"I love poetry. I love
what poetry suggests to me in the way of music. The first thing that I wrote was a song. When I was
ten years old, I
wrote a song."
American Composer, Accompanist & Duo-Pianist
Celius Dougherty was born and lived
his first 16 years in
Glenwood, Minnesota. His mother delivered the 1879 Carroll College valedictory
speech in Latin, supervised music education in the public schools,
played the organ at the Glenwood Congregational Church, directed its
choir, organized seven of her eight children into a band and instructed her youngest in the art of
piano accompaniment. "I recall my mother most vividly at the
kitchen sink because while she washed the dishes, she always studied a
musical score, which was propped up on the sill in front of her."
His first public performance was at age ten, as her accompanist.
While at the University of Minnesota
Dougherty studied piano and composition
with Donald Ferguson, performed his own piano concerto with
orchestra, won the Schubert Club's piano competition and frequently accompanied a
UM voice faculty member, Gertrude
Hull, who introduced him to his "mainstay" publisher, the G. Schirmer Company.
The first song Schirmer published
Green Meadows (1925), was
a setting of a poem that he wrote, dedicated to Miss Hull and,
characteristically, attributed to
Upon graduating magna cum laude from UM
Dougherty won scholarships at Juilliard Foundation to study piano with
and composition with Rubin Goldmark. In New York, where he lived
for nearly fifty years, he performed his piano Sonata in E Flat at
Aeolian Hall in 1925 and his Sonata for Violin and Piano in 1930.
As a result of the latter performance, he was given the privilege of
working at the MacDowell Colony during the summers of 1931, 1932 and
1933 with artists who were "stimulating influences," including Thornton
Wilder, Edgar G. Robinson, Ruth Draper and Padraic Colum. One work
composed during these years (1930-32) was "Damia," a one-act opera based
on Petronius' Satyricon.
In New York, Dougherty became a sought-after accompanist, working with the leading recitalists of the 1920's, 30's
Alexander Kipnis (left,) Eva Gauthier, Nina Kochetz, Igor Gorin,
Florance Easton, Richard Crooks, Edward Johnson, Grete Stuckgold and, from 1927-46, Povla Frijsh
of their performing 27 songs together can be found on
Povla Frijsh -
the Complete Recordings (Pearl, Pavilion Records Ltd, Sparrows Green, Wadhurst, E. Sussex, England, 1994,) a double CD with a 9 page essay by Celius on their musical
relationship. "I played for her as I could not have possibly played for
any other artist." He also played for four presidents:
Harding, Coolidge, Roosevelt and Eisenhower.
In 1939 Dougherty formed a two-piano team with Vincenz
Ruzicka, appearing in every state of the union and in
Vienna with the
Vienna Symphony in 1955. The duo was noted for giving world
premieres of important new works for two pianos: Hindemith's
Sonata for Two Pianos, Stravinsky's Sonata
for Two Pianos,
Berg's Suite from
Variations on a Recitative. Some of
these were works for orchestra, which he arranged for two pianos.
Eleven were published. Another was a sonata, which he arranged from nautical themes,
Music from Seas and Ships, dedicated to his brother
went down with the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor.
This too was published and is featured on the CD,
Serenader - Songs & a Sonata by Celius Dougherty.
Dougherty’s catalogue of compositions includes a one-act
opera for children, Many Moons, a piano concerto, a string quartet,
sonatas for violin, piano, piano duo and choral arrangements.
However, he is best remembered for 200 gracious and witty songs, which
were introduced by Marian Anderson, Eva Gauthier, Roland Hayes, Bidu Sayao,
Maggie Teyte, Gladys Swarthout, Eileen Farrell, Eleanor Steber, Blanche
Thebom and William Warfield, who recorded his Sea Chanties with Aaron
Copeland for Columbia Records.
Early songs drew heavily from English and American poets:
Walt Whitman, James Joyce, E. E. Cummings, Amy Lowell, Robert Frost and Siegfreed Sassoon. Later works included
essays by children, Chinese poetry, the dictionary, newspapers,
spirituals, folksongs and poetry by Elizabeth Barret Browning,
Eglantine and Ivey, which enjoyed its
world premiere by Maria Jette on June 15, 2005, at the St. Paul Summer Song Festival.
Between 1948 and 1971 more than fifty songs were
published. By 1990 most were out of print. In 2004 G. Schirmer published two volumes, with a total of
48 songs, including 11 that have never before been published - mostly in
the folk genre, on which he focused in his later years.
For details on the song volumes and a recent
recording go to