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Well-known Soloists from All Walks of Life

Robert Brown Hall

(b Bowdoinham, Maine 30 June 1858; d Portland, Maine 8 June 1907)

Hall’s family moved to Richmond, Maine when he was nine years old. Hall first took Eb cornet lessons from his father, Nathaniel W. Hall, an Eb cornetist, keyed bugle player, and conductor of the Nobleboro Silver Cornet Band. Robert later switched to Bb cornet and took a few lessons with Herbert Manser in Richmond, and Newell Perkins in Lewiston. He also received instruction and advice from Melvin H. Andrews, owner of a music store in Bangor, Maine. He had such a positive influence on Robert’s life that his first march was entitled simply M. H. A.

After his father had died in 1874, Hall worked at the Hager Brothers Shoe Factory to earn money for the family (Rehrig 1991, 312). In 1876, he played as first cornet and soloist in the summer with a band at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. He directed the Richmond Cornet Band at age nineteen, and at twenty, he was invited to play co-principal cornet with Thomas Baldwin’s Cadet Band of Boston sitting next to Liberati. When Liberati left for Duss’ Band, Hall stayed on for three more years with Baldwin’s Band, leaving the group in April, 1878 to return home where he and other colleagues formed Hall’s Richmond Cornet Band. In 1882, he was asked to conduct and reorganize the Bangor Municipal Band. In 1891, he was asked to conduct the Waterville Military Band, which later became known as R. B. Hall’s Military Band. Hall taught music at Colby College and played in the local orchestra. His Military Band played the march The Tenth Regiment from manuscript in a parade at the Odd Fellows Convention held in Boston in 1894. The march was published one year later. The performance was such a hit that the band was asked to play a command performance with Hall as soloist. Reeves was in attendance at that concert, after which he congratulated Hall on his fine performance. Hall’s playing was often compared to Henry Brown’s in terms of its power and tone, and to Bowen Church’s in terms of virtuosity. He had an incredible range, often being able to play well above the rest of the band.

In 1901, he was asked to reorganize and conduct the Tenth Regiment Band of Albany, New York. The band was selected to perform at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York along with bands conducted by musicians such as Sousa, Brooke, and Missud. He also conducted the Portland Cadet Band in Portland, Maine.

Robert suffered a stroke in 1902 from which he never recovered and died (in poverty) as a result of nephritis five years later. Bands from Waterville, Augusta, and Portland played Funebre, Eternal Rest, and Independentia for his procession to the cemetery. A band stand was erected in his memory in Averill Park in Waterville and dedicated during a ceremony on 14 August 1936. In the 1960’s the R. B. Hall Memorial Band was organized, and in 1981, the State legislature declared the last Saturday in June "R. B. Hall Day", a day filled with the music of R. B. Hall. His "Boston 3 Star Cornet" was on display [as of 1965] at the Waterville Museum, Waterville, Maine. (Bridges [1972], 43-46). The most famous and long lasting marches of R. B. Hall are Independentia (1895), The New Colonial (1901), The Officer of the Day (1903), S. I. B. A. (1895), and the Tenth Regiment – Death or Glory (1895) (Smith 1991, 178-180). His prolific ability to compose marches led to his nickname of the "New England March King" (Rehrig 1991, 312). Sources of information are listed throughout the entry.

William Christopher Handy

(b Florence, Alabama 16 Nov 1873; d New York 28 Mar 1958)

Called "The Father of the Blues," Handy was equally known for playing the cornet and writing and publishing music. He studied organ and then received early musical training from Y. A. Wallace, a singer and educator, at the Florence District School for Negroes. He played in a local brass band, singing in church and in minstrel groups (against his parent’s wishes). In 1892, he went to Chicago with his vocal quartet expecting to entertain at the Columbian Exposition. He arrived too early as the fair was postponed until 1893. He then moved to Henderson, Kentucky and conducted the local German Singing Society, playing the cornet in various African American orchestras. He played with W. A. Mahara’s Minstrels beginning in 1896, and in 1897, he was its bandmaster. When asked by the editorial staff of The Freeman "how he accomplished so much with so little trouble," he responded that his parents had "taught him the Golden rule, when a child and I have not forgotten it". Always a kind man, Handy was "studious, energetic, and courteous, and never fails to make friends" (The Freeman, 4 February 1899). He then conducted the band at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College at Montgomery, Alabama from 1900 to 1902. He directed military and dance bands in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1903. He and Harry Pace were the co-owners of the music publishing house, the Pace and Handy Music Company. Handy was also a contractor for many African American musical artists. In 1918, the publishing company relocated in New York City. In 1920, Pace left the partnership and Handy continued with the Handy Brothers Music Publishing Firm (located in Room 506, 1650 Broadway, and 51st Street, New York City in the 1950’s) (Fletcher 1954, 218-226).

