Thurlow Weed Lieurance

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Born: March 21, 1878; Oskaloosa, IA   Died: October 9, 1963; Boulder, CO  
Born in Iowa, and relocated to Kansas in early childhood, Thurlow Weed Lieurance spent his formative years on frontier land in the American Plains. Little is known of his early education, but with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Lieurance enlisted as a musician. At war's end, Lieurance enrolled in the College of Music at Cincinnati, and studied there until the savings from his tour of duty ran out. However, Lieurance was able to Read more continue his education in Cincinnati by taking private instruction with ex-Sousa cornetist Herman Bellstedt. In about 1905, Lieurance joined the Chautauqua Society and worked in traveling tent schools as a music teacher among Native Americans. His contact with native tribes stimulated Lieurance's interest in Native American lore. Lieurance began to make attempts to transcribe the songs that he heard, and apprenticed himself to the craft of making traditional Native American flutes.

Around 1909, Lieurance purchased a portable Edison cylinder recording apparatus, taking it with him on his encounters with Native American singers. In October 1911, he recorded a singer named Sitting Eagle, an Oglala Lakota Sioux who was living on the Crow Reservation in Montana; she provided the melody for Lieurance's best-known composition, the song By the Waters of the Minnetonka. Published by Theodore Presser in 1913, By the Waters of the Minnetonka became an immediate popular success, going through several sheet music editions and making Lieurance's name in the process.

In 1917 Lieurance married Edna Woolley, who afterward took the part of the mezzo-soprano in Lieurance's recital tours, wearing a Native American costume and "portraying" the part of "Princess Watahwaso." The success of these tours allowed Lieurance to return to the Cincinnati College of Music and to take his degree in 1924. In 1926, the Lieurances retired from concert activity and settled into teaching positions at the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University), with Thurlow Lieurance serving as Dean of Fine Arts. The Lieurances served in this capacity until 1945.

In the early 1930s the Lieurances traveled to Europe at the behest of the Theodore Presser Company. After his return, Lieurance was given institutional support for his research in Native American song in the form of a grant from the American Scientific Research Society. In the late 1930s, Lieurance was instrumental in founding the Minisa Symphony Orchestra in Wichita, and most, if not all, of his orchestral works were created for that organization. These include Trails Southwest, The Conquistadors, Sad Moon on Falling Leaf, and others. Altogether Lieurance composed over 300 works, mostly songs and choruses, but also some chamber music. He also worked on an opera, The Drama of Yellowstone.

After Lieurance and Edna retired in 1945, they moved to Neosho Falls, KS, into a house that was wiped out by a flood in 1952. The Lieurances relocated to Boulder, CO, where Thurlow Lieurance died in 1963. He left 25 linear feet's worth of music manuscripts to Wichita State University, where they form an important part of this institution's music library, which is named after Lieurance. Read less

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