Oh give me the snow, the white wing’d snow
That falls from the wint’ry sky
That robes the earth in a vest of white,
And sparkles and shines as the sun’s rich light,
Like a starry arch on high.
I love the snow! I love the snow! I love the snow!
- John Brown, “I Love the Snow!” Baltimore, MD: Miller and Beacham, 1853.
On January 7th, the DC area finally had a few inches of snow. Whether In the Muse readers wore their pajamas inside-out or did a secret snow dance before bed, your tactics definitely worked! By any chance, did anyone create their own incantation of music about snow? If not, here are my suggestions for next time!
In a lilting 6/8 allegro in C major:
Of what does he dream all the Winter night?
Of what does the Snowman dream?
He dreams of the Northwind’s rattle and roar,
He dreams of the waves on Iceland’s shore,
Of that does the Snowman dream.
He dreams of the snow, the hail, and the sleet;
The blast of the gale he’s waiting to meet;
The storm-sprite with flying feet;
Of that does the Snowman dream.
– “The Snowman’s Dream” from The Snowman (1907), lyrics by Stanislaus Stange
This vocal quintet from Henry Louis Reginald DeKoven’s (1859-1920) comic opera The Snowman might be a fine start. (According to the August 1907 issue of The Burr McIntosh Monthly, The Snowman ran in New York in winter 1907/1908 under the title The Top of the World.) DeKoven was an American composer, conductor, and music critic who studied composition with Franz von Suppe and Léo Delibes – not a bad start for learning to compose operettas and comic operas. DeKoven is locally significant to DC because he founded the Washington Symphony Orchestra and was its conductor from 1902-1905. Have I piqued your appetite to explore a less well-known comic opera? Ask for the sheet music in the Performing Arts Reading Room with the call number “M1508” and the title The Snowman.
There are other ensembles who can will the snow to fall. Did you know that American composer and pianist Elinor Remick Warren (1890-1991) wrote a work for high voice, flute obbligato, and piano called Snow Towards Evening? In the Elinor Remick Warren Papers, you can take a closer look at her pencil score and ink transparencies, as well as another version for high voice and piano. The manuscripts are undated, but the soprano and piano version was broadcast in Los Angeles in 1938 on the D.A.R. American Artists Series Program, so 1938 is the latest possible composition date. Explore the radio scripts in her papers, as well!
Another snow-loving ensemble of vocalist and instrumentalist friends can perform Sir Edward Elgar’s The Snow, op. 26, version for female voices, two violins, and piano. Instrumentalists can see if snowflakes are charmed from the sky with Cecil Burleigh’s Snow-Bound (A Winter Idyl) for violin and piano or the fourth movement of Claude Debussy’s piano work Children’s Corner, “The Snow is Dancing” (La neige danse).
Did it work? Are we snowed in? If your internet is still up and running, the Music Division’s digital collections have plenty of snow-themed music to keep you occupied. In our Early American Sheet Music collection, download A Winter’s Evening for piano by George Knowil Jackson. Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music ca. 1820-1860 is full of music to dance away your snow day, including: The Snow Flake, A Waltz for piano by Adolphe Abig; The Snow Drop: Valse Sentimental for piano by F.F. Merceron; and The Snow Storm Waltz for piano by Valentine Dister. In the Music Division’s digital Historic Sheet Music Collection, don’t miss J. De Witt Hyers’ Snow Drop Polka arranged for piano by T.W. Haas.
If I may skate on thin ice, go musically conjure up more snowflakes. It’s Snow Time!