This April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. The Library of Congress is commemorating that significant anniversary with exhibits, publications, and other various activities.
As part of this commemoration, the NLS Music Section was asked to provide braille music for blind visitors. While going through the collection, we thought it might be interesting to share some of the World War I era (or World War I themed) music items in the NLS collection. Since the United States was in the war from 1917-1918, and other countries were involved for much longer, there tend to be more songs written from the perspective of Allies from other nations, especially the United Kingdom.
Written by French composer Louis Ganne, Marche Lorraine (BRM01978) is an instrumental work written approximately 20 years before the beginning of World War I. However, it rose to prominence during and after the War after it was recorded by Conway’s Band in 1917 (a professional band a la John Philip Sousa, originally known as The Ithaca Band, led by Patrick Conway) and released on the Victor record label.
Rule, Britannia and the National Anthems of the Allies: World War I (BRM07013) contains arrangements of the national anthems of five Allied countries for voice and piano, including England (“God Save the King”), France (La Marseillaise), Belgium (La Brabançonne), Russia (“Bozhe Tsarya Khrani [God Save the Tsar]), and Japan (Kimagayo). “Rule, Britannia” is included for good measure. Of course “God Save the Tsar” was only the national anthem of the Russian Empire from 1833 through 1917. The other national anthems remain to this day.
One of the more popular tunes in England during the War was Roses of Picardy (BRM16097) written by Haydn Wood and Frederick Weatherly. Like Marche Lorraine it too was recorded in 1917, this time by tenor Lambert Murphy. Later recordings were made by Ernest Pike and John McCormack. It remained popular over the years, and jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet even wrote a swing band arrangement for it after the Second World War.
The Colonel Bogey March (BRM24830) was written by Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts (pseudonym Kenneth Alford) in 1914. The story goes that the lieutenant played golf occasionally at the local course while he was stationed at Inverness in Scotland. Every so often he would run into a colonel on the course who, instead of shouting “Fore!”, would whistle a descending minor third—the same interval that begins each line of the march. This tune was later used as the basis for “The River Kwai March,” written by Malcolm Arnold, who added a counter melody march underneath the Colonel Bogey melody. It was used in the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai.
Along with the above, we have “Keep the Home Fires Burning” (BRM18478), “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” plus other Irving Berlin songs (BRM36211), and “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary” (BRM23458).
Digital Talking Books
The Sounds of Patriotism—America Sings as it Marches Off to War (DBM00112) discusses the songs and speeches of the years 1917-1918 in America.
Till We Meet Again (DBM01009) features popular tunes of the war years, including “Till We Meet Again,” “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” and “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.”
Soldier Songs (DBM03692) by Hermes Nye contains a variety of soldier songs from the Revolutionary War up to the Second World War.
Lastly, it would be remiss to contemplate the music created during World War I without recognizing the ultimate and horrific sacrifice that soldiers made from all over the world in search of peace. In the words of Walt Whitman, set to music in 1914 by Gustav Holst in A Dirge for Two Veterans (BRM04494):
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.