Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 2) >> Simms's Musical Settings >> Page 7

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Page 7

Secondary Scholarship | 1993
Transcription 7
the home, neither written part is demanding. Mr. Cramer's melody and
accompaniment fit the parlor song model of the time to perfection. His
contemporaries advocated a simple accompaniment which only lends support, and
in no way distracts from the vocal line.20 Nicholas Tawa, a twentieth-century
researcher of the parlor song, states that "almost all written accompaniments to
parlor melodies contain little musical material of any consequence."21 Another
reason for the simplicity of the vocal line is that a singer with any pianistic ability would be able to accompany herself. Copies of nineteenth-century parlor music
exist which have piano fingerings penciled in above the vocal line, indicating that
a singer might play the bass line and double the melody in the right hand instead
of playing the written accompaniment for the right hand.22

TWENTIETH-CENTURY MUSICAL SETTINGS OF POETRY BY SIMMS

Simms's poem "Song in March" was first published under the title "March
in the Charleston City Gazette on 15 March 1832. The musical setting is by
Eleanor Everest Freer.23 Ms. Freer was born in Philadelphia in 1864 and died
in Chicago in 1942. She studied voice and composition in Paris, and taught at the
National Conservatory of Music in New York after her return to the United States.
She moved to Chicago after marrying and was active in that city as a promoter
of music. Ms. Freer composed eleven operas and at least one hundred and fifty
songs.
The poem deals with the fierceness of the month of March and the struggle
as winter becomes spring. The musical setting is programmatic with the text
vividly portrayed in the music. The wind is heard in the moving sixteenth notes
of the opening. The character of the music changes dramatically to represent the
fierce side of the month of March in the middle section. The work ends similarly
to the way it begins, this time with the gentle promise of spring flowers. The
song fits into the genre of "art song" because the artistic intent of this highly
trained musician is quite serious.
There are three recently composed and to-date unpublished24 songs with
texts by Simms by Professor Emeritus John Corina of the University of Georgia's
School of Music. "Sonnet: I Will Breathe Music," for soprano voice, oboe,. and
piano, was written especially for a lecture recital presented on 20 April 1992, at
the University Chapel, at The University of Georgia. The "Musical Evening with
Simms" was narrated by Deborah Henson, who served as accompanist to Leslie
Boucher, soprano. Composer Corina was in the audience, and also performed on
the oboe in the premier of his work.
The sonnet "I Will Breathe Music" itself exists in two versions. The text
used for this setting is the first, published in 1828 in the Southern Literary Gazette under the pseudonym "Amand." The poem is one of hundreds written by Simms
containing direct musical references. The two other works in Corina's Song Cycle
are "Memory" and "The Land of the Pine." Corina, who admires the musicality
of Simms's poems, is among the newest devotees of Simms's verse.