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sheet music cover depicting cherry blossom and Washington Monument
Gene Ford, “Cherry Blossom Time,” 1940. Box 2 Folder 13, Harry and Sara Lepman Collection, Music Division.

Music for Flower Gazing

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“In the Spring with blossoms ev’rywhere
Sweet perfume of flowers fills the air.
There are buds in bloom for ev’ry clime.
In Washington it’s Cherry Blossom Time.”
– Gene Ford, “Cherry Blossom Time”

This is my favorite time of year to commute to Capitol Hill! When I walk from Union Station each morning, I look forward to seeing and smelling how many new blossoms have emerged. The white snowdrops always say hello first, quickly followed by crocuses and cherry blossoms on trees. Then, we start to see hyacinths, daffodils, and finally tulips. Some of you may bust out in celebratory song come springtime, but this flutist is happy to just look them up for you!

sheet music cover depicting cherry blossom and Washington Monument
Gene Ford, “Cherry Blossom Time,” 1940. Box 2 Folder 13, Harry and Sara Lepman Collection, Music Division.

I’ll start with musical blooms that reflect D.C. pride and landscapes – music about cherry blossoms! I know we’re a month or so past peak bloom, but these buds are usually one of the first hints that winter has bid us all adieu. The Music Division’s Harry and Sara Lepman Collection contains two works to celebrate these signature trees: “Cherry Blossom Time” (1940) by Gene Ford and “Song of the Cherry Blossoms” (1939) by Alfred L. Stern. Alfred L. Stern’s sheet music, printed entirely on pink paper, contains the lovely dedication, “Dedicated to Washington the City Beautiful.” The cover of Gene Ford’s song features a beautiful view of the tidal basin with the Washington Monument in the background and a local historical tidbit: “Distributed with the Compliments of Ross Jewelry Company / Jewelers and Opticians / 1331 F. St. N.W. / Opposite Capitol Theatre.”

Pink sheet music cover with black cherry blossoms
Alfred L. Stern, “Song of the Cherry Blossoms,” 1939. Box 5 Folder 13, Harry and Sara Lepman Collection, Music Division.

My daily walk from the train features more types of daffodils than I can count. The Music Division has an equally impressive number of works about daffodils, too! The beauty’s scientific name is “Narcissus” after the character in Greek mythology. Guess what: the Music Division has a recently digitized silent film piano conductor score called “The Swaying Narcissus (A Flower Dance)” by Justin Ring and Frederick W. Hager.

The lyric poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by English poet William Wordsworth has served as daffodil-loving lyrics for multiple songs in our collections. In 1880, Pauline Chester published “Daffodils,” a piano-vocal setting with Cincinnati’s John Church and Company. Doesn’t the composer’s choice of a 6/8 time signature and rolling sixteenth-notes in the piano’s right hand paint the “flutt’ring and dancing in the breeze?” Multiple composers in the 20th century also set Wordsworth’s poem, notably American art song composer Louise Drake Wright in the early 1900s (call number ML96.W838 no. 3 Case) and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco in 1944 (call number M1621.C). A love song from 1890 may also strike your fancy, “Daffodil Weather” by B.H. Rowell.

Daffodil Place Card, 1910. Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

We even have music manuscripts online for you to tackle your daffodil fever! The A.P. Schmidt Company published Arthur Thayer’s SSA setting of the poem “My Lady Daffodil” by Augusta Hancock. Gena Branscomb has many works to celebrate this season. Take a look at her manuscript arrangement and original lyrics, “Breezes of Springtime,” adapted from music by Adolf Jensen. Branscombe also wrote original lyrics for her adaptation of music by Karel Komzák, “With lilies sweet and daffodils,” published by A.P. Schmidt. Feast your eyes on both her holograph manuscript and a printed edition online for the high voice version!

You bet that come May, I’ll be thinking and humming, “Fair daffodils, we weep to see you haste away so soon” from the 1882 SATB choir work “Fair Daffodils” by Samuel P. Warren. But, now that this daffodil song list rivals the variety I encounter on my morning commute, how about some tulips? Official tulip festivals don’t happen in Holland until May, but that doesn’t mean we can’t revel in the colors on this continent! Here’s a 1915 love song, “It’s Tulip Time in Holland” with music by Richard A. Whiting and lyrics by Dave Radford. Whether you’re Team Daffodil or Team Tulip, express your joy as a solo vocalist with Thomas Clayton’s “Birds Are Singing” from 1912 or with your flock from the manuscript of his SSA arrangement!

Ok, it’s time for me to throw together a small theater orchestra to play this newly digitized silent film score, “Spring.” Download your part and do the same after you enjoy the fresh blossoms outside! I hope you all get to enjoy springtime flowers and music making wherever you are.

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