Friday, December 31, 2021

Nelson, NZ ... a century and a half ago

 

I came upon this photo today. 

That looks pretty old, said I to myself, said I. 




Well, the city of Nelson is not very much older than the birth of commercial photography, and I see that the Nelson museum's collection of photos begins 'from the 1860s' ... so ...

Alexander Fletcher (b Macduff 1838; d Fitzroy 13 November 1914) -- who took this photo -- set up as a photographer in Bronti (sic) Street 'next house to Captain Walmsley', Nelson at the end of 1861, and he left the city, with his new bride, Catherine Reid McGee, the pubkeeper's daughter, in 1870.  So we can safely say that this shot ws taken 'in the 1860s'. He wasn't Nelson's first photographer. Mr. J N Crombie, Mr Lane and Mr Davis had variously preceded him, along with others of brief duration, by three years or so, but Mr Fletcher was the first to make an extended go -- nine years -- of it. After which he, apparently, had a shot  at gold-mining, before heading to Melbourne ...  where he ran an art gallery in Collins Street, and supervised the Fine Arts at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition ... wow! he was presented with a bronze medal by the Prince of Wales for his organisation of the Melbourne Exhibition 1882.

I'm sure the local Nelsonian museums have other examples of his work but ... well, I first looked upon this street, Trafalgar Street, sixty-five years ago. There was Mr Glasgow, the lawyer's on the right, and there was a pub to the left. One on the right too, I recall. The cathedral was at the photographer's back. If I remember, that's a windmill at the far end. Pubs and churches tend to survive ... and the Oddfellows' Hall cum theatre, on the left, way down the bottom ..

Anyway, I didn't intend here to write a history of Nelson, or building or photography in Nelson. Just to preserve, for my own pleasure, this picture of the early days of Nelson ... the city where I grew up.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A heap of Lost Chords. Really Lost?

 



Sullivan's setting of Procter's poem 'The Lost Chord' has been popping up in my daily doings recently. Ezra Read, then Louise Homer ... bringing with it the odd query in my mind... so I investigated a little...


A LOST CHORD

"It may be that only in heaven, I shall hear that great Amen"



One of Arthur Sullivan's best remembered concert songs. And one of the principal reasons that Miss Adelaide Ann Procter makes her way into works of musical, as opposed to poetical, reference to this day.

Miss Procter was the daughter of well-known writer 'Barry Cornwall' (Bryan Waller Procter): 'delicate' 'doomed', who moved in the more obvious Sapphic circles, a Catholic convert, and a fluent writer of verse in the mostly sentimental, religious vein of the time, a genre brought her an enormous popularity with the magazine and poetry-buying public.

The poem entitled 'A Lost Chord' was first published in the March 1860 edition of the short-lived English Woman's Journal, and the following year it began appearing, reprinted, in provincial newspapers in Britain --the Northampton Mercury, The Leicester Chronicle, Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, The Dover Express et al -- and America, as well as being included in Miss Procter's second volume of Legends and Lyrics (1861).



It seems to have been set to music for the first time in 1864, appearing within months in different versions on each side of the Irish sea.
The English one comes from Exeter


William Pinney (1845-1906) was a local lad, the son of an elder William Pinney (b Shute 17 August 1808; d Exeter 18 June 1879) who had been a trumpeter inthe devon Yeomanry, a sergeant in the Devon militia, and who played for forty years in the Exeter Theatre orchestra. William jr was set to music at an early age, and in his teens was assistant organist at Exeter Cathedral. He would go on to be organist at Sidmouth and Ramsgate, earn a Mus Bac at Oxford (1880) and become long time organist at St George's, Hanover Square (1876-1892). Here, still in his teens, he turned out his version of Miss Procter's verse: alas, I cannot find a copy. Whether it were first published by Mr Smith or not, it was smartly picked up by Boosey ...



The Irish version can be spotted in May 1864, sung by basso Richard Smith of Dublin, but when it was published, it didn't receive such a kindly welcome. The Musical Standard took a hatchet to, especially, the poetry ...


They were clearly not the only musicians to have a go at the words: when Montem Smith sang one of these (I suspect the Robinson) at the Bury Athenaeum (1865) the local press sniffed that the words had been 'set to better music by a local amateur'. And in 1865 I spy a version by G A Macfarren published by Metzler, and one by Simon Waley (Lucas, Weber & Co).

