Timothy Swan (1758–1842) was a Yankee tunesmith and hatmaker born in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. The son of goldsmith William Swan, Swan lived in small towns along the Connecticut River in Connecticut and Massachusetts for most of his life. Swan's compositional output consisted mostly of psalm and hymn settings, referred to as psalmody . These tunes and settings were produced for choirs and singing schools located in Congregationalist communities of New England. Swan is unique as an early American composer in that he composed secular vocal duets and songs in addition to sacred tunebook music. The tunebook, New England Harmony is a collection of his sacred music compositions, while The Songster's Assistant is a collection of his secular music. Swan was also a poet and teacher of singing.
Born July 23, 1758, Timothy Swan was the eighth child of the goldsmith William and Lavinia Swan of Worcester, Massachusetts. Not much is known of Swan's early years other than he resided in Worcester until his father's death in 1774.After the death of his father, Swan was apprenticed to a "Mr. Barnes" of Marlborough, Massachusetts. Barnes, an "importer of foreign goods" was a loyalist who eventually left the colonies to return to England as relations between the two became increasingly strained. This caused an end to Swan's brief apprenticeship in Marlborough.
After leaving Barnes' employ, Swan moved to Groton, Massachusetts to live with his older brother William.Timothy's elder brother had an active interest in music and may have influenced his brother. Shortly after arriving in Groton, Swan enrolled in a singing school that was taught by a "Mr. Gross". This experience is probably the only formal musical education that Swan ever had.
In 1774, Swan left Groton to enlist in the Continental Army located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was here that he learned to play fife under the tutelage of a British Fifer.In 1775, a little less than a year after enlisting at Cambridge, Swan moved to Northfield, Massachusetts. It was here that Swan became apprenticed as a hatter with his brother-in-law Caleb Lyman. It is here in Northfield that Swan's attention focused on musical composition. His first composition "Montague" can be placed around 1774 when Swan was sixteen years old.
After completing his apprenticeship in 1780, Swan moved to Enfield, Connecticut and then to Suffield, Connecticut,two years later in 1782. It was in Suffield that Swan composed most of his music.
In Suffield, Swan was introduced to Mary Gay, the daughter Ebenezer Gay, third minister of the First Congregational Church of Suffield. Swan may have been introduced to Miss Gay by his brother Benjamin Swan who was married to Lucy Gay, Mary's sister. His marriage to Mary on May 5, 1784, produced a large family similar to his own, ten children several of which were musicians like their father.
Supplementing his work as a hatter, Swan began teaching singing-schools in the area. It was during this time that his music was first printed. In 1783, composer-compiler Oliver Brownson included six of Swan's tunes in the third issue of Select Harmony.This was followed by requests from other compilers and publishers to include Swan's tunes in their tunebooks and other publications. By 1800, his tunes were being printed in larger areas: New York, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
This rise in interest in his music prompted Swan to publish his music himself. Collaborating with Alexander Ely, Swan published The Songster's Assistant in ca. 1786. The tunebook was a collection of secular duets. Swan contributed half of the songs in the collection.
In 1801, he published New England Harmony. Unlike The Songster's Assistant, New England Harmony was a collection of sacred music. The tune book contained over 104 pages of original music. The collection contained many tunes that had been previously printed including his first tune Montague. The tunebook was not well received and Swan did not publish another collection after 1801. Even though the last tunebook did do well, Swan's music was still in demand and was published in later compilations by other tunebook compilers.
In October 1807, 25 years after settling in Suffield, Swan and his family moved back to the town of his childhood. The reason for the move is not known; however, the decision may have been prompted by his mother's failing health. She died six years later in 1813.Upon returning to Northfield, Swan went into business with his nephew Josiah Dwight Lyman as milliners. Swan continued to compose music and receive requests from other compilers seeking to purchase the copyright of some of his more popular tunes.
On July 23, 1842, at the age of 84, Timothy Swan died in his sleep in Northfield. Around the time of his death the style of psalmody that he composed had given way to more "proper" compositions more along the lines of the European school of musical composition. An obituary published in the Boston Daily Advertiser, dated August 5, 1842, noted, "Timothy Swan, 82, generally known to the public as the author of China and other pieces of sacred music, which have [so] long held a place in successive musical collections, that they have seemed to belong to an age long gone by."
Shape notes are a musical notation designed to facilitate congregational and social singing. The notation, introduced in late 18th century England, became a popular teaching device in American singing schools. Shapes were added to the noteheads in written music to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales without the use of more complex information found in key signatures on the staff.
A hymnal or hymnary is a collection of hymns, usually in the form of a book, called a hymnbook. Hymnals are used in congregational singing. A hymnal may contain only hymn texts ; written melodies are extra, and more recently harmony parts have also been provided.
