Philip Paul Bliss

From Wind Repertory Project
Philip Paul Bliss


Philip Paul Bliss (9 July 1838, Hollywood, Penn. – 29 December 1876, Astabula, Ohio) was an American composer, conductor, writer of hymns and a bass-baritone gospel singer.

Bliss had little formal education and was taught by his mother, from the Bible. At age 10, while selling vegetables to help support the family, Bliss first heard a piano. At age 11, he left home to make his own living. He worked in timber camps and sawmills. While working, he irregularly went to school to further his education.

At 17, Bliss finished his requirements to teach. The next year, in 1856, he became a schoolmaster at Hartsville, New York, and during the summer he worked on a farm. In 1857, Bliss met J. G. Towner, who taught singing. Towner recognized Bliss's talent and gave him his first formal voice training. He also met William B. Bradbury, who persuaded him to become a music teacher. His first musical composition was sold for a flute. In 1858, he took up an appointment in Rome Academy, Pennsylvania.

At age 22, Bliss became an itinerant music teacher. On horseback, he went from community to community accompanied by a melodeon. In July 1860, the Normal Academy of Music in Geneseo, New York was being held for the music community, and Bliss spent six weeks of the heartiest study of his life at the Normal. He was now recognized as an expert within his local area. He continued the itinerant teaching.

At this time he turned to composition. He wrote many well-known hymns, including Hold the Fort (1870), Almost Persuaded (1871); Hallelujah, What a Saviour! (1875); Let the Lower Lights Be Burning; Wonderful Words of Life (1875); and the tune for Horatio Spafford's It Is Well with My Soul (1876). None of his songs was ever copyrighted.

An outspoken abolitionist, he served as a lieutenant during the American Civil War. Bliss was a recognized friend of D. L. Moody, the famous Chicago preacher. Bliss and his wife died in a train crash on his way to one of Moody's meetings.

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