(b Shadyside, Pittsburgh, 30 April 1871; dWinter Park, FL, 6 May 1947). American contralto. She studied music at Philadelphia and Boston, then married the composer Sidney Homer in 1895 and went to Paris, where she studied singing and acting with Fidèle Koenig and Paul Lhérie, the first Don José. She made her operatic début at Vichy in 1898, as Léonor in La favorite. At Covent Garden in 1899 she sang Lola and Amneris, returning in 1900 for Ortrud and Maddalena after a winter season at La Monnaie in Brussels. Her American début (1900) was with the Metropolitan Opera on tour in San Francisco as Amneris, in which role she also made her first New York appearance. Homer began a long and successful Metropolitan career, singing chiefly in Italian and French opera, but she soon assumed leading Wagnerian roles; she was also a notable Orpheus in Toscanini’s 1909 revival of Gluck’s opera, created the Witch in Humperdinck’s Königskinder (1910) and was the first to sing the title role in Parker’s Mona (1912). After resigning from the Metropolitan in 1919, she sang with other major American companies including the Chicago Grand Opera (1920–25) and the San Francisco and Los Angeles operas (1926). She returned to the Metropolitan in 1927 and made her last appearance there in 1929, as Azucena. A performer of great artistic integrity, she had a beautiful voice and a majestic stage presence. Among her many recordings the ensembles with Caruso, Martinelli, Gigli and others are particularly successful. Samuel Barber was her nephew.
(b Boston, 9 Dec 1864; d Winter Park, FL, 10 July 1953). American composer. He studied with Chadwick in Boston and with Rheinberger and others in Munich and Leipzig. Returning to Boston, he taught theory from 1888 to 1895, in which year he married the contralto Louise Beatty. He travelled extensively with her in Europe and the USA and attended virtually every rehearsal and performance that his health, frequently precarious, would allow. They lived in New York from 1900. He naturally turned to songwriting, and his wife often presented recitals of his music. His 103 songs, which were extremely popular during his lifetime and were included on many American singers' programmes, were almost all published by G. Schirmer. Homer's music, grounded in the Germanic style of Chadwick and Foote, is predominantly diatonic but has an extensive harmonic vocabulary. The songs, for which he chose texts of generally high quality, encompass a wide emotional range, from the lyrical to the highly dramatic. His most popular pieces include A Banjo Song (from the Bandanna Ballads), Song of the Shirt, How's my boy?, and Songs from Mother Goose; Dearest is perhaps his best-known love song, and the Requiem well represents the religious side of his output. A quartet and quintet for strings and a few other instrumental works were performed locally in Florida after he retired there in 1939, but he did not seek to have them published.
H.C.Thorpe: ‘The Songs of Sidney Homer’, MQ, xvii (1931), 47–73
S.Homer: My Wife and I (New York, 1939/R)
S.Barber: Preface to 17 Songs by Sidney Homer (New York, 1943)
R.V.Beatie: ‘A Forgotten Legacy: the Songs of the “Boston Group”’, NATS Journal, xlviii/1 (1991–2), 6–9, 37
Poems addressed to various Greek deities, employing Homeric diction and composed in dactylic hexameter for solo recitation. The corpus of 33 poems, compiled at an unknown date and mistakenly ascribed to Homer, contains four long hymns ranging in length from 293 to 724 verses and dating from about 650 to 400 bce. The other 29 hymns are much shorter and were written somewhat later. Since the ancient sources refer to the hymns as prooimia (preludes) and several of the pieces contain a promise to sing another song, it has been suggested that the hymns once served as introductions to longer epic poems. But this opinion has been contested, especially in the case of the four long hymns. Little is known about the circumstances of performance, although the poems were probably recited in poetic competition at religious festivals. Thucydides (iii.104) describes the festival of Apollo at Delos, including two quotations from the hymn To Apollo. Most of the hymns consist merely of invocation and praise of their addressees, but the longer hymns are narrative and relate a myth central to the god’s identity. The hymn To Hermestells of the birth of Hermes, his invention of the lyre and his presentation of this newly crafted instrument to Apollo, with whom it was afterwards associated. Several of the hymns also contain references to the social and religious uses of music in the Archaic and classical Greek world.
T.W.Allen, W.R.Halliday and E.E.Sikes, eds.: The Homeric Hymns (Oxford, 1904, 2/1936/R)
A.Barker, ed.: Greek Musical Writings, i: The Musician and his Art (Cambridge, 1984), 38–46