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    by Anya Laurence

   Derby, Connecticut, 1892, was the site of the birthplace of Karolyn Bassett, who became a noted coloratura soprano and composer of songs. She began her training in New York City with Clara and Grace Carroll, and went on to give her debut (before she really intended, she declared). As she matured, composition became her first love, and she went on to compose many works which were popular in her day.

   She apparently was a musical prodigy of sorts. At the age of four she went to the piano with the intention of playing “something in my head” but her father had to help her to find the right keys to play. That was her first attempt at composition. The next year she performed a Beethoven Sonatina in public.

Karolyn Bassett


The Icicle by Karolyn Wells Bassett

At another concert a year later in Boston, she played an incorrect chord which necessitated her playing the rest of a Krauss Sonata in a different key. Transposition, at any time, is difficult, but for a six-year old to do this in public must have been beyond remarkable.

   Her compositions betray a closeness to nature. The bleakness of winter; soft spring winds in the elms; the warm sun of summer, and any number of other familiar hues of New England's amazing colors and changing seasons. Some of her more popular songs include Take Joy Home; A Child's Night Song; Yellow Butterfly; The Moon of Roses; Serenade and Lullaby Prayer.

   Karolyn Bassett was interested in Women's Suffrage, and belonged also to the Audubon Society and the S.P.C.A. She also was a member of the Author's League of America; League of American Pen Women, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. In her later years she was a resident of Briarcliff Manor, New York, in a colonial home she christened “The Elms.” Karolyn died in 1931, at the age of thirty-nine, leaving behind a legacy of performances as a singer and a large oeuvre of compositions.



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