"The Lost Chord" is a song composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1877 at the bedside of his brother Fred during Fred's last illness. The manuscript is dated 13 January 1877; Fred Sullivan died five days later. The lyric was written as a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter called "A Lost Chord", published in 1858 in The English Woman's Journal.
The song was immediately successfuland became particularly associated with American contralto Antoinette Sterling, with Sullivan's close friend and mistress, Fanny Ronalds, and with British contralto Clara Butt. Sullivan was proud of the song and later noted: "I have composed much music since then, but have never written a second Lost Chord."
Many singers have recorded the song, including Enrico Caruso, who sang it at the Metropolitan Opera House on 29 April 1912 at a benefit concert for families of victims of the Titanic disaster.The piece has endured as one of Sullivan's best-known songs, and the setting is still performed today.
In 1877, Arthur Sullivan was already Britain's foremost composer, having produced such critically praised pieces as his Irish Symphony , his Overture di Ballo , many hymns and songs, such as "Onward, Christian Soldiers", and the popular short operas Cox and Box and Trial by Jury . Adelaide Anne Procter was an extremely popular poet in Britain, second in fame only to Alfred Lord Tennyson.On the early published sheet music for the song, Procter's name is written in larger letters than Sullivan's. Sullivan's father's death had inspired him to write his Overture In C (In Memoriam) over a dozen years earlier.
The composer's brother, Fred Sullivan, was an actor who appeared mostly in operettas and comic operas. The playwright F. C. Burnand wrote of Fred: "As he was the most absurd person, so was he the very kindliest. The brothers were devoted to each other, but Arthur went up, and poor little Fred went under."Fred played roles in several of his brother's operas: Cox and Box, Thespis , The Contrabandista and Trial by Jury. He fell ill in 1876 and died in January 1877.
During Fred's final illness, Arthur visited his brother frequently at his home on King's Road in Fulham, London. The composer had tried to set Procter's poem to music five years previously but had not been satisfied by the effort.As he had been inspired by his grief at the death of their father, he was again inspired to compose by his brother's decline. At Fred's bedside, he sketched out the music to The Lost Chord, and the manuscript is dated 13 January 1877, five days before Fred's death.
Although not written for sale, the song became the biggest commercial success of any British or American song of the 1870s and 1880s. The American contralto Antoinette Sterling premiered the piece on 31 January 1877 at a Boosey concert,and she became one of its leading proponents, as did Sullivan's close friend and sometime mistress, Fanny Ronalds, who often sang it at society functions. Dame Clara Butt recorded the song several times, and many famous singers recorded it, including Enrico Caruso in 1912. A copy of the music was buried with Ronalds, who bequeathed the manuscript to Butt in 1914. Butt's husband, baritone Kennerley Rumford, gave the manuscript to the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1950.
Musicologist Derek B. Scott offers this analysis of the composition:
Sullivan's setting is structurally sophisticated in its treatment of Procter's verses, and offers a contrast to... simple strophic setting.... This demonstrates the variety of forms to be found in drawing-room ballads before there were moves toward greater homogeneity in the 1880s.... For the most part, the song steers clear of the predictable.... There are some delightful surprises, such as the sudden coloring of the harmony with the old church Mixolydian mode as the singer recounts the striking of the mysterious chord. Sullivan shows a thorough understanding of the possibilities of the piano, ranging widely across its compass and making powerful dynamic and textural contrasts. He also does a fine job of imitating an organ style in the introduction. Sullivan's compositional skill where words are concerned is evident in the way he treats the quatrains of Procter's poem... creating a subtle musical structure that avoids an obviously sectional character, despite the poem's hymn-like form.
In 1888, Thomas Edison sent his "Perfected" Phonograph to Mr. George Gouraud in London, England, and on August 14, 1888, Gouraud introduced the phonograph to London in a press conference, including the playing of a piano and cornet recording of Sullivan's "The Lost Chord," one of the first recordings of music ever made.
A series of parties followed, introducing the phonograph to members of society at the so-called "Little Menlo" in London. Sullivan was invited to one of these on October 5, 1888. After dinner, he recorded a speech to be sent to Thomas Edison, saying, in part:
I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening's experiments: astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever. But all the same I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery.
These recordings were discovered in the Edison Library in New Jersey in the 1950s.
Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.
I know not what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.
It flooded the crimson twilight,
Like the close of an angel's psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.
It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life.
It linked all perplexèd meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence
As if it were loth to cease.
I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ,
And entered into mine.
It may be that death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,
It may be that only in Heav'n
I shall hear that grand Amen.
There have been at least six films titled The Lost Chord, as well as one titled The Trail of the Lost Chord.In the 1999 film Topsy-Turvy , a scene depicts Fanny Ronalds (played by Eleanor David) facetiously introducing it as "a new composition" at an 1884 party at her house; she then sings it with Sullivan (Allan Corduner) at the piano and Walter Simmonds (Matthew Mills) at the harmonium.
The Strangers TV series had an episode called "The Lost Chord."
Jimmy Durante recorded a humorous song called "I'm the Guy Who Found the Lost Chord", which he also sings in the 1947 film This Time for Keeps .George and Ira Gershwin wrote a song called "That Lost Barber Shop Chord", which was included in their 1926 revue Americana. The Moody Blues produced an album called In Search of the Lost Chord in 1968. According to keyboardist Mike Pinder, the title was inspired by the Durante song.