Bessie Palmer sang the Robinson version at several concerts, including her own 5 June 1865 and Miss Berry Greening's in February 1866, Fanny Poole also took it up, and I would guess that most of the uncredited amateur performances in the later 'sixities were of the Irish setting. 

Boosey, Metzler and Lonsdale each had their 'Lost Chord', so Chappell had to join the band. At the end of 1870, they turned out a version by one 'Anne Hall' 'pupil of W T Wrighton'. The 'devoted student' may or may not have existed, I can find no other trace of her, but the Musical Standard rubbished her piece completely: 'Her knowledge of composition is evidently extremely limited -- so limited indeed that we cannot recall any song the contains greater errors in the harmony or more singular mistakes in the notationn'. Neither did he spare the lyrics. 'Miss Adelaide Procter has written some good lyrics [...] but "The Lost Chord" which sounded like "a Great Amen" is not one of them. It is not adapted to music, unless the composer have a taste for the ridiculous ...' 

Strange, then, that so many song writers had chosen to set these 'ridiculous' words? And it was not over yet. In 1875, while Miss Churcher of Southampton, Miss Greer of Belfast, Miss Wood of Gravesend, Mrs H Freeman of Bicester, Miss Hemming of Droitwich e tutti quanti were giving their Great Amen at amateur concerts, composer and music publishers John Blockley (b Westminster 5 July 1801; d 6 Park Rd, Hampstead 24 December 1882) produced his version


And look! The lady at the enormous pipe organ has been replaced by ... a self-portrait! 


I don't the firmly feminist Miss P would have been happy about that!  But she was dead and gone, at the age of 39 ...

Charlotte Sainton-Dolby



Lonsdale annouced a reprint of the Robinson for its circulating music library 'as sung by Madame Sainton Dolby', Chappell kept the Hall version doggedly on its lists -- though apart from a Miss Dilke at Nuneaton no one seemed to sing it -- the Blockley and the MacFarren did better: I see the latter sung by Miss Coyte Turner; and both made their way to the Antipodes ...  and after a little more than a decade it seemed that the "Great Amen" would finally be put to sleep.

But, as we know, that wasn't to be. Quite what inspired Arthur Sullivan to take up a not-very-well noticed text, for the umpteenth time, I know not. The story I was taught at Dame Rumour's knee was that the poem was set in mourning for the death of his brother, Fred. Fred died 18 January 1877. Sullivan's version was sung in public for the first time on 31 January 1877. Quick work. We are also told that it was 'written for' the American contralto Antoinette Sterling of the Boosey Ballad Concerts.  Perfectly probable: professionally, versions of the song had been sung principally by a low voice, and almost always a contralto, even of the quality of Miss Palmer and Mrs Poole. The business arrangements of the bringing out of the song had, anyway, had time to be arranged. Apparently Dr Sullivan and Miss Sterling each got 6d per copy of sheet music sold. I imagine that, for that emolument, she was obliged to sing the song a specified number of times. She sang it countless times.

The arrangement was obviously not secret: the practice was widespread. However the London correspondent of one of America's squeamiest rags The Chicago Tribune (a certain Charles Landor) decided to make himself a namelet and reported: 'The music is in my opinion of the most indifferent, monotonous character and I thought that this original singer displayed some disgust at the advertising trick which made it part of her performance'.  I presume that he was meaning the money things rather than Sullivan's family grief. But with the Chicago Tribune ... who knew? I don't think Madame Sterling would have been 'disgusted' with her royalty. One report which I have read estimated that 'The Lost Chord' sold 25 million copies... and that was in the nineteenth century!




'The Lost Chord' as sung by Miss Sterling at St James's Hall, accompanied on the harmonium by J W Elliott, on 31 January 1877 was immediately a decided hit. Song and singer were admirably suited, and Boosey programmed the piece liberally through the season of the London Ballad concerts, sung each time (and contractually) by Miss Sterling. If it were a piece of song-plugging .. and the Boosey concerts were, naturally, that .. it surely worked. And that wasn't always so. Helen Lemmens-Sherrington's attempt, for example, to launch 'The Liquid Gem' was a memorable failure. At the Boosey concerts, they plugged as hard as they could, but many were the songs introduced by Sims Reeves, Santley, Miss Sterling, Madame Lemmens and other concert stars which were folded away after their first season.

