Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Emma L. Ashford

Eighty years ago today, composer Emma Louise Ashford died in Nashville, Tennessee. As described here two years ago, she had written about 600 works for voice, chorus, or organ. Though I have learned little more about her life, I have dug up some brief nuggets of information about some of her compositions.

She first published many of her anthems in the Choir Leader, which was a long-running monthly magazine put out by Edmund S. Lorenz for small-to-medium church choirs (his company remains in business today). A Palm Sunday anthem, Lift up your heads, is still in print, and was released on a 1960 recording by Mahalia Jackson, You'll Never Walk Alone.

In addition to the two hymn tunes that appeared in the 1905 Methodist Hymnal, I've also found a song called Christmas Bells in Triumphant Songs (1890), as well as two older gospel songs, none listed yet at the Cyber Hymnal. I also discovered a reference to her writing tunes for temperance songs, but thus far none of the temperance hymnals I've looked at has anything by Ashford.

I have already used Ashford's tune EVELYN for a few different texts, so today we have the second one from the Methodist Hymnal. This text is from the Unitarian Hymns of the Spirit (1864) which was compiled by Samuel Longfellow and Samuel Johnson, but its author remains obscure.

In every human mind we see
A temple made for Deity,
And righteous thoughts and acts declare
The Holy Spirit's presence there.

The Living God who Moses saw,
Whose pow'r revealed the ancient law,
Within the reason and the will
Makes known God's truth and goodness still.

In every age the hallowed light
Of revelation shines more bright;
Our creeds, like meteors, rise and fall;
Faith, Hope, and Love survive them all.

T. L. Harris, 19th cent.?; alt.
Emma L. Ashford, 1905


Laurens Blankers said...

I qm researching the life and accomplishments of Emma and her husband John Ashford. They lived in Nashville, Tn from 1870 until their deaths in 1930. They are interred in Nashville's Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Initially most of Emmas's compositions were for her use as organist and choirmaster. She wrote organ voluntaries for the services she played, and She wrote anthems for the use of choirs she directed. She finally wrote many cantatas for Christmas and Easter as well as for other events. She wrote a cantata, 'The Beatitudes,' and 'The Passover.'
She wrote many works for her piano students. More than a dozen of her works appeared in Etude Magazine.After her death her descendants as next of kin [nk] renewed copyrights of her compositions for many years.
Laurens Blankers, 5/31/'12

C.W.S. said...

Thanks for the additional information. The only other thing I have discovered about her since writing the earlier 2 entries is that she also worked as a musical editor for the Edmund Lorenz company.

No more hymn tunes or gospel songs by her have turned up either. I was disappointed to find that she was not included in Woman in Sacred Song, an 1888 collection of poetry and hymns written and composed by women.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am researching Asford as well. I have a good deal of information on her and have collected many of her instrumental works for Pipe and Reed Organ. I have recorded several on Reed Organ if you search for Emma Louise Ashford on Youtube. Glad to see that others appreciate her fine music, thank you for writing about her.

C.W.S. said...

Thanks Anonymous, I will definitely take a look at the material on YouTube!

I do hope to get copies of some of her choir anthems someday which are now in the public domain.

L. A. Blankers said...

E. L. Ashford's major breakthrough was about 1893 when Excell, Chicago Hymnal publisher, assembled a few collections of anthems by American composers. He invited composers to submit their works. E. L. Ashford cautiously submitted two anthems which Excell accepted, then asked if Ashford had others. Excell finally accept and included 17 anthems in Excell's Anthems volume IV, which included anthems from more than a dozen American composers. The largest contribution was from E. L. Ashford. The purchasers of this Excell collection were impressed by the anthems of E. L. Ashford and several indicated they would like to learn more about this fellow. Among the admirers of Ashford was Edmund Lorenz, who contacted Ashford, and Ashford responded. At this time Lorenz of Dayton, Ohio, had begun a monthly anthem magazine call The Choir Leader. Lorenz named E. L. Ashford assistant editor of the magqazine, and asked Ashford to write anthems for this publication. Lorenz encouraged Ashford to write cantatas for church use. Ashford eventually wrote 16 cantatas. Lorenz also projected a Magazine for church hymn players called "The Organist" which would provide prelude, offertory and postlude material for players of piano, reed organ, and pipe organ. and named E. L. Ashford as editor. Emma Louise Ashford served as assistant editor and senior editor for most of the rest of her life, and received much praise and apprectiation for her efforts from Lorenz. Lorenz eventually accepted for publications any compositions Ashford submitted. So nearly all her compositions after 1900 were published by Lorenz. She had many piano works published by Theodore Presser, and several appeared in the Etude Music Magazine. She edited many collections of service music for pianists and organists, which included works she had composed as well as works of others she edited. Her works for organ were included in many Lorenz publications [the organist magazines as well as prelude collections]long after her death in 1930. A Reed organist, Chris Shayne, has created more than 50 examples of her reed organ compositions on You Tube L. A. Blankers, Nashville, TN 7/13/2014

C.W.S. said...

Thank you for the information and I apologize for overlooking it for so long. I hope you have seen the other entries here about Ashford, including the one of 9/22/12, with one of Mr. Shayne's video performances.

And now the anniversary of Emma Ashford's death will come around again tomorrow.