Thursday, September 22, 2016

Emma Ashford

In recent years and months, composer Emma Ashford (who died today in 1930) has received some additional attention online from others who are interested in her background and career.

This article from the Vanderbilt University magazine, discusses several songs that have been written for the university.  The section on Ashford's musical contributions (as well as her association with Vanderbilt) is just a few paragraphs down, beginning with her 1900 composition of the music for a song commemorating the 25th anniversary of the university.

More recently, at the end of August this year, an extensive article on Emma Ashford's life and career was published on a blog devoted to reed organs, from where I obtained today's photograph (taken about 1901). This piece contains the most information I have seen on her in one place. Ashford did write several pieces for reed organ, one of which was featured here in 2012.

The video below is a performance of Ashford's anthem Lift up your heads, O ye gates, perhaps her most popular piece which is still sung today.  You can find several versions on YouTube but I chose this one by the Washington Performing Arts Society's Children of the Gospel Choir from 2009.  Some of the tempos might be peppier than those that Ashford heard in her day but performance practice does change over time and this rendition certainly makes a good case for Ashford's anthem.

As you can hear, the anthem ends with the hymn All hail the power of Jesus' name, to the tune CORONATION (1793), composed by Oliver Holden (whose birthday was just this past Sunday), incorporating the oldest American hymn tune in popular use today.

P.S. - I was pleased to include Ashford's tune EVELYN in the hymn festival I wrote and led last year, matched with a text by Phebe Hanaford on Miriam from the book of Exodus. EVELYN first appeared in the Methodist Hymnal of 1905, but not in any subsequent editions, so who knows when it was sung last?

Eight Years Ago: Emma Ashford

Six Years Ago: Emma Ashford

Four Years Ago: Emma Ashford

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