Not this one. In spite of the odd snooty critic ('the melody recalls Mrs J W Bliss's well known (sic) Bridge'), during the years that followed just about every top contralto in Britain -- and even some fine but inappropriate sopranos or baritones -- had a crack at Sullivan's version of the perhaps unjustly scorned words. I have picked up (in order of up-picking), during the song's first twelvemonth out, Florence Winn, Mrs Bradshaw(e) Mackay(e), Mrs Osborne Williams, Fanny Poole (abandoning the Robinson), Edith Wynne, Emily Dones, Fanny Danielsen-Ashton, Helen(e) D'Alton, Martha Harries, Elizabeth Mudie-Bolingbroke at the Leeds Festival,  Lena Law, Fanny Robertson, Alice Fairman, Annie Butterworth, Fanny Edwards, Julia Derby, Mary Cummings, Cola Schneegans, Florence Rice Knox ... as well as uncountable amateur ladies throughout the country and the colonies ... and a few men, particularly of the Reverend persuasion (Rev Cole-Hamilton of Northampton, Rev Amcotts-Jarvis of Lincolnshire, Rev T Everett et al), and even a Master Charlie Davis of Oswestry and a Master C Pugh of Wrexham. The treble versions can hardly have been as ludicrous as Mr W H Jude's. The gentleman presented an Entertainment at Liverpool, backed by 20 singers from the Edgehill Vocal Society. He sang 'Cheer, boys, cheer', 'From Rock to Rock', the Judge's song from Trial by Jury ... and 'The Lost Chord'.

In spite of Chicago's attempt at sabotage, the song made its way swiftly to American concert-rooms .. I see Herietta Beebe performing it before the year was out, and a Mrs C P Whitney of Virginia ... then Mrs Knox again, Emily Winant and others ..

America, too, produced its own versions of Procter's poem, of which this one has survived 


I think the 'Wm Herz' may have been Prussian-born Professor William of Hutsville, Alabama (1830-1879), so this version (in spite of the 'The') may pre-date Sullivan's.

Sullivan's success didn't prevent other folk from trying to cash in. Music publisher/songwriter William M Hutchinson, 'composer of 'Dream Faces' and 'When the Children are Asleep', produced (under the pseudonym of 'Julian Mount') and published (under the pseudonym of 'William Marshall & Co') round about 1882


At some stage Procter's words were glued to some homogenised Beethoven, and then of course came the 'arrangements' of Sullivan's music promoted by Boosey. William Kuhe (1877) for the piano ..


Dr William Spark, who had played the organ part in the voice/piano/organ version arranged the piece for organ,


 
there were 'versions' for brass and wind, for strings and squeeze-boxes, and there were parodies









 
and one H W Petrie of the iconoclastic US of A, and composer of 'Asleep in the Deep', perpetrated an 'answer' to Miss Procter's poem under the title 'The Lost Amen'.


In the century and a half since Miss Procter penned her words, and a little less since Fred Sullivan died and his brother penned his music, 'The Lost Chord' has been more or less permanently on the music stands of the world. It has been recorded and recorded, voices other than that for which it was intended have adapted it to their ranges with usually less rather than more effect, I have heard it played by a brass band, described as a 'hymn' ... and, yes, I sang in myself in the 1960s. Well, who can resist 'It May Be That Death's Bright An-gels ...'? Almost as stentorian as Hahn's 'Invictus' ...

Of all the triumphant and enduring songs to have been introduced at the famous Boosey Ballad Concerts, I think 'The Lost Chord' may claim to be the most triumphant and the most enduring.  But, nevertheless, I should love to hear all the others ...  Anyone got a Pinney?








1910 recording of Sullivan's version ... in two parts!  I wonder who hid behind the pseudonym of 'Alice Craven'.






Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Covid and Kurt: or the critical dangers of civil servants



Well, I'm home. My winter holiday in Yamba turned into a locked-down, locked-out (of New Zealand) saga of eight months. Wrecked my equanimity, destroyed my bank balance and left me with an utter disdain for 'civil servants' and 'proto-government agencies' ...

