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All the figures in this bunch wrote songs of either the ballad or the music hall type about sport in the years either side of 1900. This was an important period for the development of sport and its institutions in Britain. The many songs written about it -not just about cricket though it perhaps outscored all other sports in this connection – are thus almost in the nature of social documents.

Some of the composers of sporting songs seem to have written little else than one or two sporting ditties. Take, for example Herbert Preston-Thomas C.B. (1841-1909), a career Civil Servant, whose The Cricketer’s Carol, a shapely Edwardian Ballad type number, was published in 1908 (the words were by the Right Hon. Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fare, a MCC member for 73 years and Treasurer of the Club for 37). Or Claud H Hill (1870-1956), a Norwich schoolmaster whose Cycling Song (1897) reflected the then current bicycle craze. He is credited with religious music, chamber music and other songs, but I have not encountered any. Or Samuel Corbett (1852-1924), a Shropshire blind teacher and himself blind, who penned a vocal tribute in 1876 to his fellow Shropshire man Captain Webb, The Champion Swimmer (Webb was the first to swim the English Channel).

The name of Henry Watson (1846-1911), organist and choral conductor, is linked with a music library collection in Manchester and it was in Manchester that The Glorious Twelfth was published in 1900. Watson also composed an opera, an oratorio, partsongs and other solo songs. Herbert Schartau (1858-1915) was of Swedish extraction but was born and raised in Kent. He became a professional singer and tried his hand at vocal composition - ballads, like the humorous Caddie, telling of the misadventures of an incompetent golfer, partsongs and school songs – around the turn of the century. Harriet Kendall (1857-1933), who spent her early life in the Lake District, studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School and achieved considerable fame as a singer, elocutionist, pianist and composer. Her songs included the attractive ballads A Game of Tennis (1886) and Richmond Park.

Harry Ball (1841-88) was a music hall man, father of Vesta Tilley, for whom he composed The Newmarket Coat in 1882. Another music hall title by him was Friends of My Youthful Days.

And so finally to Alfred Jethro Silver (1870-1935), who was a Doctor of Music of Durham University and an organist in places as far apart as Birmingham, Ealing and Carmarthen. Unsurprisingly, his oeuvre included church and organ music; on the lighter side he composed two comic operas, San Marino and King Asteroid (1926) and the ballads A Hunting Morning (1908), The Cavalier's Song and Growing in the Vale (1916).

Philip L Scowcroft

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Philip's book 'British Light Music Composers' (ISBN 0903413 88 4) is currently out of print.

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