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For our selections this time we return to the later 19th and early 20th Centuries. Some of them were ballad composers, like F.S. Breville-Smith, whose titles included The Gay Cavalier, I Go My Way Singing, Song of the Waggoner, There’s Only One England, The Witch of Bowden and, dated 1916, Into the Dawn, perhaps his most popular number; and J.W. Elliott (1833-1915). Elliott was an organist at, successively, Leamington Spa and in London, he contributed tunes to Hymns Ancient and Modern and wrote religious songs like O Jesus I Have Promised – but there were more secular vocal pieces too, such as his extensive volume of Nursery Rhymes and ballads, including To The Clouds and, very popular at one time, Hybrias the Cretan. He even bought out a musical Dar’l’s Delight, one of the St. George’s Hall entertainments (1893).

Other figures were really composers for the music hall, then (say 1900) at the peak of its popularity. These included Harry Fragson (whose real name was Harry Potts), whom we recall for songs like All the Girls Are Lovely By the Seaside, The Bandbox Girl and, much the most popular, that hit of 1913, Hello! Hello! Who’s Your Lady Friend? – recall, too, perhaps for occasional instrumental item like the waltz Souvenir Tendre and for his interpolations into musicals like Topsy-Turvey Hotel (1898) and Castles in Spain (1906).

Another basically "music hall" man was Herbert Darnley, responsible for The Beefeater (1898), Buying A House, My Sweet Face and Mary Ann’s Refused Me.

Many songwriters of that, indeed other, periods, whether of ballads, music hall ditties or whatever, are remembered for just one song. J.A. Butterfield composed the once popular When You and I Were Young, Maggie, but I have found nothing else by him. And Frederick Gilbert wrote The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (a celebration of a real exploit, apparently); but At Trinity Church I Met My Doom, Down the Road, In the Good Old Times and The Midnight March were less popular though they were still sung.

Philip L Scowcroft

June 2001

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

E-mail enquiries (but NOT orders) can be directed to Rob Barnett at

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