Since this Covid thing erupted, I have been a model citizen. I have fulfilled every requirement promoted by the Folk who have appointed themselves to positions 'in charge' of Public Health. And by our Prime Minster, who started out trying, but latterly has seemingly been simply soignering her image (new biography out for Christmas ... how tacky!) for her post-PM career. 'The Woman who saved the Kiwis'. Job for life at the United Nations? Shame, she was a good leader until she started believing in herself.

Well, anyway, thanks to a foolish letter from government (accusing me, like an athlete, of 'missing a control'), today the kettle of my indignation against the 'authorities' finally boiled over. So I'm blogging.

COVID and KURT

When Covid started to be mediatised, I was in New Zealand. I make no comment on what other people and governments did. I don't really know. I don't watch TV, and other media where the more melodramatic journos live, I haven't read a newspaper in 30 years ...

But it seemed sensible not to go to my 'Winter Palace' in Australia for Winter 2020 ... I don't know why ... but, hey! it would make me $$$ as a holiday let! Well, that was the theory. Until NSW went into lockdown and nobody holidayed ...



Fleeting thought: Omigod! It is about time Australia became a Country instead of a collection of bits.

OK. April 2021. The Baroness Ardern announces a travel-bubble. NZ-AUS. Fool that I was, I believed her. I mean, gosh, this is our Prime Minister. Trust is obligatory. I flew to Coolangatta 19 April.

Bubble.

Well, that Bubble burst pretty smartly, Wendy and Sarah took it all seriously (which I didn't) and flew home to New Zealand pronto.

So, Bubble burst. Lockdown. So, what does a 75 year old handicapped man do, alone in a 1br flat in a semi-foreign land ... ?

Louis and Robert

I survived. But it wasn't that pleasant. Except for flying visits (great fish n chips together!) from the family in Grafton -- trying, themselves, to keep within the 'law' -- and wonderful help from dear pals Robert and Louis, up the hill, who were known to deliver me gourmet home-made meals on wheels, by electric bicycle, during lockdown-isolation, I was pretty much on my own devices. And my aching wallet.



I'd be all right, I thought. Left alone, I'd simply start on writing another book. That worked for a while. Then one day I just stopped. The situation was getting to me. I wasn't eating. I didn't want to get up in the mornings. I didn't care if I didn't wake up in the morning. I understood, now, why folk committed suicide. How many must have actually done so, during this flu-demic? Perhaps they should add that statistic to their 'triumphant' covid data.



Of course, I didn't commit suicide. The dawn sunshine, my books, music, L'Equipe sports results on line (I wonder why I didn't plug in the TV, but I didn't ...) and the odd scaly visitor (without a mask) ... helped raise me out of the slough of Despair each morning ... and Robert was lavish with his invitations to fine dining (in and out) and little jaunts ... but then came the nights, with their horrors and their invitations to sweet dreamless nothingness. Some nights more tempting than others ... did I get near to trying to actually end it all? I have no idea. I was serious at the time.

But all would be well. I was going home 6 October. I had my ticket booked and paid for: Coolangatta to Christchurch.

Queensland closed Coolangatta airport. New Zealand introduced compulsory Quarantine. You couldn't fly into NZ without a booked berth in a Quarantine. Even though sports teams were flying in and out all the time. I was cancelled. Bite the bullet. Apply. An umpteenth panicked email to super-travel-agent Liz, back in Rangiora.

Amazement. Accepted. For 8 December. Where? Logic. I am heading from northern NSW to Christchurch, so I am ordered on to a flight from Sydney to Auckland.

So, instead of the relatively 'safe' journey, during which I would have passed directly Yamba - Coolangatta (by car) and thence to Christchurch ... a total of one flight and two family-car legs ... I found myself condemned to pass by, and change planes at, the two Australasian covid hotspots of Sydney and Auckland, on a total of no less than four different flights. Which, for me, means four transfers in umpteen different wheelchairs ... Was the Government 'protecting' me? Or merely taking care of its statistics?

