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Eleanor Everest Freer: A Guide to Resources

This guide provides resources to research the life and work of American composer Eleanor Everest Freer (1864-1942), who was an advocate for American opera as well as a skilled composer.


Bain News Service. Freer. 1900. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Eleanor Everest Freer (1863-1942) was an accomplished singer, composer, and author. She wrote her first published composition at the age of 16. In 1883, Freer moved to Paris to study voice with famed pedagogue Mathilde Marchesi. During this time, she performed in student recitals for Verdi, Liszt, and Massenet. She also studied composition with Benjamin Godard, who dedicated his "Chanson de Mai" to her. On returning to the United States, Freer taught the "Marchesi Method" of voice at the National Conservatory of the United States in New York during Antonin Dvorak's tenure as head of the conservatory. After marriage, she stopped teaching and concentrated on composition and American music advocacy. She was the founder of the American Opera Society of Chicago, which established the David Bispham Memorial Medal Award, given to American opera composers who created works on an American subject. Recipients included George Gershwin, for Porgy and Bess, Clarence Cameron White, for Ouanga, Howard Hanson, for Merry Mount, and many others. Freer composed eleven operas, including Little Women, A Legend of Spain, The Masque of Pandora, and The Legend of the Piper (which won the Bispham medal). In addition to her operatic compositions, she published 137 songs and 19 piano works. She was active in many arts organizations, including Melodists, The League of American Pen Women, The Illinois Academy of Fine Arts, The National Federation of Music Clubs, and the Chicago Artists' Association. She wrote numerous articles advocating for American music and a memoir titled, Recollections and Reflections of an American Composer. Many of her holograph manuscripts are in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

About the Performing Arts Reading Room

The Performing Arts Reading Room is the access point for the collections in the custody of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Numbering approximately 20.5 million items and spanning more than 1000 years of Western music history and practice, these holdings include the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, published and unpublished copyright deposits, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.