CHAPTER 09. MRL: 1893 – 1925

CHAPTER NINE-1893 – 1925.


At the “Ladies’ Musical Club” on Saturday April 25, 1895, Mrs. Emma K. Von Seggern performed two pieces for violin, Andante and Allegro Moderato.These would seem to be more of the destroyed pieces. (Scrapbook 1887-1906) Another missing piece is the song, She Is False that was presented at the Cambridge Art Conference, October 31, 1897.

       In reviewing her career to this point (1893) Margaret wrote that since returning from studying in Europe in 1887 she had written “30 or 40 songs and also part-songs for male and for female chorus and for mixed voices” which had been published and performed. “My part-songs have been sung by the Apollo and Cecilia Societies of Boston,” and she reports having heard of performances “in England, France, and Canada.” But, she goes on to say that “All my songs have been the expression of my musical thought and with the exception of the above mentioned orchestra compositions [two orchestral overtures], yet my desire is to write for orchestra and until I have accomplished something of real worth in that direction, I shall not be content.” (Autobiographical reply May 22, 1893 to Mr. Krehbiel)


        The exposition in honor of Columbus” discovery of the New World ran six months from May 1 until October 30, 1893. Over 28 million tickets were sold (the population of the United States was 63 million at that time), and this was even during of an economic depression. The goal of the organizers was to outdo the Paris Exposition of 1889 which featured the Eiffel Tower. Chicago”s answer was to create a city-within-a-city which hosted 65,000 exhibits. On view were  “The world”s first Ferris Wheel-with cars the size of buses” and full-size replicas of Columbus” three ships which had been sailed from Spain to Chicago. (Bolotin and Laing, p.vii) At the end of the event it was found that a profit of $1,000,000 dollars had been achieved! Margaret”s overture Witichis was selected for performance at the Chicago World”s Fair. George H. Wilson who was the Secretary of the Bureau of Music and thus the person making all the decisons on anything musical that was to appear at the Exposition, had been a tenor in Boston”s Apollo Club. (Herald, April 23, 1893, p. 20, GB) There seems to be no record of Theodore Thomas seeing the Dramatic Overture, Opus 12 but her overture Witichis, Opus 10 was chosen (along with two others-one of which was by the fellow Boston composer, Coerne)) from among twenty-one works presented for consideration to be performed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Coerne One interesting aspect was that B.J. Lang was a member of the reviewing committee! Other members were – Camille Saint-Saens, Paris, France (Owing to Mr. Saint-Saens” long absence from France during the fall and winter of 1892-93, his services as adjuicator were regretfully dispenced with); Dr. A. C. Mackenzie, London, England; Asger Hamerik, Baltimore, Maryland; Carl Zerrahn, Boston, Mass.; William L. Tomlins, Choir Director for the Exposition, Chicago, Ill.; and Theordore Thomas, Chicago, Ill. (Yearbook, Vol 10, p. xxxi) Each committee member made individual reports on the 21 pieces submitted, and from this group, pieces by seven American composers were chosen for performance. Theodore Thomas conducted (August 4) Lang”s work at one of the regular concerts in the Music Hall (seating for 2,000, verses concerts in the Women’s Building) with “an orchestra of one hundred” in a program that also included the Suite Creole by John A. Broekhoven and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto played by the American, Maud Powell. “The program was noteworthy for the introduction of a major orchestral work by a promising female composer, but it was a disappointing reminder that America”s most prominent composers had ignored the Bureau of Music”s submission process. The reviewer for American Art Journal stated that it was the largest crowd that he had seen yet in Music Hall and praised Powell”s playing of the Mendelssohn. He credited Lang”s work with ”originality and earnestness of purpose” as well as ”considerable continuity and sustained power. ”He went on to state that the orchestration showed lack of experience but pointed out that even Brahms had similar problems with some of his orchestrations. This review was unusual in that the critic treated an orchestral composition by a woman seriously, without any comments reflecting gender bias.” (Bomberger, pp. 138-139) “A prominent Chicago critic, writing of Margaret Ruthven Lang”s contribution to the American compositions heard at the exposition concerts, says Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang”s overture to Witichis is a real work, a great deal to say of a young woman”s composition…Taste predominates Miss Lang”s overture. At times the meaning is not easy to follow; there is a good deal of ambitious striving for effect rather than for embodiment of idea. But throughout the music is noble and pure in conception, if the conception is not always concrete.” (Herald, August 13, 1893, p. 18, GenealogyBank)   Feldman lists the first performance of Witichis as July 29, 1893 at a Pops Concert held not in the Women”s Building, but in the main concert hall of the Exposition. (Feldman, p. 7) The overture was included at a third concert under Bendix. Max Bendix had been the concertmaster of the Festival Orchestra, but after Theodore Thomas resigned, Bendix was selected to conduct the rest of the concerts at the Exposition. A third overture entitled Totila, Opus 23 was composed in 1901 and premiered in Baltimore. Theodore Thomas, AUTOBIOGRAPHY VOL II,facing page 282.   SONG PERFORMANCES.

