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SC2006/8/22 & SC2008/1/19

Ruth T. Watanabe Special Collections
Sibley Music Library
Eastman School of Music
University of Rochester

Processed by Mathew T. Colbert
Fall 2006
Revised and updated by Gail E. Lowther
November 2020







Accession no.: SC2006/8/22; SC2008/1/19
Location: M2B 5,1
Physical extent: 1 linear feet

Biographical Sketch

Frances Copthorne (1894-1945) was a composer, vocalist and pianist who was very active in the musical life of Chicago, Illinois through the 1920s and early 1940s. While the details of her early musical training are unknown, it is documented that she received vocal training in her mid twenties from the renowned soprano of the Chicago Metropolitan Opera Company, Amelita Galli-Curci. During the 1920s, she directed most of her energies into composing and performing her own compositions, scored mostly for voice and piano, with the soprano Norma Boswell. During this time Frances Copthorne became an active member of the National League of American Pen Women, an organization comprised of women poets, authors and composers. Among the poets of this organization, Francesca Falk Miller was a regular collaborator. Frances Copthorne set several of Mrs. Miller’s poems to music; they also collaborated on two short comic operas. She began performing regularly on a weekly broadcast from a Chicago radio station in 1931. In 1934 she performed at the White House for Eleanor Roosevelt. She traveled to France in 1937 to study composition and counterpoint with Nadia Boulanger. Her performing career resumed upon returning to the United States in the early 1940s; however, during this time she began her battle with breast cancer. She died in 1945.



The Frances Copthorne Collection was donated to the Sibley Music Library in 2006 with the expressed permission of Louise Copthorne Kirtland, the sole surviving child and heiress of American composer and pianist Frances Copthorne. The collection was transferred to the Sibley Music Library through the efforts of her nephew, Copthorne Macdonald. Additional items were received from Copthorne Macdonald in December 2007.


Scope and Content

This collection consists of musical manuscripts and documents pertaining to the career of the American composer Frances Copthorne. The collection contains a published score, a facsimile of a published score, original manuscripts, facsimiles of original manuscripts, librettos, poetry, documents including: scrapbook leaves, programs, newspaper articles, concert and theatre reviews, letters, invitations, pamphlets, photographs, a booklet about Mrs. Copthorne written by Copthorne Macdonald for his granddaughter, and ephemera. Additionally, there is a limited series of recordings of performances of works by Frances Copthorne.



There are no restrictions on the use of this collection. Louise Copthorne Kirtland and Copthorne Macdonald have transferred all intellectual property rights to the Sibley Music Library.



The Frances Copthorne Collection is one of several within the Sibley Music Library that highlight the achievements of women in music. Others include the Women Composers Collection, a collection of individual works by a large number of women composers, and the personal collection of Met Opera performer and Eastman School of Music faculty member Josephine Antoine. In addition, the Sibley Music Library holds the performing libraries of such distinguished performers as mezzo-soprano Jan De Gaetani and harpist Artiss De Volt.



Series 1: Scores and Manuscripts

This series contains one published score of incidental music for a children’s play, a facsimile of a published score, manuscripts and manuscript reproductions of works by Frances Copthorne. The works are arranged in alphabetical order. The majority of the music is scored for voice and piano.

Series 2: Librettos and Poetry

This series contains two librettos written by Francesca Falk Miller, Mrs. Copthorne’s friend and frequent creative collaborator, as well as poems that Copthorne may have considered setting to music. The titles are arranged in alphabetical order.

Series 3: Documents

This series contains documents from the 1920s through 1939. The documents are collated by decade. Included are: concert programs featuring performances of Frances Copthorne’s works, newspaper articles, letters, invitations and photographs. Some of these items are glued to scrapbook leaves. Of special interest are pamphlets for the Baltimore Mail Line steamship company acquired during Ms. Copthorne’s ocean voyage to France, where she studied composition with Nadia Boulanger.

Series 4: Ephemera

This series contains two of Mrs. Copthorne’s name badges for events held by the National League of American Pen Women.

Series 5: Audiovisual Material

This series contains two 7.5” reels, one with Copthorne at the piano; two CDs containing recordings of music by Frances Copthorne; and one data CD.