Herbert Oliver – Biography of Composer, Pianist, Conductor, Teacher
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A True London Composer
And what a pleasure it was to discover the life of Herbert Oliver. This biographical sketch has taken a good many years. Herbert Oliver is almost forgotten these days and that is sad because his music is charming.
The circumstances of Herbert Oliver’s life are somewhat complicated by false trails – possibly from Herbert Oliver himself. He did however come from a family where music and dancing had been intrinsic to the lives of his parents (Herbert Henry Oliver 1861-1903 and Mary Ann Oliver nee Monard 1861-1925). (Their marriage:- When we get to the wedding, we find it is on 25th December, 1882. The Parish Church of St George, Bloomsbury. Herbert Henry Thomas Oliver. Bachelor, Fringe Maker, 6 Museum Street. Fathers name Herbert Oliver, deceased, Compositor Mary Ann Monard, 21, spinster, 18 Denmark Street Soho, Father’s name: James Monard, Professor of Dancing. After Banns, Caroline Monard witness).
Herbert Oliver was born on October 20th 1883 in Mornington Crescent, London. His father – Herbert Henry Oliver 1842-1903 – was a hard working Upholstery Trimmings maker. In an interview in the 1930s for the Radio Times, Herbert Oliver stated that he learned his first principles in music from his father, who was a “conductor of a choral society”. As yet, no information on this front has come to light. Herbert Oliver also mentioned that he learned Tonic Sol-fa at home. This also may be of significance. Herbert Oliver also acknowledges help that he received from the Australian pianist and musician W(illiam) G(arnet) James (28 August 1892-10 March 1977) who came to London about 1912.
A Hard-Working Upbringing
There must have been a piano and there must have been money for lessons, for young Herbert Oliver became a very good pianist. However, in 1901, Herbert senior, Herbert junior and his mother Mary Ann are all recorded as working in the family Upholstery Trimmings business run from Mornington Crescent. The business flourished quite well as Herbert Henry Oliver’s will shows: Herbert Henry Thomas Oliver of 18 Mornington-crescent Middlesex died 9 February 1903 Administration London 25 February to Mary Ann Oliver widow Effects £1210 17s.Sadly, his father had died just as Herbert Oliver’s musical career was moving forward.
Following the publication of Herbert Oliver’s march ‘Centoria’ in 1903, he continues with his compositions (mostly songs) and by 1906 has become a member of “The Smart Set” – which very quickly became easily the most feted Concert Party of its day, working major venues throughout the South East, South and South West of England. Herbert Oliver was their solo pianist and accompanist in addition to resident composer. This last task was most important to each concert party because concert party work included being really up-to-date with all newsworthy current affairs and fashions, ideas and etiquette. Often, concert parties would write new songs in an afternoon or between performances. Of necessity the music was light or even slight, with the words being of greater importance for satirical or comic effect; nevertheless, the skills involved in providing suitable accompaniment were not easily developed (they are still difficult to this day) and relied heavily on skilful use of harmonic progression and a well-developed sense of chromatic harmony. Herbert Oliver had these skills and certainly knew how to use them.
Herbert Oliver as solo pianist would also have to open the shows and provide solos for his own section of the entertainment. As well as bringing forth his own music, he often played music by Edward German. Edward German’s piano music ranges from simple pieces to substantial movements and is quite a cut above some of the more normal piano fare of that time.
The Concert Party
The Concert Party was hard work – really strenuous work – made to look easy. It was the backbone of entertainment around the coastal resorts in the years before the first world war. Concert parties existed in the United Kingdom right up until comparitively recently and of course, it was a concert party that inspired J B Priestley to write “The Good Companions”. Concert parties consisted of a pianist/accompanist; a soubrette or light soprano to put over sentimental and comedy numbers; a contralto (who might also recite monolongues) for serious songs; a light tenor or baritone and a bass. There was always a Master of Ceremonies who would lead the audience through the various parts of the entertainment; programmes were rarely printed and so the scenes must be set verbally by the Master of Ceremonies who would explain the intended mood for each particular section. A Concert Party was not the same as the Fol-de-Rols which were more action and comedy based and differed from Revue in that performances were rarely in theatres with sophisticated scenery but outdoors – with the inevitable sign which said something like “Perfomances daily at 2.30 and 7.30 – If Wet, in Town Hall” or some other such message, commenting on the typical English summer! Here is a link to one of the very last concert parties in England with Mr Eric Green singing Wilfrid Sanderson’s “Drake Goes West”.
Concert Party work stood Herbert Oliver in good stead for a while. He also wrote for stage shows in London and in 1912 brought out the song-cycle that was to make him famous throughout the English-speaking world – Songs of Old London. From this song-cycle, “Down Vauxhall Way” became the most famous number, with Herbert Oliver’s melody and harmony complimenting Edward Teschemacher’s words perfectly.
New songs by Herbert Oliver found their way into the Promenade Concerts too.
No Mobiles – Only Land Lines
Forward-looking Herbert Oliver had a telephone installed in his home for in the London Telephone directory for 1911 through to 1915, we have the number “North 1531 – Oliver Herbert, Accompanist, Vocal teacher, 18 Mornington cres” . After this period, Herbert and his mother move from Mornington Crescent and we later find this:- From 1916 through to 1920, “Hampstead 5941, Oliver Herbert Accompanist Vocal Teacher 55 Parkhill rd N”. Then they moved again in 1920 to 119 Adelaide Road but kept the same number through to 1926.
