music, 225

MUSIC.

Slumber Sweetly, Dearest, 228

A Voice from the Lake, 229

I Will Lay Me Down in Peace, 232

There Is a Stream, 233

The Hazel Dell, 234

Rosalie, the Prairie Flower, 237

The Battle Cry of Freedom, 240

Just Before the Battle, Mother, 243

Tramp ! Tramp ! Tramp ! 246

The Vacant Chair, 250

There's Music in the Air, 253

The Shining Shore, . 256




THE STORY
OF A MUSICAL LIFE.



CHAPTER I.

1 820-1 838 — BIRTH — LEAVING HOME — HARMONY HALE — FIRST
PIANO LESSONS — EARLY MUSICAL CONDITIONS — TWO TUNES
FOR PRAYER-MEETING — THE ODEON.

I WAS born in Sheffield, Mass., August 30, 1820, but my
father moved to North Reading, not far from Boston,
when I was six years old, and there my youth was spent.

I was always very fond of music — not singing at all as a
boy, but playing a little upon every musical instrument that
came in my way. At thirteen I figured that I could " play
a tune " upon as many instruments as I was years old.
Such an achievement in the light of to-day looks entirely
insignificant, but in our isolated village, and in those days, it
was regarded as something rather wonderful. There was a
chronic curiosity in the village choir as to what instrument
the boy would play upon next.

The dream of my life was to be a musician. I did not
know exactly what kind, or how to get started. I thought,
perhaps, I could make a beginning as second flute in some

3



4 THE STORY OF A MUSICAL LIFE.

theater orchestra. It wasn't reputable, I knew (as people
regarded the matter then), and relatives and friends were all
opposed to it. Indeed, any line of music, as a business, in
those days was looked down upon, especially by the more
religious and respectable portion of the community. So I
knew I should have to fight my way. I ought to except
my mother. It was either an unaccountable faith in my
ability to succeed, or so much love in her tender heart that
she could not bear to thwart me, and she said, " Go, my son,
if you find the opportunity ; I'll get along in some way."
I knew well what that meant — my father and the brother
next younger than myself being both in South America, and
six younger children to care for — hard times certain — pos-
sibly privation ; but I had the hardihood of the inexperi-
enced youngster that I was, and said, "Mother, just let me
get a start and you shall never want for anything." I thank
the Lord that I was able to make that promise good.

But to go on with my story : During the summer of
1838 a member of Mr. A. N. Johnson's choir in Boston spent
a few weeks in our village. She had a great deal to say in
praise of her teacher as leader and organist, and of his great
success as the conductor of the Musical Education Society,
to which she also belonged. She described Harmony Hall,
on Tremont Row, where the society met and where Mr.
Johnson taught, and enlarged generally upon musical mat-
ters in that connection until I thought it would be heaven
on earth to be in the midst of such opportunities. I did not
see how that could ever happen for me, but it did.

Just after the departure of this much-envied member of a
Boston choir, a neighbor (a young man a few years older
than myself) invited me to go with him to a little town near
Worcester, where, as I afterward ascertained, some negotia-
tions of a particular and very interesting nature to him were
pending. These, I am happy to say, terminated to his entire
satisfaction.



THE STORY OF A MUSICAL UFE. 5

That journey was to me also a very important event.
The only railroad going west from Boston then, ended at
Worcester. The hardy traveler who would go farther in
that direction must climb hills and descend into valleys and
wind along by the streams in the old-fashioned stage-coach.
It was my first railroad ride, and the luxury of it, and the
wonder of it, I shall never forget.

On our return, it was owing to what then seemed a seri-
ous dilemma that I was enabled so soon to go to Boston to
live. My friend must be at home on the morning of a cer-
tain day. To accomplish that, we must be driven from the
place of our visit to Worcester to take an afternoon train to
Boston, where we were to be met and taken to North Read-
ing at night. Had that program been carried out I should
have gone through Boston without stopping, but in Wor-
cester, where we had an hour to wait, my friend went to
attend to some matters in which he did not need my com-
pany, and I went to the music store, where I became so much
absorbed in the instruments and music that when I came to
myself the train was gone. There would not be another
until the next morning, and I had no money. I was in
great trepidation, but soon bethought myself that my mother
had a second cousin, who was a theological student, some-
where there. So I trudged out to the seminary, and fortu-
nately found him. He was very kind — " glad to do anything
for a son of cousin Sarah " — so he kept me till morning and
then gave me money enough to take me home. It is unac-
countable that I did not think at the time of that money
as anything to be returned. I suppose I associated it with
supper, lodging and breakfast as a matter of hospitality, and
soon the whole affair passed from my mind. It was per-
haps twenty years afterward, on hearing my mother speak
of " Cousin Edwin " and his ministry, that I recalled the
event, and then came a realizing sense of my delinquency.



6 TIIK STORY OF A MUSICAL LIFE.

It did not take long to figure double compound interest on
the amount he gave me, and send him the money.

