This is the day that … George Frederick Root was born in Massachusetts, USA, in 1820.
Born on a farm he ended up running the property at age 18, while his father and brother were in South America. His love for music began with the flute taught to him by his dad. At age 13 he was delighted that he could play one instrument for each year of his life.
He was invited to learn from Boston choirmaster, A.N. Johnson, and within seven weeks he had so mastered the piano that he played for church services. He advanced as a musician, teacher and composer. His particular love was to teach and he not only studied the leading methods of instruction but passed them on to the music teachers he prepared. By this he made a lasting contribution to the promotion of musical skill within America.
Fanny Crosby became one of his pupils and she contributed the lyrics to a cantata, The Flower Queen, which he wrote as a tool for teaching his students. That work was the first secular cantata composed in America.
He became a hymn and melody writer of much note, arguably one of the most successful musicians of his age. Under the pseudonym of G. Friedrich Wurzel he wrote a number of minstrel songs that achieved much popularity in the secular world.
One of the melodies he wrote was called The Little Octroon. The composer sent it to William O. Cushing, who wrote the gospel words:
Ring the bells of Heaven,
There is joy today …
His great invitation hymn, for which he wrote both words and music, is still in many hymnals today:
Come to the Saviour,
Make no delay …
George F. Root also wrote the melody for the well-loved children’s hymn:
When He cometh, when He cometh,
To make up His jewels …
Before his death in 1895, Root helped edit 75 musical collections and was partner in a music publishing firm which was ruined in the great Chicago fire. He is noted as a man of spotless integrity.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.