       Among performances during 1894 was the song for baritone Hjarlis sung by Mr. Grant Odell on Monday, February 5 at the 29th. Private Meeting of the “Manuscript Society of New York” held in Room 8 of Carnegie (Music) Hall (this may have been it’s premier). “A very charming reception was given to Mr. B. J. Lang and the altos of ”The Cecilia” last Monday evening, at the home of Mrs. Cilley, 175 Beacon Street, Mrs. Dimick of ”The Cecilia;” being hostess.” (Herald, April 8, 1894, p. 27, GenBank) Part of the musical program included Bedtime Song by Margaret sung by Miss Griggs. A concert in Boston on Saturday, December 1 at 11AM presented by Miss Orvis as part of her “Concerts for Young People” (five per season) included B. J. Lang playing Petit Roman followed by six of the Nonsense Rhymes (Filey, Man Cape Horn, Man Skye, When Little, Said Well, and Riga) sung by Mrs. Henrietta Hassall. The concert ended with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto played by Franz Kneisel with the orchestral accompaniment played by B. J. on the piano. The Nonsense Rhymes must have been well received as they were repeated at the concert on Saturday, February 23, 1895. The same six Nonsense Rhymes were sung by Mrs. Hassall a year later (December 7, 1895) as part of the series of “Concerts for Young People” given in Newton Center by Mrs. Bird-B. J. also played his Caprice as part of the concert. This December 1st. performance of Petit Roman was less than a month after it’s premier which was given by Mrs. Edward Dudley Marsh at the November 6, 1894 meeting of the “Tuesday Musicale” of Rochester, N. Y. -a note in the program mentions that Margaret wrote both the music and the story. (Scrapbook) Others quickly learned the work-Miss Mary Black included it in her program at Chickering Hall on December 18, 1894.

       A short article that was probably a “filler” appeared in a California newspaper early in 1894, having been originated by the Boston Herald. With a heading of “Young Women Composers,” it began: “Two charming and talented young women composers who are making their mark are Helen Hood and Margaret Ruthven Lang. Both of whom have for some years been known as writers of songs of far above musical qualities.” The article then notes their New England connections and finishes with: “It is not a little remarkable that both of these talented girls, whose gifts bear so close a resemblance to each other, can look back not only to a New England ancestry, but to ancestors whose lives touched closely in the same little Massachusetts town of Lynnfield three-quarters of a century ago, and it is not uninteresting to note that the first musical instruction which the grandfther of Margaret Lang received was given to him by the grandfather of Helen Hood.” (Riversdie Daily Press, Riverside, CA, February 9, 1894, p. 1, GenealogyBank) Another interesting connection with Lynnfield is that some sources state that B. J.’s first organ position was in a small church in Lynnfield-is it possible that Helen Hood”s grandfather had something to do with this?

       Petit Roman was also part of a June concert given in Worcester, MA at the “pretty studio of Mrs. Carrie King Hunt [which] was the scene of one of the most delightful entertainments that has been heard in Worcester for very many days.” The society writer gave the full story of the sections of the piece which she probably took from the program book or copied quickly from the performer”s score. She began: “This tells a story-a mediaeval kind of tale in six chapters, each written in an appropriate and peculiar tempo. The first tells how the chevalier goes to call upon the princess and makes love.” (Worcester Daily Spy, June 20, 1895, p. 1, GenealogyBank) No need of five more chapters in this version. In the program notes of the recent CD recording it reads: “The first piece tells of the knight”s initial visit to the princess, during which he ”speaks of love.”” (Delos DE 3433, notes by Lindsay Koob) Mrs. Hunt learned the piece at the request of B. J. with whom she had been studying for the past year. (Spy, Op. Cit.)

       In 1895 The Cecilia performed Love Plumes His Wings at the January 16 and 17 concerts while at the Apollo Club concert of May 8, 1895 Margaret’s Boatman’s Hymn was heard.This piece had been first performed by the club in January 1893, and for this second appearance, Apthorp in the “Transcript” wrote: Miss Lang”s Boatman”s Hymn shows all the young composer”s habitual poetry of feeling and imaginative coloring; from a purely musical point of view, too, it shows itself as one of the best things she has done in this line.” (Scrapbook)

       Not all critics were as favorable. Philip Hale in the Musical Courier of January 23, 1895 wrote- “I confess I am amazed at the daring of Mrs. Richard Blackmore Jr. who will give a song recital in a fortnight. She will sing songs by Bizet, Massenet, Cornelius, Mozart, Mascagni, and others; but, mirabile dictu, she announces no song by Miss Lang or Mr. Clayton Jones. You should live here to fully realize the courage of this singer.” (Scrapbook-review destroyed, but written in pen on the scrapbook page.) This attitude had been reflected earlier in the month by Hale”s review in the Journal of January 16, 1895 commenting on Lena Little”s performance of the Norman Songs, Opus 19. “Miss Lang”s songs seemed all of a familiar piece, with the exception of The Grief of Love, which has stuff in it. She is too fertile. She is young and art is long. Why be in such a hurray, even though singers and publishers knock at the door. Study and write, Miss Lang, for you have talent. But practice the Horatian maxim. You will find it in ”The Art of Poetry.” “However the reviewer in the Transcript wrote: “The group of songs by Miss Lang contain much that is charming, and are admirably effective for the singer; there is much vitality and poetry of sentiment in them too. Miss Lang is beginning to show more and more of distinct individuality in her writing, in spite of a sometimes treacherous memory which at moments leads her to make use of material not entirely her own. But she recasts it in her own mould, and the writing bears her stamp. Miss Little sang the songs capitally.”(Scrapbook) The Herald did not mention the Norman Songs by title, but did say that “the songs by Miss Lang seemed far more congenial to the conceptive intuitions of the artist, and were very creditably interpreted.” Miss Little”s performance was part of a series of concerts organized by Mr. Arthur Whiting. (Herald, Januaary 16, 1895, p. 4, GenBank)


