A book of zither compositions, Solos for the Zither, has been kindly offered by Leslee Lindstrom. Published in 1919, this book of music was among the personal effects of her great-grandfather, zitherist Jacob Dugwyler. The composer of these pieces, J. Fremont Frey, of Indianapolis, Indiana, was a strong advocate for the zither and was elected Vice President of the American Zither Verband in 1913.
Old zither cases can sometimes be full of surprises. Vintage newsletters, sheet music and other papers offer a peek into the zither's rich history.
I recently received a set of photographs that included images of vintage sheet music, which had been stored with a Franz Schwarzer zither. Curious to learn more, these images were emailed to me by someone whose ancestor had played the instrument. The name on one book of compositions caught my eye and after providing some initial feedback on the Schwarzer, I requested a copy of the book. To my delight, it arrived in the mail a few days later.
The book, Solos for the Zither, was published in 1919 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The composer of these pieces was J. Fremont Frey, former Vice President of the American Zither Verband (AZV). Initiated due to the efforts of the group's first elect President, A. W. Schepp, the AZV brought together zither enthusiasts from throughout the country, not unlike the zither gatherings we enjoy these days in Davenport, Iowa.
The eldest of twelve children, J. Fremont Frey was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on Sept. 6, 1862. At the time of his birth, his father was serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. The name Fremont was chosen due to his father's great admiration for John C. Fremont, major general, explorer and the first Republican candidate for president of the United States. When he was six years old, the family relocated to Indianapolis. From this point forward, he was a lifetime resident of the city.
In Indianapolis, at the age of 16, he started off as a newsboy and over the years, moved up the ladder in the newspaper business. He never attended college, but through hard work and the use of his intellect, he eventually became head of the stereotype department with the Indianapolis News.
As in his work, he was also passionate about his music. He served as director of the glee club at the Indianapolis News. Well known as a skilled zither player, he performed in public, attended zither gatherings and when the mood hit him, he spent time penning verses dedicated to his favorite instrument, the zither.
In July of 1933, he retired from his position at the Indianapolis News. Two months later, on Sept. 26, 1933, at the age of 71, he passed away. His talent for music and the performing arts carried on through his son, Fran Frey. In his time, Fran was a well-known musician and singer, featured regularly with George Olson and His Music and in later years, the radio show of Jack Benny.
The book of sheet music recently recovered from a zither case, has been reunited with J. Fremont Frey's great-great-grandson, Lawrence Prange, along with a photograph, kindly provided by Harvey Prinz of the Davenport Zither Ensemble. Who knows, with more people taking an interest in their zither-playing ancestors, perhaps a new generation will be inspired to learn this captivating instrument.
Do you have vintage zither sheet music that you would like to share with the community? If so, contact us.