Home, Sweet Home; Songs about House and Home.

Home, Sweet Home

1823 (this cover, 1866)

Music by: Sir Henry Rowley Bishop
Lyrics by: John Howard Payne
Cover artist: unknown

It may be that this song ranks among a handful of songs that changed the world of popular music. Recognized almost universally, it is amazing to realize that the song has been in constant play for almost 200 years! Written for an operetta, Clari; or, The Maid of Milan, which was first performed at the Covent Garden Theater in London in 1823 it has far surpassed the memory of the opera and the composer and lyricist. In fact, though both Bishop and Payne were both noted in their times, both are almost entirely remembered only for this song.


The melody was "borrowed" by Bishop from a Sicilian melody he included as a 'Sicilian Air' in a volume of (presumably not very authentic) National Airs edited by him in 1821. As was (and still is) often the case, Bishop reused the tune when composing the music for the opera Clari. It is the lyricist Payne who perhaps deserves more acclaim and credit for the lasting value of the song. His simple lyrics with a lasting and memorable catch phrase, elevated a rather nice but nondescript melody to blockbuster status. The combination of melody and lyrics make for one of music's most seminal and important works.


Sir, Henry Rowley Bishop, (1786 - 1855) was, during his times one of the most important composers in England. The first composer to be knighted by Queen Victoria in 1842, Bishop was highly regarded as a composer particularly of songs and opera. In spite of the enormous list of his stage works, that includes no fewer than eight pieces based on Sir W. Scott and at least seventeen Operas, his output contains little of interest or that is performed today save that one simple song from his Opera Clari; the song Home, Sweet Home.


Born in London, Bishop began composing at a very early age and studied under the noted Cremonese composer Francesco Bianchi (1752 - 1810). At the age of only eighteen he wrote the music to the stage work Angelina (1804) and later, for the ballet Tamerlan et Bajazet. His three act opera, The Circassian Bride (1809) produced at the Drury Lane Theater is the work that first brought Bishop into critical and popular notice. A tragic footnote to history regarding The Circassian Bride is that the night after it's first performance, the theater was destroyed in a fire and Bishop's only score for the work was lost in the fire. So strong was the reception to that one performance though that Bishop's work was acclaimed and in 1810, he was offered the prestigious position of musical director of Covent Garden. During his thirteen year tenure at Covent Garden, he produced many operas including The Lady of the Lake"
Guy Mannering, and The Slave.


In 1813, Bishop founded the Philharmonic Society and acted as conductor for a period of two years during which he produced a number of oratorios and other works. In 1825 he returned to opera and to the rebuilt Drury Lane Theater. In 1830 he was appointed musical director at Vauxhall Gardens and later, in 1840 & 41, he returned to Covent Garden as director.


In 1840, his last dramatic piece, The Fortunate Isles,was produced at Covent Garden in honor of the queen's (Victoria) wedding. No stranger to academia, Bishop also served as professor of music at Edinburgh University from 1841 to 1843 and in 1848 he became professor of music at Oxford. In 1842, he was knighted by Victoria, the first composer to receive this honor.


During his long career, Bishop produced over one hundred and twenty-five operas, operettas, ballets and other musical works. More than two thirds of his output was entirely his own the others being adaptations or collaborations with other composers or librettists. Unfortunately, it seems few if any of these works save Home Sweet Home have survived to be found in the modern repertory.


Bishop died in 1855 and is buried at Burial:
East Finchley Cemetery (formerly Saint Marylebone Finchley, London, England

(image from http://www.findagrave.com )


John Howard Payne, (1791 - 1852) The lyricist of Home Sweet Home, was a noted American poet, sometime actor and playwright born in New York. He was the son of William Payne, of an old Massachusetts family, and Sarah Isaacs of East Hampton. John Howard was the sixth of nine children. Payne's father was
a successful teacher of elocution. He came to East Hampton to teach at Clinton Academy, the third oldest school in New York State. He trained John Howard well in diction and delivery and then was alarmed when the boy expressed a desire to go on the stage.


A wealthy merchant offered to bear the expenses of a college education and in 1806 young Payne was sent to Union College to study under the great educator, Dr. Eliphalet Nott. While a student there he was active in the college societies and contributed poems and essays to neighboring newspapers. His life at Union was short, however, for two years later his father's bankruptcy and failing health made it necessary for him to leave Schenectady and assist in the support of his family. This gave him an opportunity to put his dramatic talents to use and in 1809 he made his debut as actor on the New York stage in the tragedy, Douglas,in which he scored an instant success. His triumph was brief and the next year found him without backing and without funds.


In 1813 he sailed for England with money raised by friends to finance a year abroad.
He stayed not one year but twenty, a period of fame, prosperity, and failure. He soon
realized that as an actor he could never again attain the success of his earlier venture
and so turned his attention to dramatic writing. During his stay in Europe he wrote,
translated, or adapted for the English state more than sixty plays. He was the first
American who as actor or playwright attracted attention in England.


