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Mel R. Wilhoit

(b Edinburg, PA, Aug 28, 1840; d Brooklyn, NY, Aug 13, 1908). American evangelistic singer, composer of gospel hymns, and hymnbook compiler. He rose to fame as music director for the evangelist Dwight L. Moody during a series of revival meetings held in England from 1873 to 1875. He popularized ‘singing the gospel’, in which he accompanied himself on a portable organ, performing the songs of Philip Phillips, Philip Bliss and William Bradbury, and making use of such effects as rubato and parlando delivery. He also directed the congregations in singing. Sankey became as effective a revivalist in song as was Moody in his sermons, elevating music to an equal role with preaching in evangelism.

In response to demands for the music used at their meetings, Sankey issued a 24-page pamphlet, Sacred Songs and Solos (London, 1873); this pamphlet eventually blossomed into a volume containing some 1200...

Article

Jean R. Freedman

[Margaret ]

(b New York, NY, June 17, 1935). American folksinger, songwriter, and folksong collector, daughter of musicologist charles Seeger and composer, educator, and folksong anthologist Ruth Crawford Seeger. Peggy learned piano, guitar, music theory, and transcription from her parents. With her brother mike Seeger , she learned banjo from a book written by their half-brother pete r. Seeger . She later became proficient on autoharp, Appalachian dulcimer, and English concertina. She made her first recording, Folk Songs of Courting and Complaint, while a student at Radcliffe College (1953–5). During the autumn of 1955, she studied at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. From 1956 to 1959 she traveled throughout Europe, the United States, Russia, and China before settling in England with folksinger, songwriter, and playwright Ewan MacColl [James Henry Miller] (1915–89), who became her musical partner, husband, and father of her children, Neill, Calum, and Kitty. With MacColl, she made more than 100 recordings of traditional Anglo-American ballads, political songs, love songs, work songs, and songs from literature. They frequently performed in folk clubs and concert halls, at festivals, on television, and in films. Seeger and MacColl felt that traditional music was a solid foundation on which the modern songwriter could build. They brought to their songwriting a political dimension, believing that folksongs represent the struggles of ordinary people whose lives are often ignored and whose creations are frequently slighted....

Article

Bruce Degen

(b Middleborough, MA, March 13, 1779; d Providence, RI, Dec 31, 1848). American composer, compiler, teacher, singer, organist and publisher. After accidental eye damage leading to blindness, he undertook musical studies with John L. Berkenhead, Gottlieb Graupner and Thomas Granger about 1800. In 1805 he established himself as a teacher of the piano and organ in Dedham, Massachusetts, where he began to issue his music in collaboration with Herman Mann. Moving to Providence in 1807, Shaw became a central figure in the city’s musical life as organist, organizer of bands and composer of songs, odes, anthems and marches for patriotic and civic occasions. His ‘Military Divertimento’, Welcome the Nation’s Guest, celebrated the visit of Lafayette to Providence in 1824.

Shaw sought to improve the quality of local sacred music, co-founding the Psallonian Society, and provided inspiration to the founding of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society in 1815...

Article

John Whenham

[Sylvestris, Floridus de]

(b Barbarano, nr Vicenza, early 17th century; d Rome, after 1673). Italian anthologist and editor of music, composer, singer and dramatist. He was a priest, who from about 1647 until at least 1654 was a bass in the choir of Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome. In 1664 he held a similar position at S Giacomo degli Incurabili, Rome (the church in which he is buried). A manuscript inscription, ‘Floridus de Sylvestris à Barbr. [?]civ.s. [?]Bracc.ni. Dulcia cum flore hic Barbara Sylva Canit’, on the title-page of the copy of the alto partbook of Francesco Pasquali’s Madrigali, libro terzo (1627, in I-Bc ) may be of biographical significance; Pasquali’s book includes a madrigal, Fere barbare, for solo bass. Silvestris seems to have been an accomplished singer. The solo motet Aggrediamur iter vitae in one of his anthologies (RISM 1659¹), written for him by an unknown composer, contains virtuoso passage-work and requires a vocal range of over two octaves (...

Article

Robert Stevenson

revised by Laura Macy

(b Langa, province of Soria, 1534; d Rome, Sept 25, 1619). Spanish singer, music editor and composer, active in Italy. After making a name for himself as a musical prodigy in Spain, where he perhaps began as a choirboy at Burgo de Osma Cathedral, he joined the papal chapel as a soprano on 8 June 1562. He may have been the first castrato hired by that institution. He remained in the papal chapel until his retirement in 1611, serving as maestro five times. In 1566 he began attending the oratory recently founded by S Filippo Neri and he formally joined the group in 1571. He was involved in early negotiations surrounding the establishment of the Compagnia dei musici di Roma, though the papal singers eventually declined to participate in the group. In the years 1566–7 Soto served as chaplain to the church of S Giacomo degli Spagnoli, and by ...

Article

Jeannette Fresne

(b Upshur County, TX, Sept 18, 1892; d Dallas, TX, Aug 19, 1940). American music publisher, singer, teacher, and composer. Known for his success in gospel music education, publishing, and composing gospel music quartets, Stamps founded the V.O. Stamps School of Music in Jacksonville, Texas (1924). Two years later he and Jesse Randall Baxter, Jr., founded the Stamps-baxter music and printing company , followed by the establishment in Dallas of a company headquarters (1929) and printing plant (1934). The company became one of the largest publishers of gospel music and most successful organizers of singing-schools in the 20th century. In addition to convention books and special collections for radio, television, and quartet performances, the company published three periodicals with subscriptions from all states and several foreign countries, and 24 songbooks with four-part harmonies in seven-shape notation. By mid-century annual company sales were in excess of $300,000. The company offered two types of schools: traditional singing-schools, and normal schools for training singing-school teachers. Stamps negotiated with the Texas superintendent of education for a provision for students to earn up to two high school credits for passing a state examination upon completion of either of the schools. After the war (...

Article

Don Cusic

[Ragsdale, Harold Ray ]

(b Clarkdale, GA, Jan 24, 1939). American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, music publisher, television star, and entrepreneur. Harold Ragsdale began his musical career with a high school band that played R&B songs by the Coasters, Drifters, and other R&B groups. In 1955 the family moved to Atlanta, where publisher Bill Lowery signed him as a songwriter and secured his first recording contract with Capitol Records; Capitol’s Head of A&R, Ken Nelson changed Ragsdale’s name to Ray Stevens. After attending Georgia State University, where he studied music, Stevens had his first success with his recording of “Jeremiah Peabody’s Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills” (Mercury, 1961). In 1962 he moved to Nashville, supplementing his own recording career with work as a session musician, arranger, and background vocalist. He garnered a number-one pop hit and his first Grammy with his recording of “Everything is beautiful” (Barnaby, ...

Article

Gilles Potvin

(b Natashquan, Quebec, Oct 27, 1928). Canadian songwriter, singer, poet and publisher . He wrote poems and songs while teaching French and mathematics in Quebec City. He first sang publicly in 1960 and his success led to a first recording in 1962. Two years later, his song Jack Monoloy won second prize at an international competition in Sopot, Poland. His best-known song is Mon pays, also sung at Sopot in 1965. He has toured extensively in Canada and French-speaking countries of Europe. He was awarded a Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros in 1970 and 1984. Vigneault’s songs are about the people of Quebec, specifically those who live on his native north shore of the St Lawrence. Some of his songs contain social protest, some are simple love stories, some are whimsical and humorous.

EMC2 (C. Rioux) M. Gagné: Gilles Vigneault (Quebec City, 1977)...