The following is a guest post by Sharon McKinley, Senior Music Cataloger.
The blossoms themselves have been gone for weeks already; it was one of the earliest seasons ever. But the Centennial of the National Cherry Blossom Festival is still going strong, all the way through April 27, and we thought we’d help keep the festivities vibrant by sharing this wonderful little song published right here in the neighborhood.
“Cherry blossom time in Washington” was penned by Irma von Lackey and submitted for copyright in 1926. The song is a cute little self-published ditty in a typical late 20s style. Note the lovely cover picture of the Tidal Basin ringed with gloriously blooming trees, with the Washington Monument piercing the sky for extra effect.
We have plenty of cherry blossom works in our collections, from various time periods and in a variety of styles. A few of the musical examples make fun of the Japanese or are sung in offensive dialect, but most are unabashed love songs. How could the girl of your dreams not react to the invocation of fragrant blossoms in romantic settings?! You can check out cherry-themed music, sound recordings, visual materials and much more right here on our site; see the resource list below.
For me, this post turned into more than just a quest for cherry blossom songs. I enjoy finding anecdotal information about obscure composers, and Irma von Lackey led me on a merry chase (this was MUCH more important than having lunch!). According to the copyright registrations for two items she published, she lived variously in Washington DC and Arlington, VA. And that’s all we know about her. I spent that lunchtime tracking her down via the US Census. The just-released Census of 1940 was key in identifying her residence with her sister and brother-in-law. She’d moved from a boarding house filled with single female US Government employees in the 1920 census, to a more diverse residential hotel in the 1930 census…to live with family by 1940. Keep going back, and you get to her father, a composer and music teacher in Ohio. Which might explain in part why she was writing music in Washington in 1926. Somewhere out there is the Allen family, who may or may not remember Aunt Irma Lackey from the 1940s and beyond. In the meantime, she’s left us with a song to enjoy.
Library of Congress resources:
Shows from the database, It’s Showtime! Sheet Music from Stage and Screen!
- “When the cherry blossoms fall : love is love“; from The royal vagabond, 1919
- “In cherry blossom time with you“, from Broadway brevities, 1920
- “My Japanese cherry blossom,” from Hoity toity, 1901
- “When it’s cherry blossom time in Siberia,” from Gloriana, 1913
- “Cherry blossom = Sakura, sakura” (a piece for cello)
- “Cherry blossom time in Japan ” (sound recording)
- A cherry blossom map of Washington D.C., 1937
- The cherry blossom corpse, by Robert Bernard. New York : Scribner, 1987 (a mystery set in London)
- Blooming Cherry Blossoms, Falling Cherry Blossoms: Symbolism of the Flower in Japanese Culture and History (webcast lecture)
- “Cherry blossom time,” a political cartoon by Clifford Kennedy Berryman.
- “Cherry blossoms in Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. around Tidal Basin,” a photograph from 1919
And from the National Jukebox: