Camphouse’s adaptation of Zimmerman’s ‘America! First and Forever’ to be published this year
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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
A song for piano and voice called “America! First and Forever,” written by one-time New Philadelphia resident Hermes Zimmerman, was adapted for full concert band by Perry composer Bill Camphouse.
Camphouse recently learned that his arrangement based on Zimmerman’s song would be published by Texas-based Print Music Source, Inc.
Zimmerman, composer of “America! First and Forever,” was born in Louisiana, Mo. in 1887, but he spent his formative years in Pike County, Ill. as part of the New Philadelphia community founded by “Free Frank” McWorter.
Zimmerman was a man of many talents, who received his early musical training that included piano lessons from his mother and he further developed skills as a vocal soloist, choir leader, pianist, composer and music publisher. Later in life he was called to the clergy, trained at Garrett Theological Seminary and went on to organize and serve African American Episcopal (AME) congregations in Wisconsin and the Chicago area.
A number of Zimmerman’s compositions were sacred in nature providing additional opportunities to share his musical abilities through the church.
Zimmerman’s composition, “America! First and Forever,” is best described as a patriotic anthem originally written and published in 1918 for voice and piano in sheet music format; the typical way of marketing and distributing printed music for a growing number of music consumers.
Zimmerman composed and harmonized the melody and cast it in a two verse text followed by a refrain. The piece was dedicated to the National Security League, an organization of prominent individuals in business and other professions whose mission was to promote America’s role as a global leader early in the 20th century.
At a time when a new-found sense of nationalism swept across the country as the United States had just become involved in World War One, songwriter/lyricist Zimmerman expressed a positive vision for America with the closing line of his text reading, “America, the friend of nations, the friend of all humanity.”
The lyric is optimistic, and the accompanying music is unabashedly bright and lively with hints of rag-time punctuating rhythm patterns. It is akin to a traditional two-step march in the popular style of John Philip Sousa.
Over time and with shifts in popular music style and taste, Zimmerman’s music lay dormant for decades. With that in mind, Perry, Illinois musician Bill Camphouse recaptured the spirit of “America 1st” and adapted it, first for the Pike Pipers Recorder Ensemble, and in 2021, for full concert band when Camphouse’s new arrangement was premiered by the Quincy Park Band. The concert band version will be published later this year by Print Music Source, Inc. and will be available for bands throughout the country. The printed dedication on the title page reads, in part, “honoring the Village of New Philadelphia and its founder “Free Frank” McWorter on becoming part of the United States National Park Service.”