The novel Bad Wisdom by Bill Drummond and Mark Manning concerns their trip to the North Pole with an icon of Elvis to search for the Lost Chord. [ page needed ] Edith Wharton's novel Ethan Frome contains references to the song. In Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers story "The Quiet Place" ( Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine , March 1988), the traditional "Guest" of the Black Widowers hums this tune all through a dinner. Caryl Brahms wrote a 1975 book called Gilbert and Sullivan: Lost Chords and Discords. [ page needed ]
An organization called The Lost Chord describes itself as "a collaborative effort to nurture young talent from underprivileged communities and to foster a commitment to music and arts education accessibility in the New England community."
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer. He is best known for 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. His works include 24 operas, 11 major orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous church pieces, songs, and piano and chamber pieces. His hymns and songs include "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "The Lost Chord".
The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. The opera's official premiere was at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City on 31 December 1879, where the show was well received by both audiences and critics. Its London debut was on 3 April 1880, at the Opera Comique, where it ran for 363 performances, having already been playing successfully for more than three months in New York.
Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It is one of the Savoy operas and is the seventh of fourteen operatic collaborations by Gilbert and Sullivan. In the opera, the fairy Iolanthe has been banished from fairyland because she married a mortal; this is forbidden by fairy law. Her son, Strephon, is an Arcadian shepherd who wants to marry Phyllis, a Ward of Chancery. All the members of the House of Peers also want to marry Phyllis. When Phyllis sees Strephon hugging a young woman, she assumes the worst and sets off a climactic confrontation between the peers and the fairies. The opera satirises many aspects of British government, law and society. The confrontation between the fairies and the peers is a version of one of Gilbert's favourite themes: a tranquil civilisation of women is disrupted by a male-dominated world through the discovery of mortal love.
The Yeomen of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid, is a Savoy Opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 3 October 1888, and ran for 423 performances. This was the eleventh collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan.
This article is about music-related events in 1877.
George Grossmith was an English comedian, writer, composer, actor, and singer. His performing career spanned more than four decades. As a writer and composer, he created 18 comic operas, nearly 100 musical sketches, some 600 songs and piano pieces, three books and both serious and comic pieces for newspapers and magazines.
The Sorcerer is a two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan. It was the British duo's third operatic collaboration. The plot of The Sorcerer is based on a Christmas story, An Elixir of Love, that Gilbert wrote for The Graphic magazine in 1876. A young man, Alexis, is obsessed with idea of love levelling all ranks and social distinctions. To promote his beliefs, he invites the proprietor of J. W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers, to brew a love potion. This causes everyone in the village to fall in love with the first person they see and results in the pairing of comically mismatched couples. In the end, Wells must sacrifice his life to break the spell.
Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was their eighth operatic collaboration of fourteen. Princess Ida opened at the Savoy Theatre on 5 January 1884, for a run of 246 performances. The piece concerns a princess who founds a women's university and teaches that women are superior to men and should rule in their stead. The prince to whom she had been married in infancy sneaks into the university, together with two friends, with the aim of collecting his bride. They disguise themselves as women students, but are discovered, and all soon face a literal war between the sexes.
Dame Clara Ellen Butt, was an English contralto. Her main career was as a recitalist and concert singer. Her voice, both powerful and deep, impressed contemporary composers such as Saint-Saëns and Elgar; the latter composed a song-cycle with her in mind as soloist.
Alfred Cellier was an English composer, orchestrator and conductor.
The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company is a professional British light opera company that staged Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas nearly year-round in the UK and sometimes toured in Europe, North America and elsewhere, from the 1870s until 1982. The company was revived for short seasons and tours from 1988 to 2003, and with Scottish Opera it later co-produced two productions.
The German Reed Entertainments were founded in 1855 and operated by Thomas German Reed (1817–1888) together with his wife, Priscilla German Reed (1818–1895). At a time when the theatre in London was seen as a disreputable place, the German Reed family provided family-friendly entertainments for forty years, showing that respectable theatre could be popular.
The Zoo is a one-act comic opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by B. C. Stephenson, writing under the pen name of Bolton Rowe. It premiered on 5 June 1875 at the St. James's Theatre in London, concluding its run five weeks later, on 10 July 1875, at the Haymarket Theatre. There were brief revivals in late 1875, and again in 1879, before the opera was shelved.
Frederic Sullivan was an English actor and singer. He is best remembered as the creator of the role of the Learned Judge in Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, providing a model for the comic roles in the later Savoy Operas composed by his brother Arthur Sullivan.
The Martyr of Antioch is an oratorio by the English composer Arthur Sullivan. It was first performed on 15 October 1880 at the triennial Leeds Music Festival, having been composed specifically for that event. Sullivan was musical director of the Leeds festival in 1880 and conducted the performance.
Dora's Dream is a one-act operetta, with music composed by Alfred Cellier and a libretto by Arthur Cecil.
Mary Frances "Fanny" Ronalds was an American socialite and amateur singer who is best known for her long affair with the composer Arthur Sullivan in London in the last decades of the nineteenth century and for her musical salons.
Trial by Jury is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced on 25 March 1875, at London's Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit, receiving critical praise and outrunning its popular companion piece, Jacques Offenbach's La Périchole. The story concerns a "breach of promise of marriage" lawsuit in which the judge and legal system are the objects of lighthearted satire. Gilbert based the libretto of Trial by Jury on an operetta parody that he had written in 1868.
Isabella Hill, better known as Mrs Howard Paul, was an English actress, operatic singer and actress-manager of the Victorian era, best remembered for creating the role of Lady Sangazure in the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Sorcerer (1877).