Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

300 traditional songs, inc sheet music with full piano accompaniment & lyrics.

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"The Light of Other Days" is said to have been the most popular song of its time in England, and it was a great favorite in America. Alfred Bunn, author of the words, was born about 1790. His life was spent in London, where he was for several years manager of Drury Lane Theatre. He published a volume of poems in 1816, a book called "The Stage, both before and behind the Curtain," in 1840,and in 1853, "Old England and New England," which records his impressions of and adventures in America. The excitement concerning the spirit-rappings was then at its height, and Mr. Bunn visited a " circle," where he was told the following particulars, known only to himself,—that his mother's name was Martha Charlotte, and that she died in Dublin, in 1833, at the age of seventy-tbree. Mr. Bunn being invited to lecture in Manchester, New Hampshire, in place of Theodore Parker, who was ill, gave an amusing talk, and when it was finished a gentleman in the audience, who supposed himself listening to Parker, said: "Now, my friend, are you convinced t Here is a man ascending the pulpit, and, instead of delivering pure and unmixed matter for the hearer's spiritual advantage, throws the congregation into horse-laughter by talking about Shakespeare and the players." At a lecture delivered in New-buryport, Bunn intended reciting the address to a skull, in "Hamlet," but on taking up the one furnished for the occasion, he discovered a sabre-cut on one side, and a bullet-hole on the other. It was impossible to apostrophize such a riddled pate with " Why might not this be the skull of a lawyer!" In life, it had been the thinking-apparatus of a soldier ot the Mexican war. Mr. Bunn's was a familiar name in the daily newspaper life of London, forty years ago, and Punch used to take pleasure in a quiet smile at the slightly pompous and self-important figure which he cut. He died about 1860.
Henry Phillips, in his " Musical and Personal Recollections during Half a Century," tells the story of this song: "Mr. Bunn had introduced to the English stage Madame Malibran, who appeared in the ' Sonnambula,' and received one hundred guineas a night, which sum, great as was her talent, she did not draw to the theatre. Notwithstanding this, Mr. Bunn entered into a further engagement with her, and was very anxious to bring her out in a new opera. He consulted me upon the occasion, and, amongst other things, asked me if I thought Mr. Balfe had talent enough to write an opera for so great a vocalist. My reply was, that I believed he had talent enough for anything. This settled the ques­tion ; and a subject was immediately decided on, and the opera christened ' The Maid of Artois.' Mr. Bunn wrote the libretto, which being handed over to Mr. Balfe, he com­menced his music to it. All went on very well, till he conceived that beautiful recitative and air, 'The light of other days is faded.' A happier thought never inspired his brain; and on scoring it for the orchestra, an equally bright idea flashed across him, in giving the solo and obligate to the cornet-a-piston, an instrument then new to the public, and produc­ing a most charming and sympathetic effect. . . . When I rehearsed • The Light of other days,' Madame Malibran, listening to it,' said, ' Oh, that is beautiful! I must have it in my part.' The composer, the dramatist, the manager, all assured her that it could not be. 'Don't tell me,' she said; 'I shall speak to Phillips. He is good-natured, and I am sure if he knows I prefer it in my character, he will let me have it.' Now, there is no doubt but Mr. Phillips was very good-natured, and would have done almost anything to oblige a lady, but he was too wise to part with so valuable a song as this, and therefore very politely declined. She was greatly annoyed, and said she would not play in the opera. Her name, however, having been announced, left her no possibility of escape. Every rehearsal increased the effect of my song, until the night of performance arrived, when my recitative and song was, like ' Farewell to the mountain,' most successful, and I had to ring it three times.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III