Melinda Coffey Armstead, piano & organ
Ragtime Nightingale . . . Joseph F. Lamb (1887-1960)
His Eye Is On the Sparrow . . . tune by Charles Gabriel (1856-1932), arr. by Mary McDonald
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing . . . tune by Carl Glazer (1784-1829), arr. by James Stevens
Ode to Joy . . . Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Le Rappel des Oiseaux (The Assembly of Birds). . . Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
Joseph Francis Lamb was an American composer of ragtime music. Lamb, of Irish descent, was the only non-African American of the “Big Three” composers of classical ragtime, the other two being Scott Joplin and James Scott. Lamb was born in Montclair, New Jersey. The youngest of four children, he taught himself to play the piano and admired the early ragtime publications of Scott Joplin. He dropped out of St. Jerome’s College in 1904 to work for a dry goods company. He met Joplin in 1907 while purchasing the latest Joplin and Scott sheet music in the offices of John Stark & Son. Joplin was impressed with Lamb’s compositions and recommended him to ragtime publisher John Stark. Stark published Lamb’s music for the next decade.
In 1911, Lamb married Henrietta Schultz and moved to Brooklyn, New York. He worked as an arranger for the J. Fred Helf Music Publishing Company and later as an accountant for L. F. Dommerich & Company. Henrietta died of influenza in 1920 about the same time that popular music interest shifted from ragtime to jazz. Lamb stopped publishing his music, playing and composing only as a hobby.
With the revival of interest in ragtime in the 1950s, Lamb shared his memories of Joplin and other early ragtime figures with music historians. Many were surprised to find that not only was he still living but that he was white. He composed new rags, brought out compositions that had never been published, and made recordings. A year before his death in 1960 the album Joseph Lamb: A Study in Classic Ragtime was released by Folkways Records. He died of a heart attack in Brooklyn at age 72.