       1895 saw the publishing of Margaret”s biggest hit-Irish Love Song, Op. 22. The song was sung and recorded by the very best singers of its day.The first recording was in 1908 by Ernestine Schumann-Heink followed by Dan Beddoe a year later. Both Alma Gluck and Mary Garden recorded the song c. 1912 while Richard Crooks”s in 1924 was possibly his first record!An article in the “Detroit News” said: “These American ditties have a charm all their own when sung by Schumann-Heink, with her explosive Germanized dentals and her z-ified final s”s.It was droll, but pleasant still, to hear the German-American version of Margaret Lang”s Irish Love Song with”Ma – foor – r -r- neen” trolling from the singer”s tongue.” (Scrapbook 1887-1907) “Musically, Lang’s Irish Love Song is set in the simple style of most popular songs.Though it has no refrain, it consists of three verses set strophically.It is quite short, 34 measures in total, but because it is strophic there are actually only 14 measures of music.The phrases are symmetrical and balanced, with essentially two four bar melodic phrases. The range of the vocal line is essentially an octave. The accompaniment is simple and doubles the vocal line. As in most popular song, the melodic line stands out as the most important musical feature. It is, of course, a love song and, like the popular type, has an intense emotional content. A song of longing, the musical climaxes come at the end of each verse as the melody rises to the last statement of ‘Mavourneen,’ as in mm. 11-12 (‘Mavoureen’ is an Irish Gaelic word meaning ‘my darling’). The climactic drive is to the end of each phrase and ultimately the end of the song, thus emphasizing not only the longing of the thematic content but the heightened emotional state.” (Blunsom, p. 210) Cipolla noted that “the total U. S. press run for Margaret Ruthven Lang”s Irish Love Song was 120,835 copies, almost 20,000 copies more than for MacDowell”s best-loved song, The Beaming Eyes.”(Cipolla, p. 91)

       Instrumental works were also being written at this time. An article (c. 1895) in the Winchester Star (MA) mentioned that at a “Women Composers” program presented to the Fortnightly Club, “One of the best numbers of the programme was an unpublished Andante for violin and piano composed by Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, daughter of Mr. B. J. Lang of Boston, and loaned to Mrs. Bryant in manuscript.” At the thirteenth concert of the “Ladies’ Musical Club” presented on Saturday April 25, 1895, Mrs. Emma K. Von Seggern performed two pieces for violin, Andante and Allegro Moderato.These would seem to be more of the destroyed pieces. (Scrapbook 1887-1906) Another missing piece is the song, She Is False that was presented at the Cambridge Art Conference, October 31, 1897.

       Mrs. Crosby Adams reported in 1896 that Margaret found it difficult to work at home without interruption, so she rented a room near her home to use as a studio. It held a shelf full of rejected manuscripts. During this time she also went to see various members of the BSO to discuss the capabilities of their instruments so that she might write better for them. The Musical Courier article of January 1895 had reported “Miss Lang spends the morning until one o’clock in work and study, having a studio where no one can interrupt her.”

       January 29, 1896 saw a performance of the piano Rhapsody at the Rhode Island Women”s Club while on February 5th. at the Matinee Musicale of Indianapolis Indiana, Ghosts was sung by Miss Schrader, and the Maiden and the Butterfly was performed by four solo voices and piano. (Scrapbook)At the February 12, 1896 concert of the Cecilia, Mrs. Jeannie Crocker Follett performed the Irish Love Song, and at their April 29 and 30, 1896 concerts In a Garden was sung by Mrs. Alice Bates Rice. Margaret also served as a translator; at the March 19, 1896 concert of The Cecilia The Shepherds Decked Him For the Dance (scene from Goethe’s Faust) by Moszkowski was presented as translated by Margaret.As part of the 25th. Anniversary Concert of the Apollo Club on May 6, 1896, Mrs. A. Sophia Marlee sang Betrayed. By 1896 Margaret’s songs were well enough known and thought of that Ghosts, first published in 1889, was included in the January 1896 issue of Godey’s Magazine, the monthly women’s publication. (Cook, p. 175)For the Third Concert of Miss Orvis’s “Five Concerts for Young People” presented in Chickering Hall on Saturday morning, December 1, 1896, B. J. played Margaret’s Petit Roman sur le Piano en Six Chapitres: also included was her Six Nonsense Rhymes. At the May 7, 1897 concert of The Cecilia Bonnie Run the Burnie Down was programmed. For the January 25 and 26, 1899 concerts of The Cecilia, Love Blumes His Wings for women’s voices and The King Is Dead were performed.


