Written by: Madison Anthony
Alice Tegnér was both a music educator and composer. Tegnér was born into a musical family and grew up watching her father play multiple instruments. At a young age, her father noticed that she too had a talent for music. At only thirteen years old, Tegnér moved to Stockholm, Sweden the capital, to go to school. In Stockholm, she was exposed to many different types of music which helped to inspire her creativity. After her two years of schooling, her father expected her to apply to the conservatory but instead, Tegnér decided to go to the royal advanced teacher seminary for women in Stockholm. While in Stockholm, Tegnér was an avid patron of the arts, music, and theater. She was said to have attended the theatre and concerts as often as possible. During this time she developed skills that would help her as a composer in the future. After Alice graduated with her teaching degree she spent a year in the city working as a governess and eventually got married.
Once Tegnér got married she spent most of her time teaching private lessons, playing the organ, and leading choirs. Her husband, while supportive at first, started to dislike the fact that she was performing and teaching. He wanted her to stop teaching private lessons and this caused tension in their marriage.
Throughout Tegnér’s life, she gained popularity from the multitude of Swedish children’s songs that she composed. She also composed art songs, choral pieces, cantatas, and one violin sonata. Tegnér spent most of her time when she wasn’t composing, teaching music, or playing music. By the end of her life, she composed 202 works, a massive amount for any composer let alone for a woman living in her time. Not only was Tegnér’s output large, but she was also recognized with multiple awards; she won first, second, and third prizes in the 1924 competition for female composers.
Most of the children’s songs that Tegnér wrote are very much alive in Sweden to this day. She wrote an entire songbook called Sjung med oss, Mamma, and with the help of her brother-in-law, she got it published. Today children can be heard singing these songs across the country. One of her songs, Julbocken, about a Christmas goat, rose in popularity and became a well-known Christmas song. It is a unique ability for a country to be able to trace most of their children’s songs to a specific person since most children’s songs are folk songs of unknown origins passed down aurally through generations. While her cantatas and piano music are no longer played, her children’s songs have flourished leaving an everlasting mark on Sweden’s music history.
- Ulvros, Eva Helen. Alice Charlotta Tegnér, March 2, 2020. https://skbl.se/en/article/AliceTegner.
- Öhrström, Eva. “Alice Tegnér.” University of Hartford Proxy Login, 2001. https://www-oxfordmusiconline-com.libill.hartford.edu/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-0002021383.
- Edling, Anders. “Alice Tegnér.” Swedish Musical Heritage, 2014. https://www.swedishmusicalheritage.com/composers/tegner-alice?action=composers&composer=tegner-alice.