Sacred Harp singing is a tradition of sacred choral music that originated in New England and was later perpetuated and carried on in the American South. The name is derived from The Sacred Harp, a ubiquitous and historically important tunebook printed in shape notes. The work was first published in 1844 and has reappeared in multiple editions ever since. Sacred Harp music represents one branch of an older tradition of American music that developed over the period 1770 to 1820 from roots in New England, with a significant, related development under the influence of "revival" services around the 1840s. This music was included in, and became profoundly associated with, books using the shape note style of notation popular in America in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
The colonial history of the United States began in 1607 with the colonization of Jamestown, Virginia. Music of all genres and origins emerged as the United States began to form. From the Indigenous spiritual music to the African banjos, music in the United States is as diverse as its people. In New England, the music was very religious and was vitally important in the rising of American music. The migration of people southward led to the settling of the Appalachian Mountains. There many poor Europeans inhabited and brought country blues and fiddling. As music spread, the religious hymns were still just as popular. The first New England School, Shakers, and Quakers, which were all music and dance groups inspired by religion, rose to fame. In 1776, St. Cecilia Music Society opened in the Province of South Carolina and led to many more societies opening in the Northern United States. African slaves were brought to the United States and introduced the music world to instruments like the xylophone, drums and banjo. The diverse music of the United States comes from the diverse type of people who first colonized this country.
William Walker was an American Baptist song leader, shape note "singing master", and compiler of four shape note tunebooks, most notable of which are the influential The Southern Harmony and The Christian Harmony, which has been in continuous use.
Justin Morgan was a U.S. horse breeder and composer.
Lowell Mason was an American music director and banker who was a leading figure in 19th-century American church music. Lowell composed over 1600 hymn tunes, many of which are often sung today. His best-known work includes an arrangement of Joy to the World and the tune Bethany, which sets the hymn text Nearer, My God, to Thee. Mason also set music to Mary Had A Little Lamb. He is largely credited with introducing music into American public schools, and is considered the first important U.S. music educator. He has also been criticized for helping to largely eliminate the robust tradition of participatory sacred music that flourished in America before his time.
Supply Belcher was an American composer, singer, and compiler of tune books. He was one of the so-called Yankee tunesmiths or First New England School, a group of mostly self-taught composers who created sacred vocal music for local choirs. He was active first in Lexington, Massachusetts, then eventually moved to Farmington, Maine. Like most of his colleagues, Belcher could not make music his main occupation, and worked as tax assessor, schoolmaster, town clerk, and so on; nevertheless he was considerably well known for his musical activities, and even dubbed 'the Handell [sic] of Maine' by a local newspaper. Most of his works survive in The Harmony of Maine, a collection Belcher published himself in Boston in 1794.
Daniel Read was an American composer of the First New England School, and one of the primary figures in early American classical music.
Ananias Davisson was a singing school teacher, printer and compiler of shape note tunebooks. He is best known for his 1816 compilation Kentucky Harmony, which is the first Southern shape-note tunebook. According to musicologist George Pullen Jackson, Davisson's compilations are "pioneer repositories of a sort of song that the rural South really liked."
William Tans'ur was an English hymn-writer, composer of West gallery music, and teacher of music. His output includes approximately a hundred hymn tunes and psalm settings and a Te Deum. His manual A New Musical Grammar (1746) was still popular in the nineteenth century.
Stephen Jenks was an Yankee tunesmith, teacher, and tunebook compiler. He was born in Glocester, Rhode Island and raised in Ellington, Connecticut. During his life he moved from town to town, living in Ridgefield and New Canaan, Connecticut, Pound Ridge, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, finally settling in Thompson, Ohio in 1829. Between 1799 and 1810 he authored and coauthored more than ten printed collections of sacred and secular music; after moving to Ohio, he became a farmer and a maker of percussion instruments.
This is a timeline of music in the United States prior to 1819.
Ishmael (Ishmail) Spicer (1760–1832) was a publisher in Baltimore, a teacher, and one of the first American composers.
Jeremiah Ingalls was an early North-American composer, considered a part of the First New England School.
Daniel Belknap was a farmer, mechanic, militia captain, poet and singing teacher. Belknap was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, and was an American composer of the First New England School. He compiled four sacred tunebooks in the years 1797–1806, and also issued a book of secular songs with music. He died in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
The Second New England School or New England Classicists is a name given by music historians to a group of classical-music composers who lived during the late-19th and early-20th centuries in New England. More specifically, they were based in and around Boston, Massachusetts, then an emerging musical center. The Second New England School is viewed by musicologists as pivotal in the development of an American classical idiom that stands apart from its European ancestors.
Aaron Williams (1731–1776) was a Welsh teacher, composer, and compiler of West Gallery music, active in Britain during the 18th century.
John Wyeth (1770–1858) was a printer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania who is best-known for printing Wyeth's Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, which marks an important transition in American music. Like the original Repository of 1810, Part Second used the four-shape system of Little and Smith in The Easy Instructor to appeal to a wider audience; but its pioneering inclusion American folk tunes influenced all subsequent folk hymn, camp meeting, and shape note collections. Musicologist Warren Steel sees Wyeth's Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second as marking "the end of the age of New England composer-compilers (1770-1810) and the beginning of the age of southern collector-compilers (1816-1860)."
Yankee tunesmiths were self-taught composers active in New England from 1770 until about 1810. Their music was largely forgotten when the Better Music Movement turned musical tastes towards Europe, as in Thomas Hastings's 1822 Dissertation on Musical Taste and other works. The principal tunesmiths were William Billings, Supply Belcher, Daniel Read, Oliver Holden, Justin Morgan, Lewis Edson, Andrew Law, Timothy Swan, Jacob Kimball Jr., and Jeremiah Ingalls. They composed primarily psalm tunes and fuging tunes, which differ enough from European fugues to warrant the spelling "fuge".