S.A.Allen: ‘John Wesley Work: a Profile’, Fisk University News, xli/3 (1967), 12 only
E.Southern: The Music of Black Americans: a History (New York, 1971, rev. 2/1983), 251, 293, 434, 450, 509
J.Lovell: Black Song: the Forge and the Flame (New York, 1972), 19, 94, 342, 400ff
L.Wyatt: ‘Composers Corner: Julian Cassander Work’, Black Music Research Newsletter, viii/3 (1985–6), 5 only
F.Perry: Afro-American Vocal Music: a Select Guide to Fifteen Composers (Berrien Springs, MI, 1991), 38–46, 105–8
WILLIAM BURRES GARCIA (1–3), WILLIE STRONG (4)
(1) John W(esley) Work (i)
(bNashville, TN, 6 Aug 1873; d Nashville, 7 Sept 1925). Conductor, writer on music, composer and tenor. He studied music at Fisk University, Nashville, and, in 1896–7, classics at Harvard University. He taught Latin and history at Fisk from 1898 to 1923, and from then until his death was president of Roger Williams University, Nashville. He conducted and performed with both student and professional bodies, and composed several songs; through his lectures and scholarly writings he became a leading authority on black American music and culture. He attempted to perpetuate the work of the Jubilee Singers, who had disseminated the spiritual on their American and European tours in the 1870s, and with whose successors he worked at Fisk from 1898 to 1917. He defended the spiritual as the USA’s only true folk music and made Fisk University one of the leading centres of its study; his exhaustive Folk Song of the American Negro (Nashville, TN, 1915/R) was one of the earliest scholarly treatments of the subject.
His wife Agnes Haynes Work (1876–1927) was a fine contralto of exceptional range; she was soloist with the Jubilee Singers during her husband’s conductorship and conducted the group after his death.
(2) Frederick J(erome) Work
(b Nashville, 11 Aug 1880; d Bordentown, NJ, 17 Jan 1942). Composer, teacher and scholar, brother of (1) John W(esley) Work (i). He taught at Roger Williams University and at black colleges in Arkansas and Missouri. His compositions include a String Quartet in F, Suite nègre for violin and piano, a cantata Out of the Depths, and many arrangements of African-American folk music, in the collection and dissemination of which he collaborated with his brother. He published the collections New Jubilee Songs (1902), Folk Songs of the American Negro (with John W. Work, 1907), and Some American Negro Folksongs (1909).
(3) John W(esley) Work (ii)
(b Tullahoma, TN, 15 June 1901; d Nashville, 17 May 1967). Composer, scholar, conductor and teacher, son of (1) John W(esley) Work (i). He graduated in history at Fisk University in 1923, studied singing at the Institute of Musical Art in New York in 1923–4, and in 1930 gained a music teaching diploma at Columbia University. He studied composition at Yale University from 1931 to 1933, having taught at Fisk University from 1927 to 1931. He returned to Fisk in 1933 and remained there for the rest of his life, teaching theory, conducting the Jubilee Singers (1947–57), and serving as chairman of the music department (1951–7); on his retirement in 1966 he became professor emeritus.
Work’s prolific output, which includes orchestral, instrumental, vocal and choral pieces, shows his keen interest in black folk music. The greater part of it consists of choral folksong arrangements, including 70 spirituals, in which variety of texture and dynamics lends interest to the simple strophic form. In his original choral music (in which folk elements appear only rarely) he favoured a smooth, consonant diatonic style. In 1946 his cantata The Singers won first prize in a competition organized by the Fellowship of American Composers. As a musicologist Work was a perceptive authority on black American folk music; his writings, which include American Negro Songs and Spirituals (1940) and Jubilee (1962), deal with secular as well as sacred music.
(4) Julian C(assander), Work
(b Nashville, TN, 25 Sept 1910; d Tolland, MA, 15 June 1995). Composer, son of John W(esley) Work (i), nephew of Frederick J(erome) Work and brother of John W(esley) Work (ii). He studied composition with his brother while a sociology student at Fisk University. After moving to New York in the early 1930s, he worked as a staff arranger for CBS and became one of the first black American composers to write music for radio and television. Despite his family's interests in black American folksong (his father, uncle and brother published collections), Work belongs to the postwar generation of black composers who wrote in a cosmopolitan musical language that disassociated them from the composers of the Harlem Renaissance. He is best known for his works for wind ensemble, such as the tone poems Portraits from the Bible (1956), Autumn Walk (1957) and Driftwood Patterns (1961). Though his music frequently features strong dissonances and intense chromatic progressions, his compositions have well-established tonal centres.