Herbert Oliver’s mother died in 1925 – (From the Probate Registry: Oliver Mary Ann of 119 Adelaide-road Hampstead Middlesex widow died 26 January 1925 at Great Ormond-street Holborn Middlesex Probate London 4 February to George Joseph Clark salesman. Effects £353 5s. 3d.)
From 1927 through to 1950, the entry remains the same in the Telephone Directory: PRImrose 4016 119 Adelaide Road nw3, Oliver Herbert, Accompanist Vocal Teacher.
Never Forgetting our Amateur Operatic and Musical Societies
Another very important aspect of Herbert Oliver’s life is his work with amateur musicians, particularly notably in North London with the Wood Green Amateur Opera Society, and also at Clacton in Essex, where for quite a period of time, he was associated with the Clacton Musical and Dramatic Society as their Musical Director, particularly for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas from about 1931. He also conducted the Clacton Orchestral Society and the Clacton Choral Society.
That Herbert Oliver did this work is a measure of how much he valued and appreciated those who make music outside of their main strands of employment. He knew that these people were his audience and that they sang his songs and played his music too. As with many things though, the war came along in 1939 and probably put a stop to this work at that time.
BBC Radio Broadcasts
Herbert Oliver’s Song Cycles and solo songs were also frequently broadcast on the BBC with at least one programme devoted in its entirety to his works.
Herbert Oliver’s songs range from the comic to the sentimental; contain pleasant fancies and pleasing melodies. The vocal lines are kind and the piano writing is interesting for the accompanist. Light music of any sort requires skilled writing and Herbert Oliver provides that. Sometimes his writing falls into the commonplace and there are some unflattering and carping reviews in parts of the music press which really are not worth quoting. Herbert Oliver was sensitive to the needs of his singers and pianists but also understood and respected his audiences. His work is overdue revival – with care taken to remember the style required for successful performance. Most of his songs were published by Larway.
Herbert Oliver died in The Paddington Hospital, London on 4th October 1950, aged 67 years.
(From the Probate Registry: Oliver Herbert James of 119 Adelaide-road Hampstead London died 4 October 1950 at The Paddington Hospital London. Probate London 11 November to Thomas Mitchell Paterson M.B.E. civil servant. Effects £1590 11s. 7d.).
from The Stage – Thursday 12 October 1950
Under the title “Sad Passings” comes the following:
The concert profession has particular reason to mourn the passing of Herbert Oliver, who died in Paddington Hospital on October 4, aged 67. He is credited with having written over 200 songs and most of them found their acceptable way into the repertory of countless singers during a long period. His rise to fame started 40 years ago, when he was a member of Randell Jackson’s party at the Oval, Margate. His contemporaries were Fred Wildon, Philip Ritte, Hugh E. Wright, and Carrie Tubb, and it was for the last-named that he wrote many songs that were to become popular classics. In more recent years he devoted himself to teaching, but his ability for writing songs never forsook him, nor his sympathetic treatment of them and other aauthors’ material as an accompanist. Among his better-known numbers are “The Dancing Lesson” and “The Little Damozel*.” His song-cycles, “Songs of Old London” which includes the delightful “Down Vauxhall Way,” and “Our Pantomime,” are striking examples of his facile and melodious pen. Many professional and personal friends were present at his funeral at Golders Green on Monday last.” * actually a mistaken attribution; The Little Damozel is actually a work by Ivor Novello
and from The Stage 19th October 1950, in a report of the activities of the CAA (Concert Artists Association):
“The committee stood in silence to respect the memory of Herbert Oliver, the composer and songwriter, a member of the Association for many years.”
Piecing a Life Together
We can only piece together some aspects of Herbert Oliver’s life from newspapers and broadcasting details which will follow. Some of the reports below are remarkable for their detail and are therefore quoted in full.
Western Daily Press – Wednesday 17th January 1906
BRISTOL SUNDAY SOCIETY. – At the Empire on Sunday a large audience filled every part of the building, the feature being Mr Walter George’s company of light opera singers, their second appearance in Bristol. The commpany numbered eight performers, and consisted of the following artistes:- Miss Madge Nicholson (soprano), Miss Hilda Light (child soprano), Miss Ethel Wilford (contralto and elocutionist), Miss George Martin (contralto), Mr Arthur Court (tenor), Mr Chas. F. Howard (bass), Mr Herbert Oliver (solo pianist and accompanist), and Mr Walter George. The programme opened with a rendering by Mr Herbert Oliver of his march, “The Centoria”. He also contributed E. German’s “Allegro Di Bravura”. Miss Hilda Light followed with Denza’s “A May Morning” and later contributed “Give Me The Morn” (Pelliser). Mr Chas. F. Howard sand “The Mighty Deep” (Jude), and “At My Lady’s Feet” from “My Lady Molly.” Miss Georgie Martin’s contributions to the programme were Oliver’s “Hush-a-bye, young darkie” and “Honeymoon Hall.” Miss Ethel Wilford recited Eugene Field’s “Seeing Things,” and also sang Chaminade’s new song “The Little Siver Ring.” Miss Madge Nicholson contributed Del Riego’s “Slave Song” and Mr Arthur Court gave “I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby” (Clay). Mr Walter George contributed a pianoforte sketch and also sang “Nobody Knows and Nobody Cares.” The company’s numbers included “Annie Laurie” arranged as a quartet by Mr Frank Swinford; Barnby’s Quartet “Sweet and Low;” trio, “The Paradox” from “The Pirates of Penzance;” Caryll’s “Incognito” quartet from “The Lucky Star,” and Stuart’s number “Three Little Men.” Mr Court and Mr George were also associated in the duet, “Ups and Downs” (Slaughter).
