I think Maiden’s Prayer is the prettiest of Bob Wills’ tunes. It’s also a nice one to play as a twin fiddle tune. Unfortunately, tonight I didn’t have any one to play it with me. And, if you like the variation, you can thank Danita (Rast) Gardner, since I borrowed that variation quite liberally from a recording of her playing it with Matt Hartz featuring Royce and Ray Franklin on Guitar. I think it’s out of print now, but it’s an album worth having in your collection.
The history on this one is pretty neat, and was a surprise to me – especially the part at the very end.
History of Maiden’s Prayer according to Wikipedia
“A Maiden’s Prayer” (original Polish title: Modlitwa dziewicy Op. 4, French: La prière d’une vierge) is a composition of Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska (1834–1861), which was published in 1856 in Warsaw, and then as a supplement to the Revue et gazette musicale de Paris in 1859. The piece is a medium difficulty short piano piece for intermediate pianists. Some have liked it for its charming and romantic melody; others have described it as “sentimental salon tosh.” The pianist and academic Arthur Loesser described it as “this dowdy product of ineptitude.”
John Stowell Adams (d. 1893) wrote the first English language lyrics for the piece.
Maiden’s Prayer in Country Music
The American musician Bob Wills heard “Maiden’s Prayer” played on a fiddle while he was a barber in Roy, New Mexico, and arranged the piece in the Western swing style. Wills first recorded it as an instrumental in 1935 (Vocalion 03924, released in 1938), and it quickly became one of his signature tunes. Later, it became a standard recorded by many country artists, including Buck Owens on his number-one 1965 album I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail. The tune is still a standard in the repertoire of Western swing bands.In country music
Maiden’s Prayer Lyrics
Wills wrote lyrics for “Maiden’s Prayer” and recorded it again in 1941 (Okeh 06205) with vocals by Tommy Duncan. His lyrics reflect the title, and the song, as written by Wills, opens with:
- Twilight falls, evening shadows find,
- There ‘neath the stars, a maiden so fair divine.
- The moon on high seemed to see her there.
- In her eyes is a light, shining ever so bright,
- She whispered a silent prayer.
Relatively few country singers have covered “Maiden’s Prayer” with vocals, but they include Ray Price on his tribute album San Antonio Rose (1962) and Willie Nelson on his album Red Headed Stranger (on the 2000 CD reissue but not the 1975 LP). Both singers used the lyrics written by Wills with minor variations, e.g. the maiden is an Indian in Price’s version.
Wills recorded the song a third time on the 1963 album Bob Wills Sings and Plays. When he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, “Maiden’s Prayer” was one of the works cited.
In popular media
Probably the most memorable use of “Maiden’s Prayer” is in the 1930 opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. The song appears midway through act I; it is played on an out-of-tune piano at a honky-tonk frequented by prostitutes and their clients. Jakob Schmidt, one of the denizens of Mahagonny, refers to the song as “ewige Kunst” (“eternal art”).
“Maiden’s Prayer” appears as an insert piano song in the anime series Strawberry Panic.
“Maiden’s Prayer” is also played by garbage trucks in Taiwan. As residents have to take out their own trash, the garbage truck signals everyone with the melody of this piece.