Texas Centennial Music

By: Kevin E. Mooney

Type: Overview Entry

Published: December 11, 2006

Updated: August 13, 2020

Texas Centennial music was written for the celebration of the Texas Centennial in 1936. The event inspired amateur and professional Texan as well as non-Texan composers to write original music on Texas themes. The various genres of Texas Centennial music include popular and art songs, film music, operas, and a Mass. In addition to music written specifically for the Texas Centennial, arrangements and reissues of previously composed songs were published in 1936 as "Special Centennial Editions."

Texas Centennial songs can be divided according to such types as praise songs, cowboy songs, advertisement songs, bluebonnet songs, and love songs. Despite such classification, virtually all of the texts praise the state and its heroes while paying tribute to such Texas themes and images as cowboys, bluebonnets, longhorns, the Alamo, and the state's independence from Mexico.

The composers of these songs were generally one of three types: Texas (professional) composer, Texas Federation of Music Clubs member, and non-Texan composer. Although the performance medium could vary, the majority of the songs were written for a single voice or a small group of singers, accompanied by either a piano or guitar. The most common musical structure is a four-measure instrumental introduction followed by a strophic setting of two or three verses and a chorus in the key of C, F, or G major.

Both Texan and non-Texan firms issued Centennial music. Publishers such as Cross & Winge of Los Angeles, C.C. Birchard of Boston, Shapiro Bernstein & Co. of New York, and Schirmer of New York primarily published works by established composers with reputations that extended beyond the boundaries of Texas, such as Oscar J. Fox, David Guion, and Tim Spencer. Most of the songs composed by Texas Federation of Music Clubs members, whose talents were rarely recognized outside of their particular district, were published privately by the composers themselves.

Anthologies of Texas music published in association with the Texas Centennial include The Music Hour: Texas Centennial Edition, compiled by a board of consultants in Texas (including Texas music historian Lota May Spell) and the editors of The Music Hour, Osbourne McConathy et al. (New York: Silver, Burdett, 1935); Songs Texas Sings, compiled by the Public School Division of the Texas Department of Publicity for Centennial Celebrations (Dallas, Texas: Turner, 1936); Centennial Songs of Texas and Texas Frontier Ballads, 1836–1936, compiled by Virgil O. Stamps (Dallas, Texas: Stamps–Baxter, 1936); and 10 Homeland Songs, a collection of original songs by Naomi Ollre (Gonzales, Texas, 1936).

Three Western films based on Texas subjects were released in 1936 and had direct ties to the Centennial: The Big Show (Republic), starring Gene Autry and filmed partly on location at the Exposition in Dallas; The Texas Rangers (Paramount), intended to be an official recognition of the Centennial; and Ride, Ranger Ride (Republic), of which the title song, recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers, was approved by Texas governor James Allred as the official "Ranger–Texas Centennial Song."

Five operas based on a mixture of Texas history and fiction were composed specifically for the Centennial: Samuel E. Asbury's San Jacinto Cycle (unfinished); Theophilus Fitz's Tejas (1932–33); Carl Venth's La Vida de la Misión (1935); and Otto Wick's The Lone Star (1935); and Julia Frances Smith’s Cynthia Parker (which premiered in 1939). None of these operas was produced in 1936. Among several Centennial contributions by Texas state song composer William J. Marsh is a Centennial Mass that was performed at the Exposition in Dallas.

Kevin E. Mooney, Texas Centennial 1936: Music and Identity (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1998). Kenneth B. Ragsdale, "The 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition: Music's Spectacular Showcase," Southwestern Musician Texas Music Educator 55.2 (September 1986) and 55.3 (October 1986).

  • Music

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kevin E. Mooney, “Texas Centennial Music,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-centennial-music.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 11, 2006
August 13, 2020

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