A Serendipitous Anthem

On October 25, 1910, an inspiring song with words and music made its published debut. The music had been composed about a decade before the lyrics , which  were written by a college professor in the Gay Nineties.

The now famous words took form after a visit to the crest of Pikes Peak. The author was suffused with a spirit of patriotism upon seeing the surrounding views from that majestic purple  mountain.

The musical setting so familiar to us now was at first only one of many paired with the words. "Auld Lang Syne" ---that Robert Burns tune  we'll be singing soon---was actually another  musical choice, and a very  popular one too.

The original music started out as a setting for a poem called "Materna". It's first stanza goes like this: "A MasterWorker of the race/Thou Man of Galilee/Who with the eyes of early youth/Eternal things didst see/We thank Thee for Thy boyhood faith/That shone Thy whole life through/'Did ye not know it is My work/My Father's work to do?'"

Even as late as 1926, there were some who were  looking for a better musical setting for a  patriotic verse that had become part of our national fabric . An organization, The National Federation of Music Clubs, held a contest that year to find a 'less somber' musical setting.  It decided to keep things just the way they were.  The poet, herself, until the day she died in the  1930s, never  bespoke any musical preference.

So as fate would have it, a composer and a poet are joined at the historical hip. The team of Bates & Ward.  Words by Katherine Lee Bates. Music by Samuel A. Ward.

"America, America/God shed  His grace on thee/And crown thy good with brotherhood/From sea to shining sea."


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Tags: anthems

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