Kent and Sussex Courier Friday 13th July 1906
The Bayreuth Orchestra will perform on the Pantiles morning and evening, and the special engagement of the Smart Set Entertainers will be warmly welcomed by Tunbridge Wells people who have pleasant recollections of the attractive character of their performances last year. Mr Walter George and his company will doubtless be pronounced even better than before. There have been slight changes in the company since they visited Tunbridge Wells last year, the most important of which is the engagement of Mr Herbert Oliver as musical director. Mr Oliver is a relative of one of our well-known townsmen, and is amost capable composer although only 22 years of age. One of the greatest hits has made was “If I were Vanderbilt,” sung by Mr Walter Passmore in “The Talk the Town” at Lyric Theatre, London, while his “Centoria March” was played by the Bayreuth Orchestra here three seasons ago, and even now is frequently played by the Guards Bands. In addition to the “Centoria,” he is the composer of six other successful military marches, and about 40 songs, some of which have been specially written for the “Smart Set” entertainers, and include: “If I were King.” “The Chiffon Girl,” “Mashona Maid,” “The Bandstand Promenade.” “Hush-a-bye young darkie,” and “The Little One’s Bedtime**.” Mr Oliver is, we understand, writing more numbers for musical comedy for the Autumn. We consider Mr Walter George has strengthened his most excellent combination by the inclusion of such a talented young composer, whose career many will watch with considerable interest.-
**The name of this song has been changed for reasons of acceptability in the modern age.
The Era – Saturday 14 July 1906
HASTINGS PROMENADE PIER. – the Smart Set Entertainers, under the direction of Mr Walter George, go through a humourous and interesting programme. The artists associated with Mr Walter George are Miss Lena Hutchings, soprano; Miss Ethel Wilford, elocutionist; Miss Hilda Light, vocalist; Miss Georgie Martin, comedienne; Mr Arthur Court, tenor; Mr Chas. F. Howard, bass; and Mr Herbert Oliver, solo pianist and accompanist.
Hastings and St. Leonards Observer – Saturday July 14th 1906
Walter George and his “Smart Set Entertainers” are old friends, and the season would not be complete without their appearance on Hastings Pier. They provide a humorous and musical entertainment of a novel kind, and the singing, clever dancing, and individual turns of the troupe are all excellent. Mr. George tells some new stories in an inimitable manner, while his singing and take-off the modern stage are splendid. Miss Georgie Martin is a dainty and clever little comedienne, and renders her songs with point and humour, while her duet with Miss Hilda Light is one of the best things the evening. The last named, a youthful performer, has certainly a future before her. Miss Lena Hutchings has soprano voice of great purity and charm, and was encored several times Monday evening. Miss Ethel Wilford (elocutionist) appears in a very original version of the matinee hat nuisance, very smartly imitating the various voices concerned. while Mr. Arthur Court (tenor), Mr. Chas. F. Howard (bass), and Mr. Herbert Oliver (pianist) add to the pleasure the audience.
The Era – Saturday 24th November 1906
Torquay – Bath Saloons.— Proprietors. The Torquay Town Council; Manager. Mr. George Courtney. Mr. McCrae is this week presenting the Smart Set Entertainers and on Monday evening an enthusiastic audience greeted the reappearance of this popular party. Mr. Arthur Court has tenor voice of much power, and is frequently applauded; and Miss Georgie Martin is a pleasing comedienne. Miss Lena Hutchings is young artist of considerable promise; and Miss Hilda Light has a cultured soprano voice, and meritoriously encored, her duet with Miss Martin being particularly admired. Mr. Walter George is an old favourite, and provokes general hilarity; and Mr. Lionel Atwill has good bass voice. Miss Ethel Wilford is a capable elocutionist; and Mr. Herbert Oliver is very efficient accompanist.
