The Lost Chord

The Lost Chord

The Lost Chord is a song composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1877 at the bedside of his brother Fred during Fred's last illness. The manuscript is dated 13 January 1877, and Fred Sullivan died five days later. The lyric was written as a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter called "A Lost Chord," published in 1858 in "The English Woman's Journal".

"The Lost Chord" was immediately successful and became particularly associated with Sullivan's close friend and sometime mistress, Fanny Ronalds, who often sang it at society functions. [Ainger, pp. 128–29] Sullivan was proud of the song and later noted: "I have composed much music since then, but have never written a second Lost Chord." [ [ "The Lost Chord"] at The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive]

Many singers have recorded the song, including Enrico Caruso, who sang it at the Metropolitan Opera House on April 29 1912 at a benefit concert for families of victims of the "Titanic" disaster. [ Caruso recording] ] The song has endured as one of Sullivan's best-known songs, and the setting is still performed today.


Fred Sullivan was engaged as an actor in several of the operas that Arthur Sullivan had written, up to that time. In addition, as F. C. Burnand, Arthur Sullivan's collaborator, wrote: "Fred Sullivan... was a first-rate practical musician, and Arthur always found him employment in any orchestra that he had to conduct. As he was the most absurd person, so was he the very kindliest. The brothers were devoted to each other, but Arthur went up, and poor little Fred went under." ["Quoted", in Ayer, p. 408] Fred had created the roles of Apollo in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Thespis", and the Learned Judge in their "Trial by Jury", and he had also appeared in revivals of Arthur Sullivan's "Cox and Box" and "The Contrabandista". Fred most likely would have played a leading role in Gilbert and Sullivan's next work, "The Sorcerer", but he fell ill in 1876 and died before that work could be produced.

Arthur Sullivan's father's death had inspired him to write his Overture In C (In Memoriam) over a dozen years earlier. During Fred's final illness, Arthur visited him frequently at his home on King's Road in Fulham, London. Again in grieving, he was inspired to compose, and he sketched out the music to "The Lost Chord".

1888 recording for Edison

In 1888, Thomas Edison sent his "Perfected" Phonograph to Mr. George Gouraud in London, England, and on August 14 1888, Gouraud introduced the phonograph to London in a press conference, including the playing of a piano and cornet recording of Sullivan's "The Lost Chord," one of the first recordings of music ever made." [ Historic Sullivan Recordings] ", The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive. Access date: 30 June 2007]

A series of parties followed, introducing the phonograph to members of society at the so-called "Little Menlo" in London. Sullivan was invited to one of these on October 5 1888. After dinner, he recorded a speech to be sent to Thomas Edison, saying, in part:

These recordings were discovered in the Edison Library in New Jersey in the 1950s.


Seated one day at the organ,I was weary and ill at ease,And my fingers wandered idlyOver the noisy keys.

I know not what I was playing,Or what I was dreaming then;But I struck one chord of music,Like the sound of a great Amen.

It flooded the crimson twilight,Like the close of an angel's psalm,And it lay on my fevered spiritWith a touch of infinite calm.

It quieted pain and sorrow,Like love overcoming strife;It seemed the harmonious echoFrom our discordant life.

It linked all perplexéd meaningsInto one perfect peace,And trembled away into silenceAs if it were loth to cease.

I have sought, but I seek it vainly,That one lost chord divine,Which came from the soul of the organ,And entered into mine.

It may be that death's bright angelWill speak in that chord again,It may be that only in Heav'nI shall hear that grand Amen.

Cultural influence

* There have been at least six films titled "The Lost Chord", as well as one titled "The Trail of the Lost Chord". [ [ The Internet Movie Database listing of films called "The Lost Chord"] ]
* Jimmy Durante recorded a song called "The Guy Who Found the Lost Chord," which he also sings in the film "This Time for Keeps".
* Michael Flanders and Donald Swann's song, "The Reluctant Cannibal" has the opening line, "Seated one day at the tom-tom", a reference to the first line of "The Lost Chord."
* The Moody Blues produced an album called "In Search of the Lost Chord" in 1968.
* The "Strangers" TV series had an episode called "The Lost Chord." [ [ Information abou the TV episode called "The Lost Chord"] ]
* An organization called The Lost Chord [ [ Website of a New England organization called The Lost Chord] ] describes itself as "a collaborative effort to nurture young talent from underprivileged communities and to foster a commitment to music and arts education accessibility in the New England community."
* Caryl Brahms wrote a book called "Gilbert and Sullivan: Lost Chords and Discords" (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1975).
* A band from Toronto, Canada is called The Lost Chord.
* Edith Wharton's novel "Ethan Frome" contains references to the song.



*cite book|last=Ainger|first=Michael|year=2002|title=Gilbert and Sullivan – A Dual Biography|location=Oxford|publisher=Oxford University Press|id=ISBN 0195147693
*cite book|last=Ayre|first=Leslie|year=1972, 1974|title=The Gilbert & Sullivan Companion|location=London|publisher=W.H. Allen & Co Ltd Introduction by Martyn Green.
* [ Information about Procter and the song]

External links

* [ "The Lost Chord"] a video of the song being sung by English treble Peter Auty, at YouTube
* [ "The Lost Chord"] links to free sound file of the song being sung by Caruso
* [ "The Lost Chord"] at The Cyber Hymnal
* [ "The Lost Chord"] at Project Gutenberg
* [ Sound file of Derek B. Scott singing the song and information about it]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Lost Chord — Les premières mesures de The Lost Chord, à partir d un fac similé du manuscrit original de Sullivan. The Lost Chord est une chanson composée par Arthur Sullivan e …   Wikipédia en Français

  • In Search of the Lost Chord — Infobox Album | Name = In Search of the Lost Chord Type = Album Artist = The Moody Blues | Released = 26 July 1968 Recorded = January June 1968 Genre = Progressive rock Length = 42:07 Label = Deram Records Producer = Tony Clarke Reviews = *… …   Wikipedia

  • In Search of the Lost Chord — Album par The Moody Blues Sortie 26 juillet 1968 Enregistrement janvier juin 1968 aux studios Decca (West Hampstead) Durée 42:07 Genre rock progressif …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Lost Pieces — Infobox Album Name = The Lost Pieces Type = compilation Longtype = Artist = Steve Roach Released = 1993 Recorded = 1988 92 Genre = Ambient Length = 69:39 Label = Rubicon Producer = Steve Roach Reviews = *Allmusic Rating|4|5… …   Wikipedia

  • In Search of the Fourth Chord — Infobox Album Name = In Search of the Fourth Chord Type = studio Artist = Status Quo Released = September 17, 2007 Recorded = Genre = Rock Length = 58:25 Label = Fourth Chord Records Producer = Pip Williams Reviews = *Allmusic Rating|3.5|5… …   Wikipedia

  • The Moody Blues — in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California in 2005. L R: Justin Hayward, Graeme Edge and John Lodge. Background information Origin …   Wikipedia

  • The Moody Blues discography — The Moody Blues discography Releases ↙Studio albums 16 ↙Live albums 6 …   Wikipedia

  • The Moody Blues — Hayward et Lodge lors d un concert en 2007. Pays d’origine …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Moody Blues — Datos generales Origen Birmingham, Inglaterra Reino Unido …   Wikipedia Español

  • The Moody Blues — Жанр ритм энд блюз прогрессивный рок арт рок поп рок психоделический рок Годы 1964 …   Википедия