Eight Morning Songs and Seven Evening Songs

C.E.F. Weyse (1774-1842), Poems by B.S. Ingemann (1789-1862)
1837, 1838 Se tidslinje

By Finn Gravesen, writer and editor, 2006

Hits from the old days 

These are songs that were written over 170 years ago. And they’ve survived pretty well. Once they were almost what we would call hits, since then they’ve become evergreens. They’ve been on the school curriculum for generations. The characteristically subdued, tranquil and idyllic tone of these songs is seen as an expression of something we consider to be quintessentially Danish. The songs owe their existence to cooperation between Danish Bernhard Severin Ingemann, who wrote the lyrics, and Weyse, a German immigrant, who composed the tunes. 

“Snail with shell, wig and gloves ...” 

The songs we sing in Denmark can be really funny sometimes. Many Danish children have sung this weird line without questioning it in the least. And the great tune helps things along. 

It is probably only as a grown-up that one realises that the line, though sounding very similar in Danish, really reads: “Now the snail with shell on its back wants to go and take a wander” from Weyse’s and Ingemann’s “Now the fair little flowers come out and peek at one another” (“Nu titte til hinanden de favre blomster smaa”). 

Well-known - but always unpredictable 

These may not be pop songs, but Weyse knew the recipe for success: a song which sounds as if you’ve already known it for years. That was what his teacher J.A.P. Schulz - the man who wrote “The moon rises ever so slowly” (“Sig maanen langsomt haever”) - taught him. And Ingemann was fully aware of this too. The idea behind these little songs was that they should deal with common experiences in daily life and nature. Serenity and equilibrium. Everyday life with a touch of biblical history and middle class morality added. Written in a language using undemonstrative, simple imagery. 

Words sing themselves 

Weyse was of the opinion that the melodies lay concealed in the lyrics. “Such beautiful poems compose themselves ...” he said of Ingemann’s song texts. Using modest effects, Weyse somehow manages to combine the straightforward with the unique. As in the start of “Now do all the bells ring towards the heavens,” (“Nu ringer alle klokker mod sky”) where you can really hear the bells chime. It is the sound of a typical Danish Sunday morning. Or when as in “The Sun rises in the East”(“I Oesten stiger solen op”), the melody of the first line follows the sun’s movement up through the morning sky. 

H.V. Bissens bust of C.E.F. Weyse, that was raised in 1859 on the north side of Vor Frue Kirke in Copenhagen, where Weyse was the organist 1805-42. Photo: Inger Sørensen.
Frontpage for Weyse's Syv Aftensange, 1938. Det Kongelige Bibliotek.
Syv aftensange
Score Music

Did you know?

Source: Jens Peter Larsen: Weyses Sange Ejnar Munksgaard, 1942.

The young Weyse fell in love with the young and gifted Julie Tutein. When the composer finally gathered the courage to propose to Tutein, he got the answer that she might not be a princess, yet ... In other words, Miss Tutein felt she deserved better. Weyse never married after this rejection.

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Music, 2006

These two modest-looking books of songs are among the most outstanding in Danish music and without a doubt hold the most concentrated movements in Danish music history. The texts and melodies are so melded together that Weyse himself said: “Such beautiful poetry writes itself; ergo, the question remains of whether I really composed them”. He absolutely did have a great deal to do with them, as can be seen from the overall musical design weaving together the small individual wholes. 

One thing is the familiar melodies, such as ‘I Østen stiger solen op’, ‘Lysets engel går med glans’, ‘Nu titte til hinanden’ and ‘Dagen går med raske fjed’ (‘Altid frejdig når du går’), which generation after generation of young children has delighted in. Another thing is – as with Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales – that adults can hear rather more; the composer’s character, the sharp rhythms. Indeed, the songs are exquisite in their harmonies, and in some places, they can almost remind one of modern signal effects, with changing chords like colours. It is not only text and melody that meld together here. The classic and romantic of the Danish golden age also become one.

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