Kent and Sussex Courier Friday 19th July 1907
THE SMART SET. No more popular and entertaining performers could have been engaged than the Smart Set, who during the past two or three years occupied the bandstand in the Grove during the Cricket Week. The company has assumed a title which admirably indicates their style, for there is a distinctive smartness and vivacity about their performance. On the opening night there was a splendid “house,” and the Band Committee are to be congratulated on the fact that the change weather made this possible. The arrangements in the Grove were in charge of Mr Claud R. Barton, behalf the Corporation, and gave general satisfaction. The bandstand was prettily draped, and transformed into a capital open-air stage, while the electric lighting was most charmingly done. The bright crimson apparel adopted by the company adds to the lively freshness their appearance and demeanour, and gives to the whole performance a dash most pleasant to experience. With such a thoroughly up to-date company of light opera singers, it was natural to find the programme sparkling with new numbers, many of which are the original compositions of members of the “Smart Set,” set to music Mr Herbert Oliver, the accomplished musician who presides at the piano. Among the performers familiar to Tunbridge Wells audiences, the comedienne is Miss Georgie Martin, a clever singer and dancer, and a favourite from whom the popular pleasure generally rally demands an encore selection. On Monday night, she sang a very funny song called ” Moving Day,” and when called to the front again gave the entertaining song which tickled the public fancy much last year,” Mr Crocodile.” Mr Walter George, the gentleman humourist, is one of those versatile and frolicsome individuals from whom the stream of fun blows freely without apparent effort. His every movement is a joke, his jovial features invite constant laughter, and to be in his presence is to feel happy. On Monday evening he sang in Dutch costume first-rate song, ” Louisa Schmidt,” and in the subj sequent clog dance he was joined Miss Martin, the song and dance being both quaintly funny. His next appearance meant two encore selections, which is apparently no tax upon his extensive repertoire. Miss Hilda Light, the sixteen years’ old soprano, is here again, and sings as sweetly as ever. ” May Morning” was given with rare expression and sweetness. Miss Lena Hutchings, whose cultured voice is capable of exquisite melody, sang with great beauty ” Dear Heart,” the purity tone being particularly noticeable. An undeniable return call brought forth “‘Gin a body meet a body.” Miss Nellie Comber sings contralto with much success; and Mr Arthur Court and Mr Burlington-Rigg. the tenor and bass respectively, are both excellent. Successful as are the individual performers, it is perhaps in the concerted pieces that the company excels. The combinations range from a duet to sextet. The quartettes, “On the banks of Allan water,” and the “Canadian Boat Song” are examples of splendid glee singing, while the trio, “I know a girl,” in which the gentlemen take part, is a very amusing item. In the sextet, “Where are thou going to, Alice?” a dashing item, the company is seen at its best, and all the other concerted numbers are distinguished either by very fine part-singing, a taking vivacity of music and dancing. Mr Herbert Oliver, the accompanist, retains his brilliancy at the piano. His solo piece invariably results in request for a second selection, while his accompaniment the singers is perfect. The music which he has composed for the various items is noticeably pretty and catchy. As the company has been able to give an entirely new programme each evening it will be seen that the repertoire is an exceptionally extensive one. The items given on the opening night, good as they were, by no means exhausted the list of musical treats possessed by this week’s very entertaining visitors.
The Times 26 March 1912
Mr Thomas Hardy’s “The Three Wayfarers” and Mrs Alfred Lyttleton’s version of M. Rostand’s “Les Deux Pierrots” in The Theatre In Eyre in aid of the funds of the Industrial Law Committee. During part of the long interval between these Mrs Christopher Lowther (Miss Ina Pelly) sang and danced “Songs of Old London” in costume to the accompaniment of their composer, Mr Herbert Oliver:…..
The Times Friday 9th March 1917
Great Chelsea Revue (caps) at the Chelsea Palace by great
star cast, produced by Harry Grattan, for One matinee only,
Tuesday March 20th. Book by F. V.Lucas, Monckton Hoffe,
John Hastings, Turner and others. Music by
Sir Edward Elgar, Norman O’Neill, Fraser-Simson, Herbert Oliver.
Lyrics by Laurence Binyon, Adrian Ross, Walter Sichel.
Pictures and costumes by Augustus John, Willima NIcholson,
Ambrose McEvoy, Glyn Philpot, Mortimer Menpes, and others.
A CONDER BALLET, arranged by Mrs Christopher Lowther,
designed by George Sheringham. TIckets from £3 3s. to 2s. 6d.(tax inc.),
of Mrs C. F. Leyel, 101 New Bond-street. ‘Phone May. 4027
The Times Saturday March 10th 1917
for Sunday 11th March
Palladium: Production of Herbert Oliver’s new quartette cycle “Our Pantomime”
The Times Monday March 12th 1917
At the Chelsea Palace on Tuesday March 20th at 2.30 there will be produced “A Review of Chelsea” which promises to be unusually interesting. No fewer than seven authors are engaged on the “book” – Messrs. E. V. Lucas, Monckton Hoffe, John Hastings Turner, Walter Sichel, William Nicholson, Nigel Playfair, and Captain Harry Graham – and all the great figures in modern Chelsea, from Carlyle to Whistler to Mr Augustus John and Mr McEvoy, are to be represented on the stage. The music is being prepared by Sir Edward Elgar, H Fraser Simson, Mr Norman O’Neill, Mr Herbert Oliver, Mr Adrian Ross, Mr Arthur Wood and Mr Howard Carr, lyrics are being written by My Laurence Binyon and Mr Walter Sichel, and Mr John, Mr McEvoy, Mr Nicholson, Mr Sheringham, Mr Menpes and other artists are contributing pictures and superintending the scenery and costumes.
