Root, George Frederick



American vocal composer and writer; born at Sheffield, Mass. The son of a farmer, and the eldest of eight children; he had little early opportunity to cultivate his musical talent, but studied later under George Webb in Boston, and in 1839 became assistant teacher in the music school of A. N. Johnson, an organist in that city, later his partner, and also assistant organist and director of the Winter Street and Park Street Churches. In 1844 he removed to New York, became organist of the Presbyterian Church in Mercer Street, known as the "Church of the Strangers," and teacher of singing in various institutions. About this time he married Mary Olive Woodman, church and concert singer. In 1850 he went to Paris for a year's study, and on his return attempted composition. His earlier works and some of his later were published under the pseudonym, " Wurzel," the German word for Root. His first song, Hazel Dell, was successful, and his cantata, The Flower Queen, produced in New York, 1881, was quite successful. For several years he devoted his time to composition, his only other activity at this time being the conducting of musical conventions, a work in which he was an enthusiast. This brought him in contact with Lowell Mason, and in 1852 Mr. Root originated a summer normal school of music in New York, including also in its faculty Lowell Mason, William Bradbury and Thomas Hastings, which was followed by others on the same plane. About 1860 he removed to Chicago, and there became head partner in the musicpublishing firm of Root&Cady, which realized quick financial results from the sale of Root's popular songs and collections, but sustained heavy losses in the great fire of 1871 and soon afterward was dissolved. Mr. Root continued to live in Chicago, where he composed, edited various works, and conducted conventions as before. In 1881 he received the degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Chicago, and in 1886 visited Europe a second time. He died at his summer home on Bailey Island, near the Maine coast.


His compositions are as follows: Cantatas: Daniel; Pilgrim Fathers; Belshazzar's Feast; The Haymakers; and Song Tournament. Songs: Hazel Del; Rosalie, the Prairie Flower; Battle Cry of Freedom; Just Before the Battle; Tramp, Tramp, Tramp; The Vacant Chair; A Hundred Years Ago. The quartet, There's Music in the Air, is an effective serenade. Collections of church-music: Sabbath Bells; Diapason; Triumph; Glory. Collections of music for schools and conventions: The Silver Lute; Coronet; Forest Choir; Palace of Song; Chorus Castle; The Realm of Song; also The Musical Curriculum, an instruction book for piano, and other didactic works for piano and organ. Many of Root's productions were immensely popular in their day, especially the songs belonging to the time of the Civil War. While they do not belong to the classics, they are at least superior to the majority of the popular songs of the present day in purity of sentiment.