We chose to play "My Grandfather's Clock" to show the audience that stories can be told through music. Later we shared the story behind that popular song with our students. I would like to tell it to you also, a bit spooky and eerie perhaps...
The story is from Style Savvy "blog post.
The song “Grandfather’s Clock”was written by Henry Clay Work in 1876, approximately 140 years ago. Grandfather’s clocks might not even have a name if it weren't for a British hotel, a popular American song, and the deaths of two brothers.
But let’s start at the beginning: In the nineteenth century large floor clocks were simply known as tall or long case clocks, sometimes even called coffin clocks.
In 1876, an American composer named Henry Clay Work published a song called “Grandfather’s Clock,” about an elderly man and his beloved clock, which stopped ticking the moment he died. The song became highly popular and influenced people to start describing their tall case clocks as “Grandfather’s Clocks” instead.
Now it gets good: Henry Clay Work didn't exactly just make up the song. He was inspired to write it after a peculiar visit to the George Hotel, in England. In the hotel entrance there was a big polished case clock that no longer worked. Thinking it odd to save a clock that didn’t function, Mr. Work inquired about the piece of furniture. The hotel workers gave him the following story:
Two brothers operated the George Hotel during the 1820s. The hotel’s parlor case clock was notorious for keeping on the dot time (actually a very unusual characteristic for clocks of that era). One day, one of the brothers met an unfortunate death, leaving the other alone to run the hotel.
After the first brother’s death, the clock slowly lost time – a few minutes at first, but soon it was losing an hour every day. Clocksmith after clocksmith was brought in to repair it, but all their efforts had no effect on the fast paced timepiece. They eventually gave up fixing it, leaving the clock to speed through time at its own rate.
Some years later, the other brother also passed away. At the hour of his death, the hands of the clock stopped ticking, and they have been still ever since.
The bemused Work thought it was a great story. Being a song writer, he then wrote a song – a story in music - about the incident.
Here is the first verse:
My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf, So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself, Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp’d short – never to go again – When the old man died.