       An article in the Globe of March 15, 1896 with the headline “Tuneful Minds” was an interview with Margaret Lang and Mrs. H. H. A. Beach. Lang was asked how she composed a piece. “Little songs and smaller compositions generally take definite and permanent shape in my mind before I touch my pencil. In greater works I often find it necessary to deviate somewhat from my original idea when it comes to the actual scoring.” The reporter asked what part the piano had in composing. “I think very few composers work at the piano, and often the idea is as spontaneous as a smile or a sigh. I remember once when MacDowell was staying with us, he suddenly learned that it was the anniversary of my mother”s wedding day. He immediately turned to me and said: ”Let us play them a triumphal march at dinner,” and, seating himself at the desk, wrote out in about ten minutes a march that had all the fire, color, balance and poise of a work of art. We played it at dinner to the great delight of the family.” (Globe, March 15, 1896, p.31) In the same article Lang was asked how often she changed a piece after hearing it, and in her answer reference is made to her SYMPHONY. “I have an absurd prejudice againist working a composition over which I have once considered finished…After the Boston orchestra rehearsed my symphony for the first time, the conductor requested me to make a considerable cut in one of the movements. Very much against my wishes I did so,” and after the concert one of the violinists in the orchestra told her that she should not have allowed the cut. “I knew how true this was, and if I had been a little older, I should have refused to submit to the cutting process, even if it meant the withdrawing of the symphony.” (Op. Cit.) The first paragraphs of the article had all been about Margaret Lang, and the next paragraph after the quote cited above began with: “The reporter next called on Mrs. H. A. Beach,” and he asked the same general questions of Mrs. Beach as he had asked of Miss Lang. (Op. Cit.) Therefore, one would assume that the reporter did not get his notes confused, mingly some of his notes about Beach with those of Lang. But, is there any other explanation? Beach”s Gaelic Symphony was not premiered until October of 1896, and so the story about allowing the cut and having an orchestra player mention it after the concert can not apply. Lang”s Dramatic Overture had been premiered by the BSO on April 7, 1893, Nikisch conducting, but I know of not references to that work having been cut. Also, she mentioned “symphony” twice and also said “one of the movements.” Therefore, it would not seem that she was making reference to her Dramatic Overture. We are left with a major mystery!


       Three concert arias were composed in the mid 1890s. Sappho’s Prayer to Aphrodite for alto was performed in New York on October 24,1895 (see details under Opus 24) Soon after, on January 29, 1896, it was sung by Mrs. H. E. Sawyer at a concert at 265 Beacon Street where the accompanist was Arthur Foote; this was part of a chamber music concert shared with the Adamowski Quartet. Another performer who quickly learned this aria was Lena Little who sang Sappho”s Prayer to Aphrodite at the “Concert in Aid of the Free Hospital for Women” on March 26th. at 104 Beacon Street.

       A second aria, Armida for soprano was performed by the BSO on January 13, 1896 with Gertrude Franklin as the soloist and Emil Paur conducting. Elson felt that this was “made from aversion that deals rather too freely with Tasso. The setting is by no means as dramatic as its poetic subject, and the composer seems to have missed the majestic power of the great death-scene.” Margaret also wrote a third aria for baritone which was entitled Phoebus’ Denunciation of the Furies At His Delphian Shrine.

       An article in a paper from Philadelphia dated December 26, 1897 began by calling Margaret “The Chaminade of America,” and described her as “an attractive and educated young woman [who] has already attained a position which puts her among the four leading women composers of the time, they being Holmes and Chaminade of Paris, Mrs. Beach and Miss Lang of Boston…In appearance Miss Lang is slight and rather under medium height, but bears a very intelligent forehead, well rounded by thought, and her eye discloses a dream of imagination which reflects the gentle tenderness with which she treats the greater number of her compositions.She is at present engaged in the preparation of several important works, the performance of which in the near future will gain her much additional and well-deserved fame.” (Scrapbook 1887-1906)

       Performances around the end of the century included Mrs. Stella Hadde-Alexander playing the Rhapsody on Wednesday, January 4, 1899 at the Transportation Club (of NYC?) On Wednesday, November 20,1901, during the 12th. season of the “National Arts Club” (of Washington, DC?) the tenor Mr. Hobart Smock sang Orpheus. During the spring of 1903 Mavourneen and The Garden of Roses were sung by the soprano Mrs. Wardwell at the Carnegie Chamber Music Hall; while on Monday, March 28, 1904 at the Siegel-Cooper Auditorium the Irish Love Song was sung by the baritone Mr. John Perry Boruff.

       In 1899 Ryan stated that Margaret had “attained a position which places her among the four foremost female composers of the world, the other three being Chaminade and Holmes of Paris, and Mrs. Beach of Boston.” (Ryan, p. 86) Her orchestral Ballade in D minor, Opus 36 won much success at its premier in the concert entitled “Women in Music Grand Concert” given by the Baltimore Symphony March 14, 1901. (New Grove, 2001)

       Miss Alice Coleman performed the Rhapsody in E minor at Chickering Hall on February 19, 1901. On Easter Eve and Easter Day services at the Church of the Advent, the Te Deum in E flat major was sung at the Evening [?]Services. November 20, 1901 saw the performance of Orpheus sung by Mr. Hobart Smock at the first meeting of the 12th. Season (1901-1902) of the Manuscript Society of New York, which was held at the National Arts Club.

       “Mrs. S. B. Field had a large and representative audience at the first of her three musicales, which she gave on Monday morning in the ballroom of the Somerset…Miss Alice Robbins Cole, contralto, was in splendid voice and looked charming in a white silk bodice, done in black velvet ribbons, and wore a large picture hat.” The article continued with a nineteen line list of important people who attended which included the wife of the BSO conductor, Mrs. Wilhelm Gericke, and “Mrs. B. J. Lang and her daughter Miss Rosamond Lang (whose sister, Miss Margaret Ruthven Lang, by the way, was among the composers represented on the program in Miss Cole”s list of songs).” (Boston Journal, March 8, 1903, p. 7, GB) Where was Margaret herself?

