Christmas Classics PERSON OF THE DAY: Frances Roots Hadden

August 28th, 2013

In August 1910 the charming composer Frances Roots Hadden was born in Kuling, Lu Shan, China. She was the daughter of Logan Herbert Roots, the Episcopal Bishop of Hankow from 1904 to 1938. When the United States and China renewed diplomatic ties in 1972, Chou En-Lai, the Chinese premier, invited Frances and her husband, Richard, as his personal guests to perform a duet piano concert. That was the first performance by an American musician in the Republic of China since 1949, the year of the Communist takeover.

The Haddens’ duet piano concert included the Lu Shan Suite, composed by Frances in 1966. The suite melody was in fact based upon a work-song chant of stone carriers of the sacred and idyllic Lu-shan Mountain located in central China. Frances had often heard that tune as a child, which she also incorporated in her lovely carol A Chinese Christmas Cradle Song.

The tender lyrics of A Chinese Christmas Cradle Song are based on an anonymous 2nd century Chinese poem and were first printed in the The Second Treasury of Christmas Music (Emerson Books, New York, 1968). Also known as Shiao Bao-Bao, a term in Chinese meaning “Little Precious,” an endearing description for the baby Jesus, the enchanting carol belongs in every Christmas music library.

For those unfamiliar with Hadden’s truly remarkable piece, and if you are looking to expand your Christmas music horizons, I strongly suggest getting your hands on the album (if available) A Christmas Cantata by the Cardiff Polyphonic Choir & Orchestra with Richard Elfyn Jones conducting. It is one of the few places you will find the recording.

On a personal note, I had the privilege of speaking with Frances and her husband before her passing in 2000. They were both generous souls, and Frances was thrilled to learn about my research on carols and that I admired her carol so much.

Frances Roots Hadden

Frances Roots Hadden