Contemporary Commentary on Philip Paul Bliss

  The following was written by (the composer) George Frederick Root (1820-1895) from his book The Story of a Musical Life, An Autobiography, published in Cincinnati by The John Church Co., in 1891, from Chapter XII, concerning events from 1861-1870, pages 138-139.

  It must have been some time in 1863 that I received a
letter from somewhere in Pennsylvania that interested us
all very much. It accompanied the manuscript of a song.
Would we give the writer a flute for it, was the substance
of the letter, expressed in a quaint and original way, and in
beautiful handwriting. We were on the lookout for bright men,
and we felt sure that here was one. The song needed some revising,
but we took it and and sent him a flute. After
a while he wrote again, saying he would like to come out to
Chicago if he could find anything to do. He gave an account
of his accomplishments in his droll way, and we all became
much interested in having him come. I think it was he who
finally made the plan that was agreed upon, namely: He
would go as our representative to the towns that would
naturally be tributary to Chicago, and hold conventions, or
give concerts, or do, something musical, whenever he could
get the opportunity, (his wife being his accompanist,) and so
turn people's attention to us for whatever they might want
in the way of music. For this service we guarenteed him a
certain annual sum. If the proceeds of his concerts and
conventions did not match that amount we were to make it
up. While engaged in this work he was constantly sending
in words and music of various kinds for revision and correc-
tion. It was not long before I saw here was a man who
had a "call" especially as a poet. His musical training and
experiences were too limited to permit safe flights on his part
beyond simlpe harmonies, although it was easily seen that
he had a natural vein of true melody. What a wonderful use
his songs have performed now for more than a score of years.
I presume it is seen that I am writing of the beloved and
lamented P. P. Bliss.
  When Mr. Moody, from being a simple, hard working
but devoted city missionary in Chicago, began to come to
the front as an evangelist, Mr. Bliss's songs, and some that I
wrote, were of much use to him. He used to say of my first
gospel song, "Come to the Savior," that is was the "Rally
Round the Flag" of the gospel work. It was indeed stirring
when Mr. Bliss's magnificent voice gave it forth, for it then
came from a heart and soul in deepest sympathy with the
work to which he ultimately devoted himself--the writing
and singing of gospel songs. He remained with us until the
breaking up caused by the great fire, and we published all
the songs and other music that he wrote up to that time.

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Created on 29 January 2000.
Last updated on 7 October 2002.