There are to be scenes in Whistler’s studio, in which the “Golden Girl” picture will be seen, with Miss Julia James as Connie Gilchrist; and in Rosetti’s garden, with Carlyle, Swinburne and other Chelsea celebrities revived by Mr Hoffe. Mr Gerald du Maurier as “Pan” will dance to Sir Edward Elgar’s music in the “Conder” ballet, which is being arranged by Mrs Christopher Lowther and designed by Mr George Sheringham. The scenes of “modern Chelsea” with choruses of Sargent, McEvoy and John portraits, promise to be both artistic and amusing. In all some 40 actors and actresses will take part in the performance. Tickets and all information may be obtained from Mrs C.F. Leyel, at the “Concerts at the Front” office, 101, New Bond-street, W.
The Times – Monday 2nd February 1920 – The Theatres
Four New Productions this week:
At the Coliseum this week a new operetta cycle “The Belle of the Ball”, with music by Mr Herbert Oliver and lyrics by Mr Edward Teschemacher, is to be produced for the first time.
The Times Tuesday February 3rd 1920
The Belle of the Ball
New Song-Cycle at the Coliseum
This week we are really grateful to the powers that be for introducing us to Mr Herbert Oliver’s new operetta-cycle, “The Belle of the Ball”, as delightful a 20 minutes’ entertainment as one could hope for. Mr Oliver has a happy facility for constructing these song-cycles, in which the grave and the gay are judiciously intermingled, and which are in great request, both in the drawing-room and the concert hall.
“The Belle of the Ball” provides opportunities for Five singers. Miss Ethel Dyer as the Belle, Miss Elsie Redfern as the Flapper, Miss Carrie Herwin as the Dowager,
Mr Murray Ashford as the Lover, and Mr George Baker as the M.C., and the nature of the songs that fall to their share can be easily guessed.
Mr Baker has a richly humourous “Song of the M.C.” in which the duties of that uncrowned King of the ballroom are explained in detail, whil Miss Ethel Dyer and Mr Murray Ashford are provided with the sentimental songs without which no real cycle from Mr Oliver’s pen would be complete. Miss Carrie Herwin’s chief contribution is a lament for the passing of the polka in favour of the tango, in which the music gradually changes to adapt itself to the altered conditions. The gem of the whole thing is the flapper’s song “My First Dance”, with a lilting chorus, which set the audience at the Coliseum humming at once. Then there are duets and ensembles, with a number concerning the Lancers to bring the whole thing to an hilarious end.
One’s only regret was that, owing to the requirements of a variety programme, some of the numbers in the cycle had to be curtailed, but the enthusiasm that greeted Mr Oliver and his colleagues may induce the authorities to allow him five minutes more. It would make a good deal of difference, and though minutes are scarce at the Coliseum, the concession would be greatly appreciated.
The Times Friday May 7th 1920
Among those who are assissting at the annaual matinee (its) which Lady Allington and other ladies are organising in aid of the Waifs and Strays Society, to be held on May 11th, at the Princes Theatre, are Mme Denza, Miss Irene Vanbrugh, Mr Leslie Henson, Mr Charles Withers and Mr Maurice with Miss Leonora Hughes and Sherbo’s famous orchestra. Mrs Christopher Lowther is arranging for a new song-cycle by Mr Herbert Oliver which Miss Carrie Herwin will sing.
The Times Wednesday May 12th 1920
Lady Allington’s Charity Matinee
The matinee organised by an executive committee, of which Lady A is chairman, on behalf of the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society, looks like becoming an annual function. Yesterday’s performance will yield a profit of at least £800 to the society’s funds, and it was also notable because an attempt had apparently been made to get away from the ordinary run of special matinee programmes. We failed to understand why so much of the time was taken up with a pointless dialogue, contrasts
which could have compared in 10 minutes the difference between the girl of today and her great-great-grand-aunt much more effectively than in half an hour. But there was plenty of consolation in the rest of the programme, in the grace ball-room dancing of Mr Maurice and Miss Leonora Hughes, in Miss Irene Vanbrugh’s declamation of Henry Newbolt’s “He Fell Among Thieves” and in Mr Herbert Oliver’s delightful song-cycle, “My Lady’s Charms”. It was effectively sung by Miss Carrie Herwin, and our only regret is that we are unable to pay tribute to the dancers who mimed in the background while the songs were in progress, inasmuch as the programme did not record their names….
The Times Friday October 15th 1920
under Mr John Buckley’s Recital we find the following:
Mme Ethel Collinge’s singing of operatic arias and other songs at the Wigmore Hall
last night had merit. Her soprano voice has a charming quality when she uses it lightly, and through the greater part of the “Salce” scena from Verdi’s Otello (its) she sang with a restraint which showed her well able to make her points without making a fuss over them. Her singing of Wagner, “Elizabeth’s Prayer” was less satisfactory.
Here she was tempted to aim at a bigger style of expression, and the forcing of tone on certain prominent notes put them out of tune. There were two songs by her accompanist, Mr Herbert Oliver, the first of which “The Fields of Sleep” contained a pleasant fancy; the second, “The Valley of Lilies” began daintily and ended in emphatic commonplace. The climax is frequently a snare to both singers and composers, yet both are over-eager to rush into it.