His first published piece was Memphis Blues. It was written in 1909, but not published by himself until 1912. Originally called Mr. Crump, Memphis Blues was intended as a campaign song for Crump, a local politician in Memphis. The tune was so unique at the time, that it became popular very quickly. In 1928, he produced a large concert of African American Music at Carnegie Hall, and in 1943, he suffered an accident which left him totally blind (Eileen Southern, "Handy, William Christopher," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians). He did, however, remain continually active. In 1939, he was music consultant for the ASCAP Silver Jubilee Festival; in 1933, for the Chicago World’s Fair; and in 1939, for both the San Francisco and New York World’s Fairs (Eileen Southern, "Handy, W[illiam] C[hristopher],’Father of the Blues’," in BDAAM). In June 1940, the NBC Radio Network broadcast an entire concert of W. C. Handy music, the first time any radio station gave a concert of music by an African American composer.

Handy published and wrote over 150 compositions including the famous St. Louis Blues of 1914. This piece is in a class by itself and remains a standard even in the concert band repertoire of the early twenty-first century. Sources of information appear throughout this entry.

John Hartmann

(b Aulelen, Prussia 24 Oct 1830; d Liverpool 3 Apr 1897)

The son of a Prussian peasant farmer, Hartmann came from a large musical family. His grandfather was an amateur musician who left a large collection of instruments and music to the family. Young Hartmann began arranging music for the village band at the age of ten. He formally studied music later at the school of music in Sonderhausen. He played the violin, but his strength was the cornet. He played cornet with the Cuirassiers in the Prussian Army for three years in Köln under the baton of Heinrich Schallen. He also played violin in a smaller string orchestra with the Cuirassiers. Schallen was asked by the Crystal Palace Company to form a band in 1854. Ernst Hartmann, John’s brother, and August Manns went with Schallen to England. When John’s enlistment expired, he went to England, as well, to play cornet under Heinrich’s Baton in the Crystal Palace Company Band. Hartmann devoted most of his time to arranging and writing band music and became the conductor of many bands. BOOSEY asked John to be the conductor of the Tyrone Militia Band in Sheffield. John eventually made his way to Ireland to play with the First (King’s) Dragoon Guards and conduct the Royal Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham Militia). He then led the newly formed Second Battalion of the King’s Own Fourth Foot at Chichester. The band had to be developed by Hartmann from scratch. He taught each musician how to play their instrument and hired German musicians to supplement their numbers. Apparently, there was some hard feelings expressed between the two national groups, as the beginners in his group actually played better than the Germans who were asked to join. After having been in Corfu with the Fourth Foot Guards for three years, he remained with the Twelfth Lancers at Hounslow for four years. His stay with this regiment was not very pleasant, as the players were indifferent, they were required to spend a lot of time in non-musical activities such as stable duty, and the officers did not support the group at all. In spite of these obstacles, Hartmann developed the organizations into one of the finest bands in the service. The Duke of Cambridge then sent for Hartmann to join his own regiment, serving in Aldershot, Leeds, and Manchester. After the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall was founded in 1857, it was required that all bandmasters attend the school to receive musical training. His own King’s Dragoon Guards regiment attempted unsuccessfully to have the order suspended in Hartmann’s case. As a result, Hartmann refused to go to the school, went temporarily back to Germany, only to return to England, spending most of his time with arranging and writing originals for band. He was known primarily for his lighter selections.

Many of his solos for cornet are still available, and a rather long list of them appears in Chapter 4 below. Information for this entry appears in The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 323; Rehrig 1996, 356) and Brass Roots: A Hundred Years of Brass Bands and Their Music (Newsome 1998; 76, 120, 137, 155-156).

John T. Hazel

(b Bellefonte, PA 28 Sept 1865; d 26 June 1948)

The son of Frank and Margaret Hazel, John began studying Arban’s method at age nine, and soon was playing in local bands. At the age of eleven, he began playing with the Stopper Band of Williamsport, Pennsylvania which traveled to Philadelphia to perform at the Centennial Exposition in 1876. He heard Levy perform on the cornet at the Exposition and certainly was influenced to pursue his dream of being a cornet soloist. In 1883, he played his first cornet solo in Atlantic City at the Albion Hotel, where he was a cornetist with the hotel orchestra. He was soloist with Hadley’s National Band of Providence, Rhode Island, the Germania Band of Boston, and with Gilmore’s Twenty-second Regiment Band of New York (with Patrick Gilmore as conductor, and also with Victor Herbert). He toured the country in 1891 and both he and Levy were featured in separate concert venues in Atlantic City. He performed on the cornet with the Boston Festival Orchestra in the late 1880’s, as well.