Then it was weeks and weeks of waiting. The Powers that shouldn't be, at both ends, had been playing the game of changing the rules every ten or twenty days, so just when you thought that all was sorted, scheduled, paid for, somebody 'justified their job' by altering the status quo. Time and again, I had to change my plans; time and again book in (at considerable cost) for another week, another month in Australia ...

And while I waited, a message from the NZ Government. You have been out of New Zealand too long. We are stopping your pension.

We have been sending you letters. Duhhh. Yes, to an empty farmhouse in New Zealand, while I am, as you say, in Australia.

I did not lose my temper. I didn't. I pointed out most politely that I was only in Australia because the NZ government would not allow me back into the country where I was born, lived, paid taxes and rates .. and sent them a scan of my October ticket. Anyway, I see today that the pension payments have restarted. One department of WINZ has a clerk with a brain. But it is a DIFFERENT department which deals with refunding me the money illegally stopped. That little episode was one that pushed me the nearer to the brink ...

So I waited. Expecting, every day, to hear that one government or another had changed its rules ... and getting more and more stressed. But two things happened to alleviate that stress. My beloved Paul arrived from Germany, and the saintly Robert declared that he would accompany me to Sydney and get me on the plane to Auckland.

Together again ...

Paul took me to the Covid testing place in Yamba. Oddly, whereas the actual innoculations had not cost anything, the 'test' (15 minutes paperwork, 15 seconds test) cost 145$ payable in advance. I was past caring. Results in 24 hours. I was cutting it fine. But they don't work on weekends. 

24-hours. Nothing. Paul rings. Gets the woman who DOES know what she's doing at Sullivan Nicolaides. Consequently I got my 'negative' after closing hours, and 16 hours before my flight. And I could stop quivering and enjoy the evening.

So, Paul and I had our last night together for ... who knows how long? ... à deux, at the dear Thai Payu Restaurant, corner table ... and in the morning Sir Rodney the Magnificent picked Paul, Robert and I up in his shiny chariot and we all set out for Ballina airport.

I had thought of a dozen things that could go wrong between Yamba and Sydney but ... none of them did! Paul had packed every conceivable document into a bright yellow folder, which I clutched to my chest, as the Virgin staff bundled me cheerily into w/chair#1 and off we trundled. The 170-seater plane had 168 passengers and -- here's a bit of kindliness and thought -- the staff had put us into the one row with a vacant seat. Big tick Virgin!

Safely arrived at Sydney, the next hurdle was to get from Domestic to International. There's a train, but trains and w/chair#2 are not ideal partners, so we took a taxi. 3km? 4km? $50.



Robert got me safely to AirNZ check-in, my yellow folder did its job, we snacked a mildly indifferent lunch, I hugged Robert a grateful goodbye, and then w/chair#3 and its accompanying assistant and I headed for the departure lounge. The time waiting was pleasantly spent chatting to my fellow wheeley-traveller, the delightful Australo-American film-man, Ben Levin, until we were transported to the bowels of the plane. There was one lady in 1st class; 3 of us in business (which is now called premium economy and is worth the extra); but the back of the bus was bulging. Delightful flight, the best food I've eaten on an airplane probably ever, a glass of whisky which lasted me the whole trip, and I played Bejewelled wotsit all the way across the Tasman to Auckland, and w/chair#4.

Auckland looked gloomy, uninviting and ghastly. As we were bundled onto a bus, I couldn't help thinking of the trains to Theresienstadt. Some Eva Braun, who had been the least efficient of all my trundlers, snatched away my hand luggage and sent me into a tizz. That bag DOESN'T LEAVE my hands! My computer, my vast box of medications and other necessities of life are within. I fretted all the way to the 'Grand Millennium Hotel' where, after a lengthy lecture from totally incomprehensible policeperson (?), we unbundled, my bag was restored to my lap, and the Best Trundler of All -- w/chair #5 -- got me checked in (consternation in the camp when I admitted to not owning a movable phone OR a credit card) and up to Room 533.

The 'Grand Millennium', in more normal times, I am sure, looks much more attractive. It has clearly been stripped down to its basics for use as a quarantine hospital, and now resembles one of those awful 1980s airport hotels which are only meant to be slept in one night or with a whore. Bare, soulless... but, at least, these days, not sporting stained linen or cigarette burns.