       An article in the Saturday, January 16, 1904 issue of the “Boston Evening News” entitled “ Boston’s Women Composers Take High Rank” began “Hers is a striking individuality and soon after talking with her one decides that Miss Lang is not quite like any one else that one has ever met before. She has an original way of expressing herself, she is frank, sincere, yet very reserved, and {yet} there is a broad undercurrent of sympathy which makes one feel that she divines your intentions and thought.” The interviewer then asked her opinion of the state of music-“Music is decidedly on the wing in America. At the theaters the best music is beginning to be appreciated.” Margaret then mentioned her dog “Mr. Dooley” whom she had trained to play the piano. “At dinner every night when the finger-bowls are brought on the table, ‘Mr. Dooley’ runs to the piano in the library or up to the music room and plays, then runs back again for his reward-a cracker. If I had space I would like to own sixty dogs…Cats I do not care so much for.”Bowler

“Bowler,” an earlier pet, painted by Margaret’s friend, Catherine A.Codman. Photo by Justin Reinking. Collection of Fletcher DuBois.


       The article continued with a description of the house. “The rows upon rows of books in the library were chiefly titled about music.There were pictures of Beethoven and other great musicians, hung about. Upstairs in the music room is a piano which belonged to Mendelssohn, which to Miss Lang of course is invaluable.” The section on Margaret ended with-“I am sorry not to tell you a great deal about myself. I like to read about others, but when it comes to me I get selfish and become a pig or a turtle though I do not want to appear picknickity, odd, or eccentric.” A later (1911) description of the house mentioned that “the reception room on the ground floor is a cozy study, lined with books.The bound volumes of the “Century” and of the Symphony programs crowding a heterogeneous mass of great music masters. Portraits of Mr. Lang abound on the walls and one of Lincoln reminds those who knew of the musician’s love for a great man. Open on the piano are Granville Bantock’s Jester songs and the score of the Girl of the Golden West. These things are a reminder of how this house with its story of musical Boston during its splendid period of progress, written in a hundred ways-in photographs, letters, records, collected programs and heaped piles of music-is yet a radiating center for the most modern thinking in music. No home in this country has more associations with the best and most honored and honorable past of music, with artists whose very name epitomizes all there is of the most conservative, most of an ancient regime, composition that stands on the white heights of classic art and faithful adherence everywhere to noble models; and yet no home in the world today speaks more for the progress or gives, in its mental outlook, on fresher woods and newer pastures for composer and artist alike.” (Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 1911, p. 3. At the bottom of the article is a photo of the summer home in New Boston showing the house and the music shed by the river)

       Another All-Lang recital was given on April 28, 1904 at the home of Mrs. Josiah Millet”s at 150 Charles Street, Boston for which Margaret served as the accompanist.

The Hills o” Skye, An Irish Mother”s Lullaby, The Sea Sobs Low (Ms.), The Dead Ship

                                               Miss Lucie Tucker

The Bird, Song in the Songless, Arcadie, Day is Gone

                                               Mrs. Alice Bates Rice

Tryste Noel, Summer Noon, Chinese Song, A Thought

                                               Miss Tucker

Somewhere, A Song of May, The Lilac (Ms.), Love is Everywhere

                                               Mrs. Rice

Mrs. Bertha Cushing Child and Miss Edith Chapman gave another all-Lang recital on August 26, 1905 at “The Ark.”


       Margaret was of course aware of her success and all these performances. She “diligently tracked the public consumption of her songs, gathering data with which she could measure their commercial successes, as revealed in a letter to Schmidt in 1905:

I have been feeling considerable wonder this winter, concerning the irregularity of my songs which-to judge by programmes of private & public performances-must have had moderate success. For instance-Tryste Noel which has been sung considerably in church and in recitals-has apparently retired-having brought no returns since Feb. ’03, & since its publication in 1902-only on 290 copies. Of the set of four songs op. 40-published in the late winter of 1904-a year ago, three of which have had considerable use in public performance-there have been no returns on any of these ay any time since their publication, except on Day is Gone which brought returns immediately (in May ’04) on 215 copies-but nothing since then; & yet it has been sung in various places of the U.S. Whereas the Song of the Lilac op. 41 (which has only just appeared) & has been sung less often in public, is more difficult & less pleasing, has brought already returns on twice as many copies, in a fourth less time.  Perhaps these facts have surprised you as they have me, or can you account for it? I am especially struck by the comparison between the Song of the Lilac (new) & the comparatively popular Tryste Noel & Day is Gone.” (Blumsom, p. 109 quoting a letter to A. P. Schmidt dated March 16, 1905)

A note to Margaret dated February 26, 1906 from Philip Hale shows a different attitude from that which he had expressed in his January 23, 1895 Musical Courier column.

Dear Miss Lang,

I was very sorry not to hear your songs, but Monday and Tuesday are disgustingly busy days with me. I hear that the songs were beautiful and original and the Nonsense Songs very cleaver; that Miss Chapman – whom I have never heard – sang well. I should like to have been able to congratulate you personally.

Yours very truly,

Philip Hale

This refers to a concert given at Mr. Lang”s Studio, 6 Newbury Street on February 26, 1906 by Miss Edith Chapman. The program was:

The Bird, Song in the Songless, Day is Gone, The Lilac, Somewhere, Poplar Leaves – (ms.), A Thought Song of the Spanish Gypsies – (ms.).