He played solo cornet with the Levy-Wintemitz Concert Company in 1893, during Levy’s absence at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Levy would occasionally hear Hazel perform and must have been impressed by his performance, but never admitted it. Levy did mention, however, that Hazel had "an amazing technique and facile tongue" (Bridges [1972], 47). Quite an admission for the "King of the Cornet." Hazel was quite a unique individual, since he never did perform on the trumpet, but stayed on the cornet his entire playing career.

In 1903, Hazel played cornet solos and duets with Frank Seltzer and Herbert L. Clarke at various times for the Edison Phonograph Studios in East Orange, New Jersey (with Al Sweet as the director). He also played on many recordings for both the Zonophone and Columbia recording companies.

Between 1910 and 1948, he conducted the Williamsport Band of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, after the death of its former conductor, W. H. Wood. John Philip Sousa was impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of the members of this band (Bridges [1972], 48). The band later assumed the name of the Repasz Band after Daniel Repasz became its conductor. Hazel composed for cornet as well as for band. His most famous marches are Blue Jackets, Spirit of America, and Gerry’s Triumphal March. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972]), 47-48) and The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 329; Rehrig 1996, 360).

Click the following for more information about John Hazel:

Theodor Hoch

(b Spremberg, Germany 1842; d Brooklyn, NY 13 Feb 1906)

Son of a town musician, Theodor gave his first public performance at the age of ten in Spremberg. After his family moved to Berlin, he joined the band of the Kaiser Franz Guard Grenadier Second Regiment. The band appeared at the Paris Exposition in 1867 under the baton of Heinrich Saro, winning first prize. Theodor received a Gold Medal for his performance at the Exposition. In 1872, he came to America to play with the band of Kaiser Franz Guard Second Regiment at the Peace Jubilee held in Boston. In 1876, the band also performed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. When Hoch returned to Europe, he played with the Bilje Orchestra in Berlin, but later emigrated to America.

He was a prominent teacher and wrote many cornet solos. His method of performing involved firmly setting the mouthpiece on the lower lip and letting the upper lip vibrate as freely as possible. This approach afforded a great range as in the case of one of his most famous students, Ernst Albert Couturier, who could reportedly play a full six octave range. He was quite a prolific composer for orchestra, as well. He also wrote a highly respected Tutor for the Cornet in 1880.

In 1896, CONN built an Echo Horn to Theodor Hoch’s specifications. The instrument’s debut occurred in the same year during the sixth season of the Mozart Symphony Club of New York (1891-1905). Accompanied by the zither, he performed the Echo Horn in his own Alpen Idylle. He and the Horn made a transcontinental tour at a later date with the Club and received wonderful reviews. Hoch would appear on stage at the Club’s concerts with white gloves, a long coat, and a silver and gold plated cornet studded with diamonds. He would create a larger sensation at the end of concerts with a five foot long Roman Triumphal Trumpet made specifically for Hoch by CONN. On it he would play many national anthems unfurling the flag of each at the end of the trumpet, ending with the Star Spangled Banner and a large American Flag unfurled at the end of his five foot trumpet. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 38a), The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 344; Rehrig 1996, 378), and America’s Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter (Banks 1997, 4-5).

Guy Earl Holmes

(b Baraboo, WI 14 Feb 1873; d 10 Feb 1945)

Holmes was a competent performer on many instruments, a consummate teacher, arranger, and composer. He studied theory and harmony with G. Mitchell, cornet with Captain W. F. Heath and Hale VanderCook, saxophone with Fred Lattimer, and flute with A. F. Weldon. He was heavily involved with circus bands and other touring groups until he settled down teaching at the VanderCook School of Music. He was also involved in organizing the Apollo Concert Company with Clay Smith. The Smith, Spring, Holmes Concert Company toured the Chautauqua circuit in 1914 and recorded for Rainbow Records.

The Circus World Museum in his home town of Baraboo, Wisconsin has a display of Holmes’ music, much of it involving the circus.