I had made up my mind to be a martyr for a week. The only contact with the outside world -- i.e reception -- is by telephone. I am 70% telephone deaf. So, for seven days, I received my meals in a brown paper bag left outside my door, and saw a person only when the medical staff came to stick something up my nose. Or the Asian 20-somethings in the Colditzish 106 Royalty (I think it must be a hostel), next door, came and went on their scooters.

A room with view ...


The meals varied. The most edible ones were the pasta and noodles and, surprisingly, the braised meat. Chips, popcorn, sweet slices etc, as well as the things my dentures can't handle (green leaves, tomato, apple etc) were left untouched. But there was plenty of it! The greatest lack was liquid. One small bottle of water some days. I was forced to drink the tap water which smells of chlorine.

But the basics were sound. Large, hard bed, excellent strong shower, amazingly forceful toilet, and endless wifi. So, I slept 12-14 hours a day, wrote a little bloggery, and just thought of Gerolstein-to-come.




And finally the fatidic 15 December came. Lovely young chap (w/chair#6) collected me, zoomed me down to reception, and ... more amazement from the staff, NO extras? NO barista coffees even? 'Barista' is a term that always makes me giggle. Girl pulls a handle? And no. If I had to have a week without alcohol, I could also wait till decent Gerolsteinian tea and coffee were available!


 
On to the bus, out to the airport: Auckland looked less grim now that I was leaving it. The rows of clapboard houses in the suburbs were really charming. Not at all like 106 Royalty. W/chair#7. On to                 plane ... Every plane on this mega voyage had been pile on time! Every staff member on every flight (as at the Hotel) had been delightful ... perhaps I don't need to close down my travel days. Especially with Liz the whizz of Hello World to look after my arrangements ..

Touch down in Christchurch. 9.50 pm. W/chair#8. Sweet lass. She trundles me out to the pick up area ... oh, my! It has been super-raining! And there is my dear, dear friend Jo with her 4x4 ... the frets and stresses of the last months gurgle away ...

In 30 minutes we drive up the entrance road to the Castle of Gerolstein ... amazingly, it isn't under water ... hug the wonderful Jo, and ....





It's over. Well, the journey is. Not the covid saga. But for now, I'm just HOME. And it will be a bloody long time before I leave my proprietorial acres again. The house is looking gloriously spic 'n' span. Wendy (long gone to bed) has left chardonnay on ice, and erected an enormous Christmas tree in the living room ... and there is my OWN bed, and a bundle of newborn kitties on the doorstep



I must connect up the computer before tuning in ... and find my little bits and pieces which have strayed from where *I* keep them ... oh Lord! Look at the mail! A pile of stuff from various dimwitted government agencies ... can anyone be SO dimwitted? Or are they staffed by computer-robots?

But it's not over. You must check in for a Day 9 test. I've been tested four times on both sides of the Tasman in the past ten days. But I am a good boy, and Papa always taught me to obey authority unless it were Hitler or Sun Yat Sen. So, 2pm Friday, Wendy drove me to the doctor's and I had one (last?) swabbything up my nose. Result in 24 hours, then this saga is over.

Yeah? Saturday. Email from the Ministry of Health. They work on Saturdays? Why haven't I done my Day 9 test. Ignore them. Sunday ... they work Sundays?.., Why haven't you done your Day 9 test? Unless someone is more dimwitted that can be believed, this is an automatically generated mail. OK. I may be going on 76, crippled, fat and forgetful ... but, although I'm easily frightened by Sun Yat Sen and co, I'm not an idiot. Government has NO RIGHT to send out such messages. A MUCH tighter control of civil servants and their hirelings needs to be exerted, and their right to contact the public with 'official' notices vastly curbed.

Wendy's strong, feisty, little 83-year old mother, living in Richmond, Nelson, has been reduced to a fright-stricken wreck by the plethora of government notices and sensationalist TV reporting. Last night she was taken to hospital with a panic attack. Covid may be having its victims, but how many of us are or could be victims of the way covid is being managed by New Zealand and Australian Governments and media? Myself -- a reasonably sane and wise 75 year-old -- included.

Well, as all the tests I've had -- and I have had more than I ever had in the AIDs era -- proclaim: I'm flu-less.  