Intermission.____Lear Nonsense Songs: The Man Who Said “Well,” The Young Lady of Lucca, The Lady of Parma – (ms.), The Person of Cassel, 

The Young Lady in White – (ms.), The Bee, The Man Who Said “Hush!” The Man With a Gong, The Lady of Riga – (Anon) (Scrapbook)

       At the February 22, 1906 meeting of the Rossini Club of Portland Maine, Mrs. Morong sang Seven Nonsense Songs while at their March 15th. meeting/concert Miss Johnston sang The Hills O” Skye.The April 2nd. and 10th. concerts by the Wellesley Hills Glee Club included Margaret”s cantata The Lonely Rose with Miss Sanborn as the soloist. April 1906 also saw Mabel L. Hastings including Lang material in her recital in Florence, Italy to benefit “Missione Medica”-the accompanist was Alberto Bimboni.May 1st. saw Mrs. Mary Montgomery Brackett include Poplar Leaves (ms.) at her 18 Saint Botolph Street studio recital-the singer sent Margaret a note saying that several people said it was “the gem of the program.” (Scrapbook)

       The February ? 1907 issue of the Musical Courier reported that Margaret was suffering from a serious illness.The same column mentioned that Malcolm was to play on February at his studio a concert including Debussy”s Prelude in A-L” Apres midi d”un Faunearranged for piano by Margaret.He also included this piece in his Concord Lyceum concert on December 18, 1907.This interest in French music reflects that of her father.At the Waltham Woman”s Club Music Lecture Recital on March 8, 1907 her Meditation, Opus 26 was performed, and on April 7th the Vesper Service at the Church of the New Jerusalem on Bowdoin Street opened with Praise the Lord O My Soul, called an Antiphonal Anthem for Male Quartette and Chorus-a work that had just been published in 1905. [Was it published?]

forty years-langphotoPhoto from an article in Music of March 9, 1912 by C. M. Hoover.

Courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library/Rare Books.

       The year 1908 included a number of different Lang performances. On January 13th. The Concord Woman”s Club presented Mrs. Edith Chapman Gould, accompanied by B. J. in a program, which ended with nine Nonsense Songs-the words for all nine were printed in the program. B. J. also included his own Spinning Song between two Chopin pieces, the Nocturne in C minor and the Scherzo in D flat major. The Tuesday Club concert of January 21st. was all-Lang- songs and piano pieces. On February 19th. Stephen Townsend included The Sea Sobs Low and Spring in his recital at Steinert Hall-this first song, also performed from manuscript in 1904, may not have ever been published. On March 8th. The Thursday Morning Musical Club sang at their Scholarship Concert in Jordan Hall NEC The Lonely Rose, Opus 43. The soprano soloist was Mrs. Marguerite Dietrick Quincy, and a note in the program said that this piece had been written for the club.The “Cecilia” performed Love Plumes His Wings, Opus 15 for women”s voices on March 31st., and a note in the program mentioned that this piece had been first published in 1892.John Philip Sousa”s sixty-five piece band included Irish Love Song, soloist Miss Lucy Allen, in their October 9th. concert “Devoted to Boston Composers.”Miss Katharine Foote [Arthur Foote”s daughter] sang The Bird at Chickering Hall on November 17, accompanied by Alfred DeVoto. (Scrapbook)Alfred DeVoto was also the accompanist for Mary Desmond “The English Contralto” who included My Turtle Dove and Summer Noon at her Steinert Hall recital.The year ended with a December 7, 1908 letter from the Manager of the “Bijou Dream” [a theater] which told Margaret that three of her Nonsense Songs would be sung on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons of that week.There was a Person of Filey, The Old Man in the Kettle, and The Old Man Who Said ”Well” were sung three times each afternoon at c. 2:45, 4:10, and 5:20.Margaret had loaned three slides for use during the songs. (Scrapbook)

       In 1908 Arthur Elson, son of the critic Louis Elson, was to write that Margaret was “another of Boston’s gifted musical women…Miss Lang has published a number of successful part-songs for men’s, women’s, and mixed voices…her piano music is also excellent.”He then goes on to ask: “Who is the greatest woman composer?It is hard to say, for not all have worked in the same direction. In our country, Mrs. Beach holds the foremost position at present, with Miss Lang a good second.” (Elson, A., p. 202 and 239) A short filler piece had appeared late in 1905 in such varied papers as the Evening Post of Charleston, SC and the Tampa Tribune of Tampa, Florida. “Malcolm Burrage Lang, who wrote the new Harvard song, has a sister, Margaret Ruthven Lang, who is one of the two foremost women composers of the United States today. Her Dramatic Overture [sic] has been played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Thomas Orchestra.” (Evening Post, December 15, 1908, p. 7, GB)

       Late in March of 1908, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Goodrich of “Carvel Court” presented a concert which included pieces by 27(!) women composers. Mr. Goodrich was the pianist and he also gave short introductions to each piece. Margaret”s Rhapsody was included in the program. “The guests were highly pleased by this novel recital.” (The Musical Courier, March 28, p. 18)

       The February 17, 1909 concert of the Apollo Club, then conducted by Emil Mollenhauer, included some of her Nonsense Songs that inspired the Treasurer of the choir, Thomas H. Hall to compose a special invitation to Margaret to attend this concert:

Two Apollo men jogging along

After singing “The Man With a Gong” Said “Miss Lang must hear us For she surely will cheer us” And they hoped she would be in the throng.

He finished his note by saying “for I know you will laugh and laugh and laugh again.”(Scrapbook) At this concert there were forty-three tenors and thirty-six basses with only one original member left, George C. Wiswell. In another Lang gesture, the concert ended with a piece that B. J. had programmed so often, the Double Chorus from Mendelssohn”s Antigone.

