Oley Speaks

Composer Oley Speaks was a favorite composer of many singers during the first half of the twentieth century. Among his songs are settings of Emily Dickinson, Rudyard Kipling, Frank Lebby Stanton, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Speaks was also a fine baritone himself.

Photo: Oley Speaks, cover of Album of Songs by Oley Speaks, published in 1944.

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Born in Ohio, Speaks grew up in the Columbus area. He began his musical career as a pianist and singer and held positions at several churches at the beginning of his career. He began composing songs in the 1890s, and their success eventually spawned his move to New York City in 1898.

In New York City, Speaks met with success as a church musician and also as a composer. More than 100 of his songs were published by G. Schirmer, and though he returned to Columbus in 1906, he remained successful. His songs are of the 19th-century parlor ballad tradition, with simple piano parts and sentimental melodies that fit the needs of both amateur and professional musicians.

–Christie Finn

Source: Paul C. Echols’ essay in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Related Information




Paul Robeson - The Complete EMI Sessions

(Charles Wakefield Cadman, Henry T. Burleigh, Benjamin Carr, Will Marion Cook, Stephen Foster, Langston Hughes, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Ethelbert Nevin, Oscar Rasbach and Oley Speaks)


Lebendige Vergangenheit

(Walter Damrosch, Oley Speaks and Charles Gilbert Spross)


Moonlight Bay

(William Bolcom, Oley Speaks, George M. Cohan, Paul Dresser, Victor Herbert and Carrie Jacobs-Bond)


Stanford Archive: Lawrence Tibbett

(Oley Speaks)


Richard Tauber in London

(Oscar Rasbach and Oley Speaks)


An Old Song Re-Sung: American Concert Songs

(Walter Damrosch, John Woods Duke, Stephen Foster, Vittorio Giannini, Charles Griffes, John Jacob Niles and Oley Speaks)


Sheet Music

The First Book of Soprano Solos

Composer(s): Louis Campbell-Tipton, Samuel Barber, Edward MacDowell, Oley Speaks

Buy via Sheet Music Plus

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