Do I feel that certain countries and medias are making a hugely exaggerated thing of this (Shit, no AIDS no Princess Diana, no whatsisname President of USA... what shall we put on our front pages). Yes. I do. I have come to the conclusion that the whole affair is being handled with shameless self-interest. 

I've had acquaintances die this year from this disease (I've also had ditto die from road accidents, cancer, old age, a stroke or a heart attack, and a variety of other causes, natural and unnatural), I've had a number of friends, especially in the UK, suffer from the bug with various degrees of severity. I've had more friends suffer from the 'scare-tactics' our government is using to pursue what they consider the right course in controlling its spread. And these Ministry of Health missives are the straw that has finally broken this normally duteous camel's back.

I've been 'good' for two years. But the next time I get a 'letter' from nzgov ... I'm ignoring it and them. Mental health is just as -- nay, more -- important than physical. And the 'civil service' of New Zealand is not a little damaging to one's health.


The man in the ironed mask

Post scriptum. 5 January 2022. I have just waited in a local chemist shop, with elderly folk in a queue out the door, to get my 'passport'. In 10.45. Out 12.15 ...   what will they think up next?

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Mrs Watkin's 1840s Evening Party.


This 1840s piece of sheet music came up on ebay ... so I investigated ...





ROE, J[ohn] W[iggett] (b Norwich, 25 February 1812; d 36 Western Rd., Hove 28 February 1853)

Born in Norwich, into a local family of beer-sellers and cotton-manufacturers, Roe was the son of an elder John Wiggett Roe (b Norwich 3 September 1775; d Norwich, 11 March 1812), well known in the area for his prowess as a vocalist, and his wife Mary, née Newsom.

His career is just a little bit difficult to decipher wholly accurately, as during the 1840s there were three Mr Roes active in the London musical world, the other two being a Mr John Roe, organist, conductor and music teacher, originally of Manchester, and J W Roe’s own brother, James, also an organist.

I have, however, discovered just why, through the 1830s, I can find no trace of Mr J W Roe in the musical listings of the nation. The 1841 census for Greenwich shows us Mr John Wiggett (sic) aged 20 ‘chemist’ with his wife, Eliza, their three year-old son, John, and 10-month old Robert, boarding in Royal Place, in the company of another ‘chemist’, Mr William Frost Green, his wife, Frances, and their children, Harry and Mary. Frances Green was the former Frances Roe, John Roe’s elder sister. And William Green was the brother of young Mrs Eliza Roe, ‘of St Mary, Whitechapel’ (m City of London Church, 31 August 1836). So Mr J W Roe, like his father, began his singing in an amateur capacity.

And we can, I think, firmly reject him as the Mr Roe, organist of St George the Martyr Church, Southwark, in spite of the fact that this was the same church at which the Greens had been wed in 1838.

Roe seems to have become a professional vocalist around 1843, when he was engaged as a member of the little choir at the new (1842) Temple Church, alongside William Dando, Enoch Hawkins, Mr J Lee and John Calvert 'late of St Paul's', and a group of boys amongst whom was the young W H Cummings.

Roe devoted himself principally to church and part music over the following years, but he also struck out a sideline, which would ultimately serve his memory better.

On 4 November 1845, he mounted a concert at the Crosby Hall, with the participation of 'Miss Thornton' (Annie Mogg) and Edward John Hopkins, the organist from Temple Church. The evening was entitled Facts and Fancies Musically Illustrated. Amongst the fancies were comical versions of the stories of Robinson Crusoe and Little Red Riding Hood, set to musical arrangements by John Liptrot Hatton, another sometime organist at the Temple.


J L Hatton


On 26 January 1846, he put up another evening, a more conventional one, at the Princess’s Theatre, under the title The Madrigal and Glee Writers of England and their compositions,with a team of singers including the Williams sisters, the Pyne sisters, Hobbs, W H Seguin and Hatton, but on 4 July he was back with ‘Music for the People’ at National Hall in Holborn, and a few months later was to be seen on the bill at Laurent’s Casino. On 3 November 1846, he returned to Crosby Hall with Moriatt O’Connor, Hobbs, Dando (violin) and Hatton, in an entertainment titled Music, Mirth and Melancholy.