       The Harvard Glee Club sang The Old Man In a Tree and The Old Person from Ware at their December 2, 1910 concert.

       On January 23, 1911 The Cecilia Society included The Wild Brier for women”s voices. At that time Max Fiedler was the conductor and Malcolm Lang the assistant conductor. The January 24, 1911 review in the “Transcript” said: “The old finess, the old transparency, the old delicate variations of volume and emphasis-the old beauty and the old suggestion in short-returned in the singing of Miss Lang”s little piece. The voices were as luminous or as shadowed as the music.”(Scrapbook) The group repeated this piece on March 18, 1915 at Jordan Hall with Arthur Mees as the conductor. The “Transcript” and “Herald” reviews were generally negative about the choir”s performance standards. The “Transcript” review said that there was “No clear definition of the colorful harmony and polyphony of Miss Lang”s Wild Brier.” (Scrapbook) The group performed the piece again on January 13, 1916. The year 1914 saw two groups performing the work: on February 25, 1914 the MacDowell Club sang the work with Malcolm Lang as accompanist, and two days later the Musical Art Club conducted by Arthur Shepard performed the piece at a concert at the Copley Plaza Hotel. (Scrapbook)

       In November 1911 the Boston Chapter of the DAR gave a reception and musicale honoring four Boston women composers: Margaret, Mabel Daniels, Florence Spaulding and Grace Conant. “The composers were invited to play the accompaniments for their own songs,” but no vocal soloists were named. “A sketch on ”The Progress of Music in New England” by Miss Alice Warren Pope, was a feature.” (Journal, November 9, 1911, p. 7, GenealogyBank)

       Early in 1912 the Musical Art Club MCMXII included as part of their Fourth Season Song in the Songless, Day is Gone, A Song of the Lilac, and Snowflakes (ms.) in their January 4th. concert at Steinert Hall-Margaret accompanied Mrs. Laura Comstock Littlefield.Then on March 28, 1912 the Steinert Hall song recital by Mrs. Littlefield (accompanist-Arthur Shepherd) included Day is Gone which prompted Philip Hale to report that the “Simpler songs were better done…She sang, for example, the songs of Mrs. Beach and Miss Lang with appropriate sentiment, and so effectively that the audience redemanded Day is Gone.”However, Hale”s first paragraph was a critique of her technique-his last paragraph a critique of her French songs.And, his final line was: “The audience applauded heartily.” (Scrapbook) Day is Gone became Margaret”s second best seller at 14,660 copies printed. (Cipolla 3/5/09 e-mail) The Chicago Mendelssohn Club opened the second half of their April 25, 1912 concert with Alastair MacAlastair.The next season they included three Nonsense Songs-The Old Person of Ware, The Old Man With a Gong, and The Young Lady of Parma at their December 11, 1913 concert.This choir of 62 singers was well balanced [at least on paper] with eighteen singers for each of the four parts-TTBB.1913 also saw “The Greatest Italian Lyric Tenor” Signor Bonci include Day is Gone in his Symphony Hall concert on March 2nd.Another Italian performance was that given by Madame Linda Giorni who included Three Ships in her concert in aid of the Victoria Orphanage in Rome-Mr. Aurelio Giorni [husband?] was the accompanist. On November 27, 1911 Margaret was the “Guest of Honor” at the Manuscript Society of New York concert where the final two sections featured her songs. She accompanied soprano Edith Watkins Griswold in Song of [in] the Songless, Day is Gone, A Song of the Lilac, and contralto Adah Hussey in A Garden is a Lonesome Thing (ms.), Summer Noon, A Song of the Spanish Gypsies (ms.), An Even Psalm, and Spring. (Copy of program) The Daily Mail review of November 28, 1911 was very complimentary.

            On May 2, 1913, The New York Manuscript Society presented a concert entirely of women composers. While this event, which “offered musical recognition to American composers” was being presented, the Suffragists was presenting a pageant at the Metropolitan Opera House. Four of Margarets songs were sung “with much expression” by the Armenian-American soprano, A. Angel Chopourian. “Snowflakes was a favorite in this group.” (Musical America, May 10, 1913, p. 32)

Wind, Opus 53 for double chorus of women’s voices with a text by John Galsworthy was commissioned and performed by the St. Cecilia Club of New York in 1914 and 1915 at the New York Philharmonic concerts (Musical America, Aug. 2, 1919). On April 27, 1915 Mrs. Rice gave a recital at her studio at 6 Newbury Street [where B. J. had his last teaching studio] devoted solely to Margaret”s songs with Margaret as the accompanist.The program included:

Somewhere, A Song of the Lilac, April Winter, Into My heart (ms.), The Bird–———-Song in the Songless, Candlemas, Poplar Leaves (ms.),

There Would I Be, Snowflakes, Chimes (ms.) (Scrapbook)

The Impromptu Club gave another all-Lang concert on January 19, 1916. Margaret conducted the chorus and accompanied. Singers throughout the country were performing her songs-the Irish Mother”s Lullaby was sung in Charles City, Iowa, while the Irish Love Song appeared in Aldie, Virginia, and Day Is Gone was programmed in Los Angeles.