A Londoner and the son of a musician, Herbert Oliver could, he says,
sing the tonic-sol-fa scale before he knew the alphabet. His father
was the conductor of a choral society, and he developed an early
sense of rhythm and harmony. His first essay in composition was
at the age of eight, and was a song of which he wrote both words and
music. Its artistic value was so overwhelming that his father gave
him a penny for it! His later songs, however, have been productive
of somewhat better results. These include “Songs of Old London,”
“The Dancing Lesson,” “Yonder” (for Dame Clara Butt),
“Spreafing the News,” and about two hundred others; also several
concerted song-cycles, “The Cries of London,” “The Vauxhall
Belles,” (comic opera) and a suite for orchestra, all of which have
been broadcast, as well as performed at countless concerts. He
recently had seventy-two compositions broadcast in six
months. He has toured England as conductor, and accompanist, and
otherwise devotes his time to the teaching of voice-production.
Chelmsford Chronicle Friday 27th November 1936
Mr Herbert Oliver, formerly conductor of the Clacton Orchestral Society, gave a lecture at the Clacton Arts and Literary Society on Monday.
Alex Penney (soprano) ; Ethel Noton (contralto); Harry Swindell (tenor) ;
Walter Payne (baritone)
GLADYS WHITFIELD (accompanist)
Alex Penney, the founder of this Quartet, is a Derby soprano who has done a great deal of concert work and has broadcast many times, both as a soloist and as leading lady in several revues.
Walter Payne, also a Derby singer, was one of the British Singers Quartet formed by Madame Marchesi. He first broadcast ten years ago, and once sang from a floating platform in Venice. Both Miss Noton and Mr. Swindell are Derby singers, who have broadcast before.
And now a word about the composer to whom the ‘Penneys’ are devoting the whole of their programme. Herbert Oliver was born in 1883. He had his first theory lessons from his father, a keen amateur musician, and afterwards studied with the Australian, W. G. James. In 1912 he made a hit with the popular song-cycle, ‘Songs of Old London’, following it up with various other solo cycles and quartet cycles in the same vein: ‘The Cries of London’ and ‘Come to the Show’ among the rest. His light opera “The Vauxhall Belles”, based on Harrison Ainsworth ‘s ‘The Miser’s Daughter’, was broadcast in 1927.
List of Compositions (Incomplete)
Date Title Lyricist Notes Publisher
1903 Centoria March PF Solo – (HTN)
1905 A Song of Rest F Chester – (LWY)
1905 If I Were Vanderbilt – CH Taylor From Musical Comedy “The Talk of the Town” by H.E Haines – (HOC)
1906 The Little Coon’s Bedtime Song – F Chester (HUR)
1907 Nocturne – PF Solo – (HUR)
1907 A Birthday Song – Christina Rosetti – (HUR)
1908 My Mashona Maid – Herbert Oliver – (CHA)
1908 A Farewell – x (BSY)
1909 The Little Dutch Garden – E Field – (LWY)
1909 An Egyptain Romance – Co A Hyatt (BSY)
1910 Among The Untrodden Ways – Wordsworth (BSY)
1910 The Land of Love – P J O’Reilly (BSY)
1910 Loving Kind and Kindly Loving – N Breton (BSY)
1911 One of England’s Roses – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1911 Marna – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1911 Queen of the Roses – J Devonshire Waltz song – (LWY)
1911 Let Love Awake – W E Grogan (BSY)
1911 O June With All Your Roses – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1911 Should You Come To Me Again – P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1912 The Cypress Tree x x
1912 Songs of Old London – Ed. Teschemacher Song Cycle (five songs) – (LWY)
1912 Songs of the Devon Moors – Ed. Teschemacher Song Cycle (four songs) – (LWY)
1912 Love Divine – Rev. O Wesley – (LWY)
1912 Memory Song – x – (LWY)
1912 As Great As The Sea – x – (LWY)
1912 Piccadilly Pip Pips – One and Two-Step for Piano – (LWY)
1912 The Birds of Brendon Tor – x – (LWY)
1912 Of The North I Sing – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of the North – (LWY)
1912 Memory Song – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of the North – (LWY)
1912 Great As The Sea – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of the North – (LWY)
1912 When The Ships Come Home – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of the North – (LWY)
1912 Spring’s On The Mountains – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of the North – (LWY)
1912 The Nightingales of Lincoln’s Inn – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of Old London – (LWY)
1912 Cherry-Blossom Time – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1912 The Bells of Burmah – x – (LWY)
1912 When Throstles Sing – Ed. Teschemacher – (CMR)
1912 Desert Morning – x – (LWY)
1912 Red Rose of England – x Songs of Merrie England – (LWY)
1912 Birds of Brendon Tor – x Songs of Merrie England – (LWY)
1912 Pretty Molly Carter – x Songs of Merrie England – (LWY)
1912 Lad o’Mine – x Songs of Merrie England – (LWY)
1912 Gretna Green – x Songs of Merrie England – (LWY)
1912 Oberferry Fair – x Songs of Merrie England – (LWY)
1912 May-Day at Islington – x Songs of Old London – (LWY)
1912 Spring’s on the mountains – x – (LWY)
1912 The Nautch Girl – x – (LWY)
1912 The Little Red Kite – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1912 Songs of the Orient – x – (LWY)
1912 The First of June-Wedding Bells – H E Hunt – (LWY)