Shortly after his death, the Wisconsin Bandmasters Association gave a concert of his music in his memory at Oshners Park in Baraboo. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 122) and The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 347-8)

Florence Louise Horne

(b Cambridge, ME 19 Apr 1890; d Kansas City 6 Sept 1956)

At the age of ten, Florence performed a cornet solo for the Governor of Maine at the Governor’s Day Encampment of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), a fellowship organization for Union Army Veterans of the Civil War. The organization began in Decatur, Illinois on 6 April 1866 and was dissolved in 1956 after the death of its last surviving member. It had great political clout between the years of 1872 and 1904, when it was at its largest membership.

Between 1892 and 1896, Florence studied the cornet with Robert Brown Hall and when she was thirteen she played a solo with Hall’s Military Band. In 1896, Hall sent her to Henry C. Brown to further her studies on the instrument. Brown felt as if her time with him was superfluous, since Hall probably taught her everything that she needed already. In 1897, she played with the Fadettes (based in Boston) and a year later toured with the Cecilia Musical Club. In the summer of 1899, she was cornet soloist at Norumbega Park in Boston. In 1900, she played solos with many organizations throughout the Midwest including the U. S. Ladies Military Band of Providence, and in 1901, with the Tuxedo Ladies Band in Chester Park, Cincinnati. Between 1901 and 1903, she performed solos between acts of the George C. Wilson Repertory Company and between acts of the Ward & Vokes comedy team with the Talma Ladies Band. In 1903, she performed at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago on the evening of the fire, 30 December 1903.

She was soloist with Miss Reno Mario’s Orchestra in 1906 at Symphony Hall in Boston. Also in 1906, she was soloist at the Hotel Rudolf in Atlantic City, and in 1908, soloist at the Pier in Atlantic City with the Twelve Navajo Girls. While she played solos with the Navassar Band, she took jobs playing musicals at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Florence took a few lessons from William Paris Chambers when he returned from a solo European tour. He wanted to publicize her as his star pupil on a tour to Europe, but she declined the offer, believing it would not be fair to her first teachers Hall and Brown.

In 1910, Florence married Edmund Stilwell of Kansas City, retired from active playing, and continued to teach. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 48b-c).

Golds W. Houseley

(b Grandguff, MS 9 Jan 1877; d Philadelphia 9 Jan 1906)

Born in Grandguff, Mississippi, he began study of music in Natchez and later in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he took up residency in 1890. He was considered a cornetist of great talent and was "possessed with a natural inspiration" (The Freeman, 26 February 1897).

He played the Bb cornet in bands and the violin in orchestras. He led the band and orchestra of W. S. Cleveland Minstrels in 1893 and those of "Old Kentucky" in 1894. In 1895 and 1896, he played the cornet under Henderson Smith and Oscar Lindsay with John Vogel’s "Darkest America," and led the orchestra for said show in 1897. In 1897, he was a member of the John W. Vogel Famous Concert Band, and between 1898 and 1903, he was bandmaster and leader of the orchestra for Richards and Pringle’s Minstrels. In 1900 Golds and four of his five other brothers, Angelo, Matt, and Beverly became "The Four Houseley Brothers" act with the Minstrels. They remained as such until 1904 when the "King of Minstrels" Billy Kersands hired them with his show. In 1902, Golds played on a gold [plated] Henry DISTIN Williamsport cornet that cost $125.00 (The Freeman, 20 December 1902). After Golds' death in 1906, the "Houseley Brothers" act went to Earnest Hogan’s "Rufus Rastus" Company with only Angelo, Matt and Beverly (The Freeman, 27 January 1906).

A comment should be made about all of his brothers. Angelo was born in Natchez and was a hard working young man learning music at an early age, in 1878. He was "probably the greatest Euphonium player in the business" and toured several seasons with W. S. Cleveland, and in 1898, with John W. Vogel’s famous concert band, "the greatest band of colored musicians in America" (The Freeman, 26 February 1898). Matt (alto sax and cornet), Beverly (drums), and Sylvester (flute and piccolo) were other brothers and musicians. Matt, Beverly, Angelo, and Golds signed individually with the John W. Vogel’s Operatic Extravaganza Company for the fall of 1898. Late in 1898, all his brothers played under his baton for Richards and Pringle’s Minstrels, as mentioned above. Even after Sylvester’s death in 1901, "The Four Houseley Brothers" remained together as a quartet, until Golds' death in 1906. After that point Matt, Beverly, and Angelo became "The Houseley Brothers." They were the headliner of the show and played "about every instrument known under the sun" (The Freeman, 14 April 1906). Information for this entry appears in many issues of The Freeman from 16 September 1897 to 14 April 1906.

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