Mr Roe’s comic songs and scenas, however, caught other and important eyes. Hatton purveyed the comical 'Mrs Watkin's Evening Party', and John Parry, the outstanding Victorian purveyor of the classy comedy number, also picked up on Mr Roe. By the time Roe’s 1847 concert came along (Crosby Hall 22 December), Parry’s repertoire had been enriched by ‘King Canute, or the Cold Water Cure’ and the excessively popular ‘Miss Harriet and her Governess’ with words by J W Roe. ‘Our Native Land’, ‘in three short volumes’ a potted history lesson from Julius Caesar to Queen Anne, set by Parry followed, and at Roe’s 1848 concert – after a first half devoted to the Tempest music of Purcell -- Parry delivered their ‘St George and the Dragon’ for the first time. ‘King Alfred, or the Old Woman and the Cakes’ was their next collaboration.


John Parry

Mr Roe was still a member of the choir at the Temple in 1848 – alongside Seguin, Young, Benson, Hodson, Lovell and Dando – but at some stage, not too long after, he left London, and took up residence in Hove. He was paragraphed ('author of some of Mr Parry's most popular songs') as preparing an entertainment for George Buckland, and he can be seen there in the 1851 census ‘professor of singing, 39’, with Eliza, and their children John Edward, Robert, Alfred, and William, and the four orphaned children of William and Frances Green.

On 9 March 1852, he mounted one last concert in London, at the Store Street Music Hall. Louisa Pyne, Miss Thornton, Priscilla Horton and Henry Phillips took part, as did the English Glee and Madrigal Union and the Temple choirboys. Glees, anthems and ‘a variety of popular pieces’ were given, but there was no mention of a new comic song.

This concert was to be Mr Roe’s last, for he died early in 1853, at the age of 41. His songs lived on, however, in the hands of such as J L Hatton (‘Mr Brown’s Serenade’, ’The Adventures of Little Red Riding Hood’, 'William Tell') and Buckland. The story of Mrs Watkins and her Evening Party was given by George Loder as far afield as New Zealand, by Robert Farquharson in Australia, and was still being performed round the English-singing world, by the very people it burlesqued, half a century later.







The family’s contribution to music sacred and comic was, however, not yet done. Eldest son, John Edward Roe (b Whitechapel, 28 January 1838; d Brighton, February 1871), by profession an organist, wrote and composed a number of pantomimes and comic songs, but has made himself a place in the small print of the world’s reference books thanks to a hymn-tune entitled ‘Weston’. He was organist to the Brighton Harmonic Society.



Nephew, Frank William Green (1842-1883) went decidedly further, and flooded the 1870s with pieces of light comic theatre and songwords, such as George Buckland’s ‘Mrs Somebody Swallowed a fly’ (music: Alfred Lee). His stage credits included the burlesque The Lying Dutchman, and a plethora of pantomimes and provincial extravaganzas.



The other Mr John Roe (b Manchester c 1815), and his wife Frances née Johnson (b Southwark 28 February 1818, m 5 January 1841), billed inevitably as ‘Mrs John Roe’ were in evidence in minor venues in the 1840s and the 1850s, he playing and conducting and she as a soprano vocalist. Her ‘first appearance’ was billed at O H Toulmin’s concert of 28 December 1843 at the Assembly Rooms, Kennington, and when she sang at the Society of British Musicians she was allowed ‘a charming voice and a style wholly unvicious’ if somewhat ‘timid’. She sang for several seasons in the mid-1840s at the Vauxhall Gardens (‘Di piacer’ etc), and Mr and Mrs John Roe mounted regular concerts, usually at the modest Store Street venue, at which they, their daughter, Frances, also an organist, and Mrs Roe’s singing pupils appeared. Mr Roe seemingly also ventured the flute. Their ‘annual’ concert can be noted through the 1850s, and my last sighting of Mrs Roe is in 1858 singing, alongside Mrs Dixon, at the West London Choral Society. By the 1871 census they can be seen living in Barnet, where Mrs Roe is listed as ‘retired music teacher’. She died there in the early months of 1875.


The latter (‘John Roe jun’) seems to have been the original teacher of Cicely Nott before Jullien got into the act.