1912 Cobbler Jim – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1912 Dear Little One – J Chester – (LWY)
1912 London Spring Song – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of Old London – (LWY)
1912 The Great Bazaar – x – (LWY)
1912 The Little Dark Wood – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1912 The Land of the Harlequinade – H E Wright – (LWY)
1913 The Little Bunch of Heather – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 The Ball at the Great St James – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 On The March -Songs of a Vivandiere Number 3 (BSY)
1913 O Lilies of My Garden – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 In My Lady’s Garden – P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1913 Exit Pierrot – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 The Dancing Lesson – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 The Cries of London – x Song cycle for Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra – (LWY)
1913 The Passing Show – x “A cycle of the motley” – (LWY)
1913 Reveille – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of a Vivandiere – (LWY)
1913 Camp Fires – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of a Vivandiere – (LWY)
1913 On The March – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of a Vivandiere – (LWY)
1913 Fairy Moon – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 Harlequin’s Song – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 Sweet Vale of Doona – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 The Little Widow – Intermezzo – PNO Solo – (LWY)
1913 The Sentinel – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1913 Enchantment – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1914 You Bring The South With You – x – (LWY)
1914 Three Persian Songs – Ed. Teschemacher Song Cycle – (LWY)
1914 Poppies – HE Hunt Down at Kew (Two Songs) – (LWY)
1914 Daffodils – HE Hunt Down at Kew (Two Songs) – (LWY)
1914 Hands That Plucked My Golden Roses – x – (LWY)
1914 Three Persian Songs – x – (LWY)
1914 Blow Breezes Blow -P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1914 The Hills of Home – P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1915 The Fairy Flute – F G Bowles – (LWY)
1915 The Song of Big Ships – Edward Lockton – (LWY) 1
1915 Round the Galley Fire – P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1915 The Fields of Sleep – x – (LWY)
1915 The Call – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1915 Four Holiday Tunes for Piano -(LWY)
1915 The Sweet Scent of Lavender – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1915 Love’s Melody -Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1915 Come to the Dance – Edward Lockton (BSY)
1916 Your Song – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1916 Fairy Revel – P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1916 In June – x – (LWY)
1916 The Garden I Fashioned For You – P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1916 Blue-Eyed Violets – x – (LWY)
1916 Daisy Children – x – (LWY)
1916 The Land at the Back of the Moon – J Chester – (LWY)
1916 Just Love and You – x – (LWY)
1916 A Faded Rose – x – (LWY)
1916 Because You Love Me – K(athleen) Birch – (LWY)
1916 When You Pass – x – (LWY)
1916 Yellow Roses – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1916 Eight Balladettes – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1916 Night of Delight – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1916 Pot pourri – x – Eight Balladettes number 5 – (LWY)
1916 O Day Divine – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1917 Demon’s Song – Scena -Our Pantomime – Number 7 – (LWY)
1917 Fairy Queen’s Song – x – (LWY)
1917 The Song of our Hearts – x Duet – (LWY)
1917 Gog and Magog – Edward Lockton Duet for T and Baritone – (LWY)
1917 Be Your Way a Way of Roses – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1917 Hero of Her Heart – x – (LWY)
1917 Ninna Nanna – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1917 Princess Love – x – (LWY)
1917 It Will All Come Right In The End – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1917 Lyrics of London – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1917 Our Pantomime – Ed. Teschemacher Cycle – (LWY)
1918 Never Mind The Rain – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1918 The Orchard By The Sea – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1918 Tea-Parties – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1918 Album of Songs for Soprano – (LWY)
1918 Little Dream Bird – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1918 Five Little Mascots – Ed. Teschemacher Cycle – (LWY)
1918 Songs of the King’s Court – Ed. Teschemacher Cycle – (LWY)
1918 All Ye Who Love England – x – (LWY)
1918 Fifinella – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1918 When The Flag Goes By – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1919 The Maid Of The Valley – P J O’Reilly – (LWY)
1919 Cinderella JH Larway E Price-Evans – (LWY)
1919 The Harbour – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1919 Red-‘ot! – Fox-trot for Piano – (LWY)
1919 Blue Cornflowers – E Price-Evans – (LWY)
1919 Flower of Sicily – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1919 Yours Ever; Valse Hesitation – Piano Solo – (LWY)