Work, Agnes Haynes.
Wife of John W. Work. SeeWork family, (1) John W. (i).
Work, Henry Clay
(b Middletown, CT, 1 Oct 1832; dHartford, CT, 8 June 1884). American composer. The son of abolitionist parents, he was apprenticed as a printer and taught himself songwriting. In 1855 Work moved to Chicago where he was employed by the music publishers Root & Cady. The American Civil War seeded his most fecund songwriting period, and led to immensely popular products like Kingdom Coming (1862), Uncle Joe’s ‘Hail Columbia!’ (1862) and Marching through Georgia (1865). More than perhaps any other songwriter Work captured the deeply felt emotions of the Civil War; he was rewarded with a popularity that outstripped even that of Stephen Foster. Although he was not a great innovator, Work shares much of the credit for the development of the carefully defined verse–chorus structure of late 19th-century popular song, and most of his pieces from this time take this shape. In addition to war songs, he wrote love songs as well as humorous, tragic and moralistic pieces. He composed only two temperance songs, but his Come home, Father (1864) is perhaps the best-known in the genre. After the war his powers seem to have waned, in part because of unhappy domestic circumstances. A platonic relationship with a yonger woman led to renewed creative energies in the mid-1870s, writing the immensely popular Grand-Father’s Clock in 1875. This song tied together many characteristics of Work’s earlier songs and sold nearly one million copies, a total unprecedented at that time.
Edition: H.C. Work Songs, ed. B.G. Work (New York, 1884/R) [W]
unless otherwise stated, all are solo songs with words by Work; all were published in Chicago. For further details see Hill
We are coming, sister Mary (New York, 1853); God save the nation! (T. Tilton) (1862), W; Grafted into the Army (1862), W; Kingdom Coming (1862), W; Sleep, baby, sleep (1862); Uncle Joe’s ‘Hail Columbia!’ (1862), W; We’ll go down ourselves (1862); Babylon is fallen! (1863), W; Days when We were Young (1863), W; Grandmother told me so (1863); Little Major (1863), W; Sleeping for the Flag (1863), W; Song of a Thousand Years (1863), W; Watching for Pa (words adapted by Work) (1863), W; Columbia’s Guardian Angels (1864); Come home, Father (1864), W; Corporal Schnapps (1864), W; The Picture on the Wall (words adapted by Work) (1864), W; Wake, Nicodemus! (1864), W; Washington and Lincoln (1864), W
Marching through Georgia (1865), W; Now, Moses! (1865), W; Ring the bell, watchman! (1865), W; The Ship that Never Return’d (1865), W; Tis finished! or, Sing hallelujah (1865), W; Andy Veto (1866); Lillie of the Snowstorm, or Please, father, let us in (1866), W; Poor Kitty Popcorn, or The Soldier’s Pet (1866), W; When the ‘Evening Star’ went down (1866), W; Who shall rule this American nation? (1866), W; Come back to the farm (1867), W; Dad’s a Millionaire (1867), W; Crossing the Grand Sierras (1869), W; No Letters from Home (1869), W; Grand-Father’s Clock (New York, 1876), W; The Mystic Veil (New York, 1876), W; Sweet Echo Dell (New York, 1876), W; Touch the Sleeping Strings (Cleveland, 1876); Used-Up Joe (Cleveland, 1876); The Lost Letter (1883); The Prayer on the Pier (1883); The Silver Horn (1883); Drop the pink curtains (New York, 1884)
Principal publisher: Root & Cady, Cady
DAB (J.T. Howard)
G.Birdseye: ‘America’s Song Composers … IV: Henry Clay Work’, Potter’s American Monthly, xii (1879), 284–8
S.W.Loper: The Life of Henry Clay Work (MS, 1907, Middletown, CT, Middlesex County Historical Society; copy in US-NYp)
S.Spaeth: A History of Popular Music in America (New York, 1948), 155–8
R.S.Hill: ‘The Mysterious Chord of Henry Clay Work’, Notes, x (1952–3), 211–25, 367–90 [with complete list of works]
I.Silber and J.Silverman, eds.: Songs of the Civil War (New York, 1960/R), 15ff
D.J.Epstein: Music Publishing in Chicago before 1871: the Firm of Root & Cady, 1858–1871 (Detroit, 1969)
J.Mattson: The Music of Henry Clay Work: Victorian Songster (MS, US-Wc)
J.Newsom: disc notes, Who Shall Rule this American Nation?: Songs of the Civil War Era by Henry Clay Work, Nonesuch H71317 (1975)