( )n my way to Boston I determined to call on Mr. John-
son at Harmony Hall, and see if, by any possibility, there
could be an opening for me there. How well I remember
ascending the stairs, and knocking at the door. How well
I remember the somewhat astonished countenance of the
blonde gentleman who let me in. What he said afterward
of that interview, not being very complimentary either to
my personal appearance or my modesty, I omit, but he did
happen to want some one to stay in the room while he was
out — to see to the fires and the general order of the place, to
answer questions about his engagements, and to make him-
self generally useful, and he said I might come. He ques-
tioned me as to what I could do. Could I sing? No. Could
I play at all upon the piano? No. I had seen the key-
board of piano or organ but a few times in my life, but I
could play the flute pretty well, and some other instruments
a little. Well, the first thing would be to learn to play the
piano, and I could practice whilehe was out, which was most
of the time, as the private lessons he then gave were nearly
all at tli'- houses of his pupils. I could board at his house,
and he would for the present give me three dollars a week
beside. This was munificent. Three dollars was a great
deal of money. If I could get fitted out with suitable clothes
I could save some of my " salary " from the very start, and I
knew well what I wanted to do with it.

I have thought many times .since how extraordinary it
was in Mr. Johnson to take me as lie did, for, from his own
representation, I could not have been a very promising sub-
ject. I do not understand it now, but am glad to think that
I could, and did, in some measure, repay his kindness to a
friendless boy in the immediate wars which followed.

On my way home from Boston, in the old stage-coach,



THK STORY OF A MUSICAL LIFE. 7

after the interview and agreement with Mr. Johnson, I was
in another world. The ride in the wonderful cars was noth-
ing to this. That was on iron rails, this was in the golden
air. The dusty old towns through which we passed were
beautiful as never before ; even the mulleins by the wayside
were transformed into more gorgeous flowers than ever
bloomed in garden or conservatory. How often had I felt
cramped in the limited surroundings and opportunities of
the old home. How many times I have walked, after the
day's work was over, through dreary forest roads, to neigh-
boring towns to exercise my musical powers with some
embryo performer like myself, or, late " in the stilly night,"
as a lone serenader, unknown, unexpected and unchallenged,
to breathe my sighs for freedom through the old four-keyed
flute. But no more of this. I was going where the air was
filled with music, and pent-up desires and ambitions could
have unlimited freedom.

There was great excitement when I reached home. I
was really going to Boston to study music — must be at my
post on the first day of the next month. On the strength
of my prospects I borrowed a little money of my grand-
mother for an outfit, and went around telling the good news
to interested and sympathizing neighbors. All met me with
good words. "Go ahead!" they said; "we'll lend a hand
on the farm if we're needed." They believed in me music-
ally, and as for my mother there was not a person in the
town who would not do her a kindness if he had the oppor-
tunity.

At last the important first day of October arrived. I
wheeled my trunk down the willow lane to the main road,
about a quarter of a mile (our place was called " Willow
Farm "), to wait for the old stage-coach that lumbered b}'
every morning on its way to the city. An hour passed
and no stage. I forget how I found out that it had been



8 Tin-: STORY of a musical life.

□ off— had made its last journey the day before. The
new railroad from Lowell to Boston had taken so many of
its passengers that it would no longer pay to run it. But
I must get t<» Boston that day. What was I to do? Our
nearest neighbor, ,- Uncle Mike," as everybody called him.
said: "Why, we'll make that very railroad carry ye there.
Old Pete and I'll take ye over to Wilmin'ton, and you'll
catch the cars afore night." So Uncle Mike harnessed up
and took trunk and me six miles to the new railroad, where,
by ii,ood fortune, I had not long to wait for a train. Then,
with thanks and a good-bye to the old neighbor, I left for
aye the old life, and in due time arrived in the city, and at
Mr. Johnson's house at the "North End."

The next morning I commenced the duties and pleasures
of my new vocation in Harmony Hall, as Mr. Johnson's
music-room was called. This place was leased by the Mu-
sical Education Society, but Mr. Johnson had the use of it
for conducting the society once a week. It was a light,
cheerful room, up one flight of stairs; a platform, with a
piano on it at one end, and a little curtained office, with a
desk, at the other. After being told what my duties in re-
gard to fires and care of room would be, I went with eager-
ness to the piano for my first lesson. The idea of calling it
drudgery — this making musical sounds upon a pianoforte —
nothing could be more absurd, as it seemed to me. It was
a delight, even though my large, clumsy fingers would go
right in the simplest exercises of Hunten's Instruction book
only by the most laborious practice. But that was cheerfully
given. Every minute when Mr. Johnson was out, or when
I was not answering a call at the door, I was at work, and
during Mr. Johnson's lessons in the room, while I was out
of sight at the curtained desk, I was trying to get some flexi-
bility into my stubborn fingers, while looking over some
music-book. I had learned to read the notes of simple



THE STORY OF A MUSICAL LIFE. 9

music both on treble and base staffs by the various instru-
ments I had played.

When I say I had never sung, I do not mean that I had
never used my voice at all in that way. I had occasionally
joined in the base of simple church tunes, but was never
encouraged by listeners to continue my performances long,
or to make them prominent. It was always : — " George,
you'd better take your flute." But Mr. Johnson said that
if I was going to teach I ought to be able to use my voice
correctly, and sing at least enough to give examples of tone
and pitch. I dare say he saw then, what I realized after
awhile, that I had begun too late to make much of a player
upon piano or organ, and that if I developed any gift for
teaching, my success must be in singing-classes and other


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Online LibraryGeorge F. (George Frederick) RootStory of a musical life : an autobiography → online text (page 1 of 19)