1919 The Belle of the Ball – x “An operette cycle for five voices” – (LWY)
1919 The Bells of Anjou – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1919 Molly Mullins – Fox-trot Piano Solo – (LWY)
1919 Mary’s Night Out – H Dirckes – (LWY)
1920 The Valley of Lilies – K(athleen) Birch – (LWY)
1920 Pearls – D Dickinson – (LWY)
1920 The Lay of the Little Red Rose – D Dickinson – (LWY)
1920 The Well of Haroun – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of Avarair – (LWY)
1920 Thy Voice Is Like a Silver Lute -Ed. Teschemacher Songs of Avarair – (LWY)
1920 Be Your Way a Way of Roses – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of Avarair – (LWY)
1920 Thou Hast Departed – Ed. Teschemacher Songs of Avarair – (LWY)
1920 In the Whirl of a Dance – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1920 Her Fragrant Hair – Dickinson My Lady’s Charms – (LWY)
1920 The Flirt – D Dickinson My Lady’s Charms – (LWY)
1920 Two Little Satin Shoes – D Dickinson My Lady’s Charms – (LWY)
1920 Lady Lady What Will You Wear – D Dickinson My Lady’s Charms – (LWY)
1920 The Moon Is My Sister – D Dickinson Two Songs – (LWY)
1920 The Jolly Old Sun – D Dickinson Two Songs – (LWY)
1920 Yonder – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1921 Land of Laughter – G Ellis – (LWY)
1921 Left Behind – D Dickinson – (LWY)
1921 Songs from a Sicilian Garden – Ed. Teschemacher Cycle – (LWY)
1921 The Carolling at Toon – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1921 The Call of the South – Ed. Teschemacher Song with Violin obbligato – (LWY)
1921 Sing in the Dawn – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1921 Our Own Gay Band-Opening Chorus – G Ellis – (LWY)
1921 Dance Away – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1921 Cleopatra – Ed. Teschemacher Scena for Soprano voice – (LWY)
1921 O Mistress Mine – Shakespeare – (LWY)
1922 The Rose Shall Bloom Again – E W Delacour – (LWY)
1923 April Rhapsody – W E Grogan – (LWY)
1923 All for Bart’s – J Chester Fox-trot song – (LWY)
1923 Gipsy Spring – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1923 Lily of the Valley – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1924 Rose of Allah’s Garden – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1924 In the Hush of the Wood-Evening – L McDermaid Two Woodland Songs – (LWY)
1924 Down the Woodlands – Morning – L McDermaid Two Woodland Songs – (LWY)
1924 Ship of Golden Dreams – Edward Lockton – (LWY)
1924 The Song of the Perfume Seller – L McDermaid – (LWY)
1925 Dance While The World Is Young – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1925 Song of the Bell – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1925 Plymouth Sound – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1926 Spreading The News – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1926 Hanging Out the Clothes – L M Hadley – (LWY)
1926 The Trombone Man – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1927 Moonlight Fairies – P Harrop – (LWY)
1927 Cherries O! My Pretty Maids – Ed. Teschemacher London Echoes (Three Songs) – (LWY)
1927 Rosemary, Sweetbriar O! – Ed. Teschemacher London Echoes (Three Songs) – (LWY)
1927 The Pageant of London – Ed. Teschemacher London Echoes (Three Songs) – (LWY)
1927 Second Selection of Songs – x “arranged and Edited by staff” (BSY)
1927 Cupid Passes By – H Parr – (LWY)
1927 Fortune’s Quest – H Parr – (LWY)
1927 Looking at the Sky – H Parr – (LWY)
1928 The Elopers – H Parr Galloping off Beneath the Moon to Gretna Green – (LWY)
1928 Supplication – B Desmond – (LWY)
1928 Aurora – H Parr Valse Song – (LWY)
1928 The Romance of Lady June – H Parr – (LWY)
1928 Love and I Went Down the Dale – B Sayers – (LWY)
1929 Old Towser – B Sayers – (LWY)
1929 Some Other June – G D Tupper – (LWY)
1929 It Was But You – H Parr – (LWY)
1929 There Is Always Tomorrow – B L V Edman – (LWY)
1930 Peter’s Wife – H Parr – (LWY)
1930 London Pride – Miss D M Stuart – (LWY)
1930 Where The Blue Bird Hides – H Parr – (LWY)
1931 Get Up Early – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1931 The Ladies of Thailand – Ed. Teschemacher – (LWY)
1933 In Old Versailles. A Tapestry Tale – H(elen) Taylor – (BDT)
1933 When the Lilac Bids the Rose Good-bye – H Parr – (BDT)
1934 What’s the Time, Blackbird? – Ed. Teschemacher – (BDT)
1934 The Little House I Planned – H Parr – (BDT)
1935 The Fairy Shepherd – Edward Lockton – (BDT)
1946 Looking Down At Me – H Parr – (BDT)
1946 Spreading the News – arr H Geehl – (ASD)
1946 The Ladies of Bath – arr H Geehl – (ASD)
1947 The Isle In The Grey North Sea x x
1947 Vesper Song and Canadian Boat Song x x TTBB Arr. Oliver
1947 Gentleman Jim – H Parr – (PRO)
1947 Gentleman Jim x H Parr TTBB Arr. Oliver
1947 This Song For Me x x
1947 Remembrance – Melody for Vn and Pno- (BHA)
1947 Laughing Patrol PNO Solo – (PRO)
1948 Shall I Compare Thee TTBB Arr. Oliver
1948 Hunting Song Walter Scott TTBB – (PRO)
1950 Red Rose of England
1950 God Bless The Morning For trebles – (ASD)
HTN – Houghton & Co; LWY – J H Larway; PRO – Keith Prowse & Co; ASD – Edwin Ashdown; BDT – A V Broadhurst; BSY – Boosey & Co; BHA – Boosey & Hawkes; CMR – J B Cramer & Co; HOC – Hopwood and Crew; HUR – Hutchings and Romer; CHA – Chappell and Co;
Herbert Oliver – Composer Pianist Accompanist Conductor Teacher