So many of us, perhaps even you faithful reader, have sat at a piano in grandma’s house, a school music room or, like me*, a church hall and plunked out this little tune:
Well okay maybe not all of the piece but certainly those first few bars. The Celebrated Chop Waltz, better known as Chopsticks, was composed by Arthur de Lulli in 1877. However don’t bother looking “him” up to see what else he wrote because “his” name was actually Euphemia Allen. The 16 year old Allen’s brother Mozart (Mr and Mrs Allen had a way with names) published it under a male nom de plume: a respectable young lady didn’t compose music or if they did played it for the family in the salon and did not publish it!
By why “Chop”? The title “Chop Waltz” comes from Allen’s specification that the melody be played in two-part harmony with both hands held in a vertical orientation, little fingers down and palms facing each other, striking the keys with a chopping motion. The nickname Chopsticks came at an unknown later date.
A search for information on Allen reveals almost as little on her life or other possible creations as a search of her pseudonym. It is known that she died in 1949 but not if she ever received royalties from what is, arguably, the most often played work in the classical canon.
*The first indication that I would love music but never be a musician.
The phrase for January 4th is:
Nom de plume nŏm″ də ploo͞m′: [noun]
1.1 A pen name or pseudonym
1.2 an author’s pseudonym
Coined in English from French nom (“name”) + de (“of”) + plume (“feather” or “quill” ), by analogy with the borrowed nom de guerre