Few of the composers of Victorian drawing-room ballads are much more than names; so many of them stand in the shadow of the best known practitioners thereof, Frederic Clay, Arthur Sullivan and Michael Balfe, whose work has survived much better - the last two at least were in any case better known in fields other than balladry. When we move from those we tend to recall the names of the lyrics they set much more readily than the composers themselves. Nevertheless these Garlands have looked at Howard Paul (Garland 53), John Blockley (51), Virginia Gabriel (46),Caroline Norton (46, since when I have discovered more of her titles), " Claribel" (44), Clara Novello Davies (44). John Orlando Parry (42), Lady John Scott (39), Florian Pascal (39) and Stephen Glover (38). There were others; no time like the present for recalling a few more of them.

SAMUEL GLOVER (1797-1868), who is not to be confused with STEPHEN GLOVER, was born in Dublin. His compositions included an opera Grana Uile, or The Island Queen, an "entertainment", Irish Evenings, which successfully toured the British Isles and the United States, and ballads, overtly Irish ones like Barney O'Hea and Molly Brown and other such as The Deep Sea Shell, The Low Backed Car and The Angel's Whisper. Victor Herbert was his grandson.

GEORGE BARKER, who was active in the mid-19th Century produced many ballads: sentimental (I'm Leaving Thee in Sorrow, Annie, a Christy Minstrels number, and its "answer" I Am Returning to Thee, Annie, Shall I Wasting in Despair and Mary Blane); nautical (Dublin Bay, The White Seagull, one of the more popular ones, Ten Ships Went a Sailing, A Vagabond of the Sea); Military (When the Guards Go Marching By); rural (The Lesson of the Water-Mill, The Old Grey Mare, The Summer Dew, The Old Village Crier); and miscellaneous (The Lancashire Lad, The Merry Maid of Gascony , The Scottish Blue Bells, another popular one, Walking Home to Chelsea and a tribute to the police force then becoming established in this country, Hawk of Scotland Yard). Barker's best known ballad was however The Irish Emigrant and this may occasionally be encountered today. He also produced art songs, including Shakespearean settings like Come Love With Me, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day and Sigh No More Ladies, all of which, it has to be admitted, are better known in versions by other composers, and a musical play, Playing the Game, which sounds a bit like a pre-echo of Gilbert and Sullivan with titles like "We Are British Sportsmen", "What's a Sport of Double Crossing", "Answer's a Lemon", "I Have Come to Claim Her" and the title song. He performed widely in concert, usually as a pianist even in lecture recitals, as for example in Doncaster in October 1859, when a programme of his own and others' Shakespearean and other songs went down well with the audience.

Last among these Victorian ballad composers we include the surprising figure of JOSEPH BARNBY (1838-96), Yorkshire-born, educated at the Royal Academy, conductor of a choir which became the Royal Choral Society, organist and composer of the Oratorio Rebekah and much church music, did produce a number of songs of a lighter nature, most of which were issued in both solo and choral versions - Eton Songs, including one cricketing one (Cricket is King), The Haven, The Beggar Maid, Crossing the Bar and, best known of all, Sweet and Low, which should endure that Barnby's name is remembered well into the 21st Century.

Coming more up to date we may mention briefly one or two present day "TV composers": NIGEL BEAHAN-POWER and BELLA RUSSELL, jointly responsible for the incidental music for the recent (August 1999) feature Western Front, IAN LAWSON, connected particularly with the music for the children's feature Fireman Sam; and CHRIS ELLIOTT (again; see Garland 57), who is worth a mention for his portentous title music for ITV's three part feature, The Second World War in Colour (September 1999)

Finally two more Victorian dance music composers: A LEVER, composer of the waltz, Parthenea, and A GWYLLYM CROWE, whose works included the waltzes fairy (or possibly "Fairie") Voices, English Beauties and See-Saw. Both men popular in the mid 1880s.

© Philip L Scowcroft 1999




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

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