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Ernest Charles
Born November 21, 1895(1895-11-21), Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died April 16, 1984 (aged 88), Beverly Hills, California
Occupations Composer
Instruments Voice
Years active 1932–1950

Ernest Charles (Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 21, 1895 – Beverly Hills, California, April 16, 1984) was an American composer of art songs.


Life and musical career

Charles was born in Minnesota with the surname Grosskopf [1]. He attended The University of Southern California as a college student and studied singing with Charles Modini Wood. He eventually went to New York City, changed his surname to Charles, and began his professional life as a singer, performing in vaudeville and Broadway reviews, including Earl Carroll's Vanities in 1928 and the George White Scandals in 1929.[2] His songs became widely known after 1932, when John Charles Thomas performed his song Clouds in a New York recital.[3] Following that success, he continued to compose songs regularly until about 1950. At that time he lived with his wife, a mezzo-soprano, in New York City, and produced the radio program Great Moments in Music. He returned to California in 1953, settling in Beverly Hills, where he spent the remaining years of his life.[4]

Musical works

Charles composed around 45 songs for voice and piano in the years between 1930 and 1950. Most were published individually by G. Schirmer, and a few have been reissued in various song anthologies and collections of American art songs from the same publisher. The songs are known for their rubato, sweeping vocal lines, sumptuous melodies, and ingenuous charm.[5] Two of his songs are popular encores: the Viennese Waltz Let My Song Fill Your Heart, made famous by Eileen Farrell; and When I Have Sung My Songs, recorded by such singers as Kirsten Flagstad, Rosa Ponselle, and Thomas Hampson.[6]

Published Songs

  • And So, Goodbye
  • Bon Voyage
  • Clouds
  • Crescent Moon
  • L'Envoi
  • The House on the Hill
  • If You Only Knew
  • Let My Song Fill Your Heart
  • Lord of the Years
  • Message (Sara Teasdale)
  • My Lady Walks in Loveliness (Mona M. Wood)
  • Night
  • Oh Lovely World (Velma Hitchcock)
  • Over the Land is April (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • Save Me, God
  • The Spendthrift (Sarojini Naidu)
  • The Suxxex Sailor (Alfred Noyes)
  • Sweet Song of Long Ago
  • When I Have Sung My Songs
  • The White Swan
  • Who Keeps the Years
  • Youth


  1. ^ Villamil, p. 100
  2. ^ Claghorn, p. 90
  3. ^ Baker and Slonimsky, p.318
  4. ^ Villamil, p. 98
  5. ^ Villamil, p. 99
  6. ^ Villamil, pp. 99-100


  • Baker, Theodore (1992), "Charles, Ernest", in Slonimsky, Nicolas, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition, New York: Schirmer Books, pp. 317–318, ISBN 0-02-872415-1 .
  • Claghorn, Charles Eugene (1973), Biographical Dictionary of American Music, West Nyack, New York: Parker Publishing, p. 90, ISBN 0-13-076331-4 
  • Villamil, Victoria Etnier (1993), A Singer's Guide to The American Art Song 1870-1980, Lanham, Maryland, and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., pp. 98-100, ISBN 0-8108-2774-3 

External links Texts of some songs by Ernest Charles



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