Sunday, June 10, 2018

Evening Prayer

Separate Identity volume 1 contains a full page facsimile of the cover of this sheet music, which is of interest to us because it was published in 1872 by J. L. Russell and Son of Pittsburgh. 

The full words and music can be accessed from the Library of Congress website if you really want to see what it is like.

The words were written by Rev. Dr. I. C. Pershing of the Methodist Episcopal Church and President of the Pittsburgh Female College. The music was by G. Blessner.

It was dedicated to the Rev. Bishop M. Simpson (1811-1884) who was president at one time of the M.E. Church Missionary Society.

The Pittsburgh Female College was founded in 1854.

Although it was described above as a sectarian institution under the control of the Methodist Episcopal Church, their charter stipulated that students were to be accepted from all religious denominations.

The Rev. Israel C. Pershing (1826-1898) became principal of the college around 1860 and remained so until 1886 when he was accused of fraud.

Gustave Blessner (1808-1888) was head of music in the 1870s, and the college had a choir and put on musical concerts.

Blessner was a highly prolific composer and a lot of his music can still be accessed today. It covered a wide spectrum, from the Sacred (To Thee We Pray – 1879) to the less than sacred (Silly Dilly Dally Dolly – 1872). One of the latter oeuvre, Nanny’s Mammy (1850) starts off…

    A spinster of uncertain age
    (But somewhat past the middle stage)
    Who thought herself extremely sage…

You get the picture. There are shades of Gilbert and Sullivan here.

Blessner’s modern claim to fame is that he wrote the music for the first known song to have the word “Blues” in the title: “I have got the blues today” (1850). The chorus goes:

    I was the gayest of the gay
    But I have got the blues today.

It’s about a singer who gets drunk.

Of course in these instances Blessner wrote the music but was not the lyricist.

However, one wonders if his music lessons at the straight-laced-ladies-only M.E. College were sometimes rather fun.

Anyhow, although a great amount of Blessner’s music was published and can be found online, the Evening Prayer is the only composition I can find that was published by the Russells, and then only in tandem with other music publishers. It appears to be the only item they did publish, maybe because this was a local item sung by the college choir for one of their concerts.

Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)  16 Dec 1872

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. The cover is on page 333 of vol 1. Thanks for posting.