The Heavenly Noel (1916) Opus 57 with words by Richard Lawson Gales was performed by the Choral Music Society of Boston in 1917; this was a work for mezzo-soprano, women’s chorus, organ, piano, harp, and string quartet.The Thursday Morning Musicale gave another performance on February 15, 1917 with Margaret at the piano- In Praesepio and the Cradle Song of the War (Mrs. Frederick Foote, soloist) were also included.The Heavenly Noel was also sung by the MacDowell Club on March 7, 1917 by a chorus of thirteen with Margaret at the piano and acting as conductor; In the Manger was also on this program. Pittsburgh heard The Heavenly Noel on January 29, 1919 sung by the Tuesday Musical Club. The conductor, Charles Boyd, sent Margaret a copy of the program and a note saying: “So well received that we shall probably repeat it later this season.” The repeat was performed on January 27, 1920 with a note in that program: “Repeated by general desire of the Choral.” (Scrapbook) The Heavenly Noel was part of a concert given by the MacDowell Club of Boston at Jordan Hall on January 28, 1920. Margaret was the pianist, Malcolm played the organ, and Mrs. M. N. Foote was the alto soloist. (Herald, January 18, 1920, p. 34, GenBank)

1921 saw a January 26th. performance of The Wild-brier by the MacDowell Club.This work and Song of the Three Sisters has been described as “a pair of settings for women”s voices on poems of John Vance Cheney, [which] evoke with wonderful success the dark, brooding nature of their language.In addition, they reveal to the fullest the immense range of her colorful harmonic palette, a late romantic chromaticism so slippery that analysts would often be hard-pressed to define tonal centers with absolute certainty.Her notational landscape is often littered with accidentals signifying a sense of almost perpetual transition.” (Osborne, p. 64)

Margaret obviously kept up with new musical styles-not only those that she heard at the BSO Friday afternoon concerts, but also such composers as Charles Ives. There are two notes in “The Charles Ives Papers” at Yale which thank Ives for sending her copies of his pieces. A card dated 7 March 1921 says that “I shall take great pleasure in playing it through, at the earliest opportunity,” while on 16 August, 1922 Margaret wrote that “Miss Lang begs to thank Mr. Ives for his very interesting + original music so kindly sent, + just received.” (MSS 14, The Charles Ives Papers in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University)

In 1923 Charles Boyd continued to champion The Heavenly Noel by including it in the program for the June 11th. concert of the Festival Chorus of Asheville.Mabel Daniels sent the notice of this concert that she had seen in the Bulletin of the National Federation of Music Clubs-on it she wrote: “I have missed not seeing you at the Symphonies.” (Scrapbook)Four years later Mr. Boyd again programmed The Heavenly Noel at the National Federation of Music Clubs Fifteen National Convention on April 22, 1927.

Appreciation for Margaret”s works continued through the 1930s. In a letter dated March 13, 1936, Wallace Goodrich, Director of the New England Conservatory and organist of the Church of the Advent wrote to tell her “how much pleasure the singing of your anthem [Grant, We beseech Thee] gave me recently at the Church of the Advent. “The work inspired the choir to sing better than usual,” and he asked her to consider writing a setting of the mass for that church.(Scrapbook)MargaretfromHalfHoursetc

FromRyan, p. 178, probably c. 1898.image042

From Hughes Contemporary American Composers, p.520 published in 1900, and Mathews The Great In Music.

The 1920 Census listed Margaret, aged 52 as daughter with Frances, aged 80 as the head of the household.Also listed as members of the household were three unmarried servants-Helen O”Brien, aged 32 born in Boston; Catherine McNulty, aged 55 from Ireland in 1889; and Margaret Magwil, aged 34, also from Ireland, but in 1906.image044This pose is very much like the 1935 “Etude” photo.

In 1925 Margaret was asked by the General Federation of Music Clubs to prepare a concert of her own works; the Federation would then make available on loan the music for this program to its members. It is interesting to see what she selected:

Women’s Chorus: Love Plumes His Wings-Opus 11

Song of the Three Sisters-1909

Alto or Mezzo Solo: Song of the Spanish Gypsies-Opus 50

A Garden is a Lovesome Thing-Opus 50

Summer Noon-Opus 37

A Thought-Opus 37

Women’s Chorus: In the Manger-Opus 56

The Wild Briar-1909


Mezzo Solo: Nonsense Songs-Opus 42 and 43

(four from each opus)

The Old Man of Dunbree

The Old Man With a Gong

The Young Lady of Lucca

The Old Man Who Said. “Well”

The Old Person of Rimini

The Old Man with a Beard

The Old Person of Ware

The Old Person of Cassel

Soprano Solo: Day Is Gone-Opus 40

St. Joseph’s Vigil-from Opus 52

Into My Heart-Opus 54

The Bird-Opus 40

Mezzo and Women’s Chorus: The Heavenly Noel

One set of this material was donated to the Boston Public Library on October 8, 1924, and each piece has the hand written notation, “Gift of composer through Mass. Federation of Music Clubs.”

       1925 saw performances by the MacDowell Club [of Boston] on January 14 of the Song of the Three Sisters and Heavenly Noel. Charles Manney conducted both works, and Margaret played the piano in the piano, organ, harp and strings accompaniment of the Heavenly Noel. The same performers also performed The Heavenly Noel at the St. Botolph Club on March 29, 1925. In New York City the St. Cecilia Club programmed Heavenly Noel for concerts on January 16th. and 20th. A letter from the group”s conductor, Victor Harris said: “It would interest you to know that we did the Heavenly Noel with an accompaniment of organ, piano, harp, and even chime.I introduced the latter into the section where St. Julian rings the bells, and also again at the end of the Sanctus.” (Scrapbook)

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