Home, Sweet Home, his one claim to immortality, was included in the opera, Clari;
or, The Maid of Milan
, with Music by Sir Henry Rowley Bishop which was performed at the Covent Garden Theater in London in 1823. Many stories have been told as to how this song came to be written, but it seems to have been composed merely as a sentimental poetic ballad during his residence in Paris. For the play he received fifty pounds, but not one penny for the song.


A disillusioned man, Payne returned to America in 1832 with passage money provided by friends. Ten years later he was appointed American consul at Tunis, Africa, where he died on April 9, 1852.

From, Our Hall of Fame, pp. 16-17, 1938, the Schenectady Public Library.

Enjoy this historic song(SCORCH format)

listen to MIDI version


If I Only Had A Home Sweet Home


Music by: A.L. Mc Dermott
Lyrics by: J. Johns
Cover artist: Unknown


The success of Home Sweet Home spawned hundreds and hundreds of "home" songs over a period of well over 100 years and even up till today. Stephen Foster's 1853 song, My Old Kentucky Home, good night! (MIDI) may have been the next real benchmark in the "home songs" genre (if there is such a thing) but composers continued to pen titles that included the words "Home, Sweet Home as well as the musical phrase that is attached to those words. Most of the home songs were romantic and nostalgic in nature, a few were humorous and some were somber and sad.


This song would have fit nicely with our October, 2001 issue on "Tear Jerkers" as it is a lament about a poor orphan boy who sees the happiness of other children who have a family and home and whom wishes for his own "home, sweet home." The song has the sound of a Charles K. Harris song and seems modeled after his own tear jerker format that brought him so much success. The cover is one of the more somber ones I've seen, certainly a good match with the subject of the song.


A. L. Mc Dermott and J. Johns are but two of the many composers whose life details have been misplaced somewhere in the halls of musical history. Regrettable, my resources make absolutely no mention of them save for this one song. If anyone has any information about these two, please share it with us so we can add it to our own archives for publication here.

Listen to and see this emotional home song (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




In The Harbor Of Home Sweet Home


Music by: A. J. Holmes
Lyrics by: C,M. Dennison
Cover artist: MWCC(1), unknown(2)


Featured in the Nest Magzine article, here is a work that we have two different copies of with different covers so we have included both covers as a "rollover" (put your cursor over the cover image). We've seen many songs reissued by different publishers with different covers. This is yet another song with a great deal of passion and regardless of which cover they were published with, the song inside were always the same. Again, we have a song that has borrowed the "Home Sweet Home" line but has little else in common with the original.


The first cover implies a song about a sailor pining for home, only in the remotest sense is that the real theme of the song within. As you'll see from the lyrics , there is scant mention of sailing and it is only at the end that we get to the "harbor". Nonetheless, it is a nice tune with a nice waltz chorus that is engaging but nondescript.


A. J. Holmes is another of the missing in action songwriters from the period. C.M. Dennison wrote at least one other song, When the Sheep are in the Fold, Jenny Dear with Fred Helf in 1907.

Hear this great old melody (scorch format)

listen to MIDI version




Down The Trail To Home Sweet Home


Music by: Ernest R. Ball
Lyrics by: Ball
Cover artist: unknown


With a beautiful unsigned cover, this is another one of our covers featured in Nest Magazine. The great Ernest R. Ball is best known for his "Irish" songs but he managed to write many other songs that played well in the homes of America (and abroad). This song is in the best ballad tradition of Ball and speaks to the fact that there really is no place like home. When the world deals you a bad hand, you always gravitate towards home as a place of comfort and solace.


The chorus is one of the most beautiful in this month's feature. A tender and beautiful melody, it uses well placed arpeggios and has a nice added harmony for two parts. It has a nice emotional ebb and flow and with generous use of rubato makes for a lovely tribute to home.


Ernest R. Ball (b. July 21, 1878 Cleveland, OH. d. May 3, 1927 Santa Ana, CA)
Ball was precocious in music from the start. He was given music instruction at the Cleveland Conservatory, and as early as age 13 began giving music lessons to others. Today he is noted mostly as one of America's best loved composers of Irish songs and is often called the American Tosti (Francesco Paolo Tosti, 1846-1916, a prolific and talented Italian song composer and teacher.) Though he was famed as a composer of Irish tunes, he wrote many other "mainstream" songs, actually, many more than his "Irish" output.


In 1905, Ball was already in New York City and working as a relief pianist at the Union Square Theater and later worked in Tin Pan Alley at the Whitmark publishing house as a song demonstrator. Ball remained a loyal employee of Whitmark for the rest of his life in spite of his fame. Ball's early attempts at composing were self described as "flops." In 1904 he wrote In The Shadow Of The Pyramids with Cecil Mack. Introduced by the dynamic and popular May Irwin, that song was also a "flop." In 1905 he was given a few verses written by the then state Senator, James J. Walker, who later became famous as Jimmy Walker, Mayor of New York City. He put one of the verse to music, and called it Will You Love Me In December as You Do In May?. It became a national hit. This song caused Ball to reassess his approach and in he later recounted that he realized this song had "come from the heart" where his earlier songs had been fabricated and structured. Ball said, "Then and there I determined I would write honestly and sincerely of the things I knew about and that folks generally knew about and were interested in."


From that beginning and from 1907 to 1910, Ball wrote a number of 'mainstream' songs that were moderately successful. But in 1910, a collaboration with Chaucey Olcott, changed his career. In that year, Ball wrote the Irish classic, Mother Machree. Two years later, in 1912 the lyricist of Mother Machree, Rida Johnson Young, joined him again to publish When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and his position as a writer of Irish ballads was cemented forever. He wrote hundreds of songs over his career, many Irish, many not and it is said his output amounted to over 25 million copies of sheet music sold. His last song published was appropriately, Irish, the 1927 hit Rose of Killarney with lyrics by William Davidson.


Ball also enjoyed a long career in vaudeville as a singer of his own ballads. During later appearances, he costarred with his wife, Maude Lambert. In 1927, A few minutes after his act on a Santa Ana, CA vaudeville theater, he suffered a fatal heart attack and died, just 49 years old. Fittingly, he had just performed a medley of his greatest hits as a recap of his great musical accomplishments. On hearing of his death, the great Irish tenor John Mc Cormack said; "Ernie is not dead. He will live forever in his songs."

Ball was buried at Lake View Cemetery Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Ohio, USA

Hear this old wonderful song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version




Lights Of Home


Music by: Al. Trahern, arr. Lee Orean Smith
Lyrics by: Trahern
Cover artist: unknown

Here we have another of the many Sunday newspaper supplements that were printed in the early 20th century. With pianos gracing nearly every home, music was a national past-time and the newspapers knew that adding "free" sheet music was a way to bolster interest in the Sunday editions. Of course, for those without pianos, the music may have made a nice liner for the bird cage. Unfortunately, the format and distribution of this music has resulted in the loss of many otherwise unpublished works. Thanks to a few farsighted people though, some of the works have been preserved. Of course, due to the extremely short lived nature of high acid newsprint, we are finding fewer and fewer of these to preserve and the condition of most is deplorable. For more information about this form of music publication, see our feature on Sunday supplement music .


As with many of the Sunday supplement songs, this one is not necessarily the stuff of hits. This one though, is quite nice with a lovely melody and a better than average chorus. The lyrics tell a nice story about a family who sees the father off to sea and wait patiently with the lights of home burning for his return. Once again, we find the words "Home, Sweet Home" used in a refrain. Unlike most of the Sunday supplement songs, this one enjoyed a fairly widespread popularity and was published in several versions over a period of years. This copy was published Sunday, Aug. 23, 1905 as a supplement to the New York American and Journal.


Al. Trahern, published a number of songs other than Lights of Home including Topsy's in Town with Warner Crosby in 1899 and In Sunny Africa with Ted S. Barron in 1902. In spite of that, we still are unable to find out much else about his life.


Enjoy this rare song (scorch)

Listen to MIDI version



Heimweh (Longing For Home)

before 1892

Music by: Albert Jungmann
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: both unknown


Now for a musical interlude to end our first page and transition to our second page. This interesting piano solo piece was published in a number of editions, we've included two of the covers for your to see here (place your mouse pointer over the cover to see the second image). A very, very nice tune by a respected German composer, it evokes memories of home and a journey's end. Heimweh is a German word meaning homesick or, as in the second titled cover, a longing for home. This languid and flowing piece is one I find comforting and certainly one that is expressive. Very much a classical piece and very artistic, no wonder this has been one of Jungmann's most lasting works.


This song without words probably has its origin in the poem by Johann Ladislaus Pyrker (1772-1847) that was set to music by by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), in his song Das Heimweh written in 1825 and published in 1827 as his Op. 79 (D. 851b). However, a number of other prominent composers have used Heimweh as a subject for music or songs including three songs by Johannes Brahms. Oddly enough, all three copies of the song I have do not carry a copyright or publication date and I've been unable to pin down the actual date of composition or publication of this work. Since Jungmann died in 1892, it had to obviously precede that date.


Albert Jungmann (B. Langensalza, (Prussia) Germany, November 14, 1824; D. Pandorf, Austria, 1892 ) Jungmann studied music theory with Liebrock and piano with Gotthilf W. Körner who later was one of his primary publishers along with G. A. Spina, music publishers in Vienna. Jungmann moved to Italy and was professor of music at the St. Cecilia Academy in Rome for some time. He returned to Vienna in 1853. Jungmann also managed one publishing house, Diabella & Co and ultimately succeeded Spina as owner and he changed the publishing house's name to Jungmann and Lerch. He wrote hundreds of salon pieces for piano. His music was quite popular due to its melodiousness and practical technique. He composed some songs and orchestral music but it seems his piano work Heimweh, is his most remembered work.

Listen to this beautiful salon piece (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version




See our resources page for a complete bibliography of all resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

WAIT! There are more Home Songs to see and hear. The second part of this issue features more rare and different works.

More hit music